The woman in the window smiled and waved; encouraging each person who passed by her house. The window was all lit up with single candles which have become the Darkness into Light symbol for hope.

That woman’s genuine smile meant more to me and no doubt countless others than she’ll probably ever know.

Saturday May 12th was my fourth time running the Darkness into Light and my second time running it on my own.

My brother died by suicide 15 years ago yet for some reason, I found this DIL my most emotional run yet. I had just returned from a family holiday abroad where I had over indulged and the sun shone gloriously every day so I wasn’t exactly “run fit!”.

As I struggled up the first hill of the route in Waterford city, the flashing lights of the emergency services ambulance greeted me at the first roundabout. They were there to support anyone who needed assistance but for me they were suddenly a reminder of the night of March 19th 2003.

When I got that horrific call that my brother had died by suicide, I quickly switched to auto pilot and somehow managed to drive myself from Waterford to Tipperary to be with my parents. When I arrived, they told me Fintan’s body had been taken by ambulance to Waterford. I felt sick at the thought I may have passed him on the road.

That sick nauseous feeling returned as I mounted that first hill, exhausted already as I really was not physically or mentally prepared for this emotional event.

And there she was, smiling encouragingly, from the window of her home. This complete stranger gave me the encouragement I needed to just let go and allow the tears to flow; as they have done, so many times before, over the last 15 years.

Founder of Pieta House Joan Freeman officially opened this year’s walk in Waterford. I interviewed her for the radio before the walk kicked off and if I’m honest that’s when my raw emotions really began to unexpectedly surface. I’ve met Joan a few times and each time she looks straight at you when she’s talking to you, in a way that makes you think she’s looking straight through to your soul and can 100% empathise with your suffering. She also knows what it’s like to lose a sibling to another pointless suicide. There is an unspoken understanding that the raw grief associated with suicide never really leaves you; you just learn to accept and live with it and try to not let it define you or hamper your ability to try and live your best life.

After speaking with Joan, I spent some time interviewing other walkers, hearing their stories. When I asked one girl why she was taking part, she struggled to keep it together and through her tears I think she managed to reveal that she was walking this year for her uncle who had recently died by suicide. So, by the time I actually began to run, I was already an emotional wreck!

I was reminded of Joan Freeman’s opening remarks to the 4 thousand strong crowd at the RSC Waterford “This is a wonderful opportunity to show open grief, to grieve without fear. This walk WILL stop other suicides”.

I let the tears flow; just for a little while.

Gabrielle Cummins is C.E.O. and Programme Director of Beat 102-103.

You can reach Pieta House South East by calling (051) 858510 or nationally on 1800 247 247.

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