This book is a welcome source of advice and guidance for anyone caring for people bereaved by suicide.
The author, Fr Aidan Troy, is well known for his previous ministry in Holy Cross Parish, Belfast. He now ministers in Paris.
He states that the aim of the book is to offer `some tentative suggestions and observations born of my experience, in the hope that they may be helpful in a pastoral context. There will be gaps that only the readers can fill in the light of their own circumstances and outlooks'
The early chapters concentrate on pastoral needs of the family and surrounding community in the immediate aftermath of the death of someone by suicide.
Aidan Troy suggests a very sensitive approach to each step in the tragic realisation of a suicide. His narrative indicates that deep respect is key in such delicate situations.
He really endeavours to be inclusive particularly with people of little or no faith allegiance.
The second part traces some of the challenges along the first year after death and suggests some helpful pastoral responses.
He also speaks about his experience of various support groups and the useful, indeed necessary, interaction with statutory bodies.
The final chapter is one that many readers of The Carer will echo with; the need for carers to be ever vigilant of the need for self care, including the use of supervision.
We chaplains, reading this book, may find its value in two broad ways.
Firstly, encouragement to reflect and maybe modify our ministry with people bereaved by suicide.
Secondly, it is a helpful resource that we chaplains can recommend for carers in pastoral situations after a suicide to read and make their own.
Aidan Troy is openly honest as he peppers the text with stories of his own difficult learning experiences during many years of ministry.
He has so many deeply mined nuggets in this relatively short book. Throughout he encourages the pastoral carer to maintain an attitude of an apprentice eager to learn.
Aidan Troy has done us a great service by writing a very readable yet profound book and Veritas has to be complimented for a fine production at a reasonable price.
- Jim Owens, The Carer, Sep 2010
Fr Aidan Troy is probably best remembered for his ministry in Belfast during the time of the Loyalist blockade when he defended Catholic primary schoolchildren against the spitting and jeering loyalist mob in Ardoyne. He has written of that experience elsewhere but his current publication Out of the Shadows - Responding to Suicide deals with the all too frequent encounters he also had with youth suicide within and beyond his parish, especially during the period between Christmas Eve 2003 and St Valentines Day 2004 when fourteen Protestant and Catholic youngsters, mostly boys, took their own lives. Like the proverbial stone cast into the still pond the ripples from a suicide reach well beyond those in the immediate vicinity but families and friends remain the primary group affected by the tragedy.
The first part of Fr Troys book seeks to guide those in the caring professions who find themselves ministering in such circumstances. He offers practical advice and suggests appropriate pastoral responses for both the ministers and the community, including how to establish support and prevention groups. Clearly an area in all of us, even with the best of intentions, can be clumsy, Fr Troys book provides a valuable resource at a time when as escalating suicide statistics indicate that it has never been more necessary.
- Intercom, November 2010
Looking in from outside the family is the priest, often acutely aware of his need to do or say nothing that will increase the familys grieving. Father Aidan Troy wrote Out of the Shadow in an effort to share what he has learned during his seven-year ministry in Belfast. The book is in two parts, concentrating first of all on the pastoral needs of the bereaved family, and secondly on the challenges which arise in the first year after death. It is a welcome relief to read his concerns about who is caring for the pastoral worker, because unless they too are supported professionally, further unbearable hurt and pain can be delivered unwittingly on the family. The whole area is a minefield. Troy talks about an early experience when offering a Mass of the Angels for a baby who had died on the eve of her baptism. As he began to talk about the baby and Gods part in its death, the young mother, up until now completly silenced by her grief, stood up and denounced him for daring to tell her what God was doing or thinking when her baby died. "She was totally right. I could feel the blood drain from my face and I knew that there was only one response: silence." Troy learned from such experiences, and he shares his hard-won wisdom with the reader who might one day be called upon to help.
There is no getting around the fact that when a Catholic kills him or herself, however young or old they may be, the Church goes into default judgemental mode and refuses the kindness and charity of a full liturgical funeral mass. It may even refuse the burial in sacred ground within the graveyard. Father Troy acknowledges implicitly that this is unacceptable in this day and age, but rather than displaying the moral courage to over-ride this anachronism he complies with the liturgy and writes about ways of telling the parents that although there is no doubt at all of Gods love for their child, he cannot give the child the burial the parents would wish for.
Undoubtedly there is a place for the presence of a mature, empathetic priest or spiritual advisor to be present when tragedy comes calling. Father Troys book, born of years of experience in this minefield, is as good a guide as the professional is likely to read.
- Books Ireland, Summer 2010
Theres a knock on the door and its your ashen-faced neighbour come to tell you her son has just been found hanging in his bedroom. Your brother calls to inform you that his daughter has taken her life. You are shocked and speechless. And then what do you do?
Aiden Troy knows those helpless moments well. A few years ago, he got those messages - and saw some of the evidence -14 times in two months. As a Catholic parish priest in Belfast, he was often one of the first to be called by family or friends of the deceased. Sometimes police would call him first and ask him to break the news to the family and help in any way he could. In a very short time, he became more familiar than he ever expected with tragedies people usually think only happen to others.
'It is nearly impossible if you have not been there to describe what those first few moments following discovery are like. They are frightening to behold There is no instruction book that can tell us how to cope with a suicide,' Troy says. But after years of dealing with suicide and suicide support groups, he decided to write 'some tentative suggestions and observations born of my experience, in the hope that they may be helpful in a pastoral context.' He wrote it not only for other priests and not only for other Catholics, but for 'a wide range of people who come into contact with suicide the immediate family, neighbours and community medical and hospital personnel, ambulance and police services, suicide support groups and clergy, undertakers and morgue personnel.'
Out of the Shadow: Responding to Suicide was launched last week in Belfast. It was introduced by Philip McTaggart, whose own sons suicide prompted him to establish the support group PIPS - Public Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide and Self-Harm. What Troy calls his very small book on a very huge topic progresses step-by-step through the initial shock, the funeral and the challenge of living for weeks, months and years with such a loss. It offers no complex theories or easy answers, only humble reflections on dealing with suicide and helping those left to grieve. Most of all, it brings a once taboo topic 'out of the shadow, as the title puts it.
Some readers may remember Troy from a tense Catholic-Protestant confrontation in Belfast that he described in his first book Holy Cross: A Personal Experience. When he came to work in Paris last year, he told me he was writing a second book that was quite different from that one. I ended up helping him edit it, so by now Ive been through the book several times. Repeated readings dont make this huge topic any easier, but they drive home the need to talk about it and help those whose lives are shattered by it.
A lot of verbiage is spilled nowadays on the vexing question of why so many people-especially young men - take their own lives. Committees are formed, funds voted and reports printed, but still nobody seems to present a credible understanding. The two books listed here are exceptional and practical, because both spring from experience Carol Anne Miltons (above) from the death of her son, Father Aidans from the harrowing moment when a mother stood up in church and asked him "How dare you tell me what God was doing when my baby died?" Since then he had encountered families torn and bereft by suicide, and has learned to listen and what not to say, and he passes on what he has learned here without the easy platitudes that people expect and accept from the church.
- Books Ireland, February 2010
Father Aidan Troy flew back to Belfast last night to launch a book he has written about suicide, writes Marie Louise McCrory. The Dublin-born Passionist, who was transferred from Holy Cross Monastery in Ardoyne to Paris last year, returned for an overnight visit to launch Out of the Shadows: Responding to Suicide at a bookshop in Donegal Street. The book focuses on the high-profile priests personal experiences of suicide in the north Belfast community where he was based and offers advice on how families can be supported following the death of a loved one. The book also investigates the role of suicide-support organisations and the role of the Church and state following a suicide. Speaking at the book launch last night, Fr Troy said he loved coming back to Belfast, where he had been based for seven years. "I was delighted that Veritas had the book launch in Belfast so I could come back to see the people who opened their hearts and homes to me at awful times," he said.
- The Irish Times, 2 December 2009