Service of ?Light event to remember lost loved ones

Service of ?Light event to remember lost loved ones

5 December 2018

CHRISTMAS is a particularly difficult time for families who have lost loved ones.

The loss of a relative is always hard, but the pain of their passing is felt more acutely during the festive season which for many can be a lonely and burdensome time.

For the past two years, a Service of Light has been held in Downpatrick to provide an opportunity for the relatives of those who have taken their own lives to remember them.

The annual service — organised by the PIPS suicide prevention group and Life Change Changes Lives charity — provides an opportunity for those who have lost loved ones to pause and reflect.

Next Thursday evening’s service takes place at the Life Change Changes Lives base at Market Street in Downpatrick, starting at 6.30pm. 

The service includes poems, music and reflections with music performed by Cora Kelly. There will also be tea and refreshments and open invitation is extended to people to attend. Organisers say the service is open to all, not just those who have a relative who took their own life.

Ailish Teague, who helped establish Life Change Changes Lives with her husband, Manus, said the service will be held in the charity’s new home for the first time.

“It is a joint service organised alongside PIPS and it will be the third we have organised. PIPS initially came up with the idea and asked could they use our new premises which we were delighted to make available,” she explained.

“There has been a very good response over the past two years, with the service an evening where people can join together in their grief and remember loved ones collectively. Relatives are alongside others who have experienced the same pain and there is a lot of empathy and understanding.”

Ailish said the service is open to people from across the district and explained that there will be an opportunity for people to place the names of their loved ones on a Christmas tree.

“People are given as much time as they need and this can, for some, be a cathartic experience. We place people’s names on skeleton leaves which we make. We chose leaves to reflect how fragile life is, while some people will bring a bauble to hang on the tree which has a picture of their loves ones on it,” she continued.

“We will also have a bigger tree this year more as more people have been attending as suicide figures continue to rise. It is always a very emotional service and there are very few people who don’t know some family that has been touched by it.”

Ailish explained that all the names placed on the tree this year will be kept and placed alongside those gathered over the past two years with the intention of placing them in a time capsule at some point in the future which will be buried locally.

She continued: “Christmas is a difficult time for families and that is why we do not decorate our tree located at the front of our building which looks out on to Market Street. There is no tinsel or lights.

“This time of year can be troubling for many families and we choose not to decorate our tree which is much like the empty chair in many people’s homes as their loved ones are no longer here.”

Ailish said the tree is decorated by those who have lost their lives, not through suicide, but due to mental health problems and addictions, highlighting the importance of people recognising this.

She added: “It is depression that kills, not the selfish act of an irrational mind. People think suicide is  a selfish act, but it is not. 

“We are extending an open invitation to next Thursday evening’s service and people who have lost loved ones, regardless of the reason, are welcome to join us.

“We would like them to join us and place a small decoration on the Christmas tree in memory of a loved one. If they do not have a decoration, we can make one for them. Just call in and see us at our base in the town.”