Living with suicide and bereavement
FOR generations, the oasis of Lough Derg in Co Donegal has been a place of pilgrimage for people seeking God's strength in the face of life's difficulties and light in times of darkness.
In recent years, as well as its traditional retreats, Lough Derg has also offered a sacred space for those who have been affected in any way by suicide, either through personal loss or with suicide ideation, or for those ministering to the suicide-bereaved or working in support services.
This year's 'Living with Suicide' retreat day is being held on Saturday September 28, and is open to everyone who carries this particular burden in their life.
Lough Derg is a place of welcome to everyone united in their Christian faith, and this includes adult family members who are living with bereavement by suicide, friends and those who support loved ones struggling to come to terms with life after loss.
Keynote speaker on the day will be Conor McCafferty, a highly experienced Derry-based therapist and counsellor.
He is director of Zest NI, which supports people suffering emotional pain and hurt, and specialises in the impact of suicide on the bereaved family and friends as well as working with those who are self-harming or suicidal.
Mr McCafferty, who also chaired the group responsible for the Department of Health's new suicide prevention strategy, said it would be a very special day.
"This is my third time to be asked to talk at the suicide retreat day at Lough Derg and I have found it one of the most touching experiences I have ever had - to be part of a family gathering of people who have one thing in common, the horrendous experience of suicide," he explained.
Mr McCafferty's talk will centre on 'Understanding Suicide and Understanding Bereavement by Suicide'.
"I'd like to do two things on the day," he said.
"First of all, to explain what suicide is." While a lot is known about suicide, there is also much "that we are not aware of".
"I would hope to put in perspective what suicide actually is and how it happens," he said.
"Second, will be to look at the understanding of the bereavement process that follows a suicide and how people deal with that."
An invaluable and powerful part of the day, he said, was people coming together and sharing "with each other the pain and horror of what has happened but also the experiences of getting through it and coming out the other side".
Overall, said Mr McCafferty, the day will "help as much as we can in dealing with this horrendous experience".