Candle-lit events across country show solidarity to families affected by suicide

Almost 1,000 people bereaved by suicide attend Console service in Maynooth

This is "a most difficult time of the year" for people touched by suicide, said Paul Kelly, founder and chief executive of Console, last night.

“Christmas, New Year, the empty seat at the table,” he said. “It’s a more protracted grief. Because of the element of choice involved. Events like this help. They show solidarity. There’s a lot of healing here. People know they’re not alone,” he said.

The chief executive of the suicide prevention and bereavement charity was speaking in Maynooth at the conclusion of their annual Christmas Celebration of Light, to remember all those who died by suicide, at the chapel in St Patrick’s College there.

Similar events took place last night in Galway, Limerick, Wexford, Swinford, Co Mayo, and and Nenagh, Co Tipperary. Another is scheduled for Cork next Sunday. Approximately 1,000 people attended the service in Maynooth.

In the darkened chapel their grief was silent, dignified, overwhelming.

The altar had become a shrine to the dead, mostly young men, their many photographs reflecting the wavering flames of the candles with which they crowded out the space . Candles were everywhere, on the altar, above it, and throughout the pews where one was lit by each grieving relative.

A middle-aged man was so lost at the event he struggled to light his. For most of the two-hour service he sat, absent, his head bowed low, his hands clasped in front of him. A woman beside him wept, discreetly. Most there did.

"The raw knife-edge of pain" was everywhere evident, as Niamh Kavanagh, Paul Hennessy, Rebecca Storm, Kenny Shearer, Eleanor Shanley, Roisin O'Reilly, Liam Lawton, Gillian McKenna, Celtic Chic sang, guitarist John Feeley played and broadcaster Eileen Dunne read.

This was particularly so when Margaret Brennan sang with her six-year-old daughter Ali, named after her recently deceased aunt.

They sang The Boab Tree from the film Australia. It was a favourite of Margaret's sister Alison, who died by suicide on New Year's Eve 2011. "Sing and I will hear you, no matter where you are

A song to light the darkest night

And guide me from afar

And I will never be alone

Now I know you’re somewhere

You’re everywhere to me.”

And when Margaret began to crack, Ali embraced her mother.

"Compassion never says 'Everything will be okay'," recalled author and broadcaster Christy Kenneally. Acting MC for the event, he said that often things are said in such situations "to ease the unease of others who cannot bear to be so close to the raw knife-edge of pain for fear it might open the scars of their own wounds".