‘Time Together’ at St Martin-in-the-Fields

An annual service of reflection for people affected by suicide at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London.

Left: St Martin-in-the-Fields Church. Middle: ‘Time Together’ logo. Right: Revd Dr Sam Wells.

Since 2015, a non-denominational service for those affected by suicide has taken place every year, apart from during the Covid pandemic, at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square. Over 500 people come together for a time of reflection, and to find comfort and support. The performances by the St Martin’s Choir are a highlight of the hour-long event. 

Time Together – Programme September 9th, 2023 at 2pm

Music: Maxwell Davies, Farewell to Stromness
Welcome: Revd Dr Sam Wells
Opening Address: Ann Feloy
Music: Rani Arbo, Crossing the Bar, St Martin’s Voices

I. Lost
Laying a rock
Testimony: Olly Lavy
Music: Eleanor Daley, Upon your heart, St Martin’s Voices
Testimony: Amandip Sidhu
Silent reflection
Music: William Byrd, Agnus Dei, St Martin’s Voices

II. The Valley
Lighting a candle
Testimony: Revd Dr Sam Wells
Music: Bob Chilcott, The Lord’s my shepherd, St Martin’s Voices
Testimony: James Mitchell
Music: Elaine Hagenberg, You do not walk alone, St Martin’s Voices
Reading: ‘Time to be Slow’ by John O’Donohue. Larissa Pearce

III. Found
Placing a rose
Testimony: Mike McCarthy
Reading: ‘On the Death of the Beloved’ by John O’Donohue. Ella Jarvest
Music: Morricone, Gabriel’s Oboe, Soloist Richard Milone (violin)
Closing Address: Ann Feloy and Revd Dr Sam Wells
Hymn: ‘Abide with Me’. First verse solo by Harald Walter Azmann
Music: John Rutter, A Prayer of St Patrick, St Martin’s Voices

Abide with Me
Abide with me, fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens, Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day.
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away.
Change and decay in all around I see;
O thou who changest not, abide with me.
I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless:
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if thou abide with me.
Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes:
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee:
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
Henry Francis Lyte

Thank you to all these organisations for their support

Listen to the service recorded on September 9th, 2023

Ann Feloy – ‘Time Together’ Opening Address

Thank you for sharing your time with us here today by coming to this service 

for those affected by suicide, be it through having lost someone in the most 

tragic of ways or through having struggled with thoughts of suicide yourself. 

This may be your first time and you are very warmly welcome. You are with 

others who understand your pain and sadness, even though they may be 

complete strangers.

This may be something you come to every year. Those people will have spotted 

that I am not David Mosse and there is no way he would be dressed to imitate 

the tulip logo on the front of your programme, as I am.

So what’s happened? This year, after running the event since 2015, David 

handed the reins to me and my team at Olly’s Future. I little suspected this 

when I offered to help with last year’s service.  I’ve made a few slight changes,

with David’s support and encouragement, however, in essence this is still the 

event he created.

I would just like to take this opportunity to thank Larissa Peace who has given 

so much of her time in helping me with the arrangements. 

Firstly, the service now falls as close to World Suicide Prevention Day on 

September 10th as possible. In fact, we now have a World Suicide Prevention 

Week from September 3rd to the 10th, so our service coincides nicely and will 

continue to do so. Covid played havoc with the dates of the service over the 

past few years.

There is also a slight name change name from ‘Time To Talk’ to ‘Time 

Together’. One reason for this was that I wanted to recognize the shared 

connection in simply being together and being part of a group that 

understands the greatest depths of suffering to humankind – deeper than 

words. Also, some people just don’t want or have the energy to talk. 

My hope is that this service gives you a moment to pause and to look into your 

heart and reflect on your experience through hearing the testimonies, poems, 

exquisite music, and through silence. I hope it also gives you a chance to 

contemplate the enormity of all that you have faced, the insights that you have 

gained and perhaps, somewhere in amongst that, the blessings that you have 

been granted.

This year we also invited you to make a spiritual gesture by placing 

either a rock or rose on the altar or else lighting a votive candle to represent 

the three themes of the service. The rock signifying  ‘Lost’, the candle 

symbolising a light at the end of the valley of grief, and a rose representing 

‘hope and healing’. I hope those who did this drew comfort from their actions. 

My husband Chris and I lost our beloved son Oliver on February 14th, 2017, two 

days before his 23rd birthday. Our love for him continues as strong as ever. We 

are not really parted and his dear friends are now our friends. However, I 

mourn the lost years,  especially now that so many of his friends are finding 

partners to settle down with and have got engaged or, in one case, married. 

Each of us will try to process our feelings of loss and perhaps thoughts of 

suicide in our own way. 

For me, I have found I am most lost when I am caught up in the busyiness of 

my life and forget to ask God for help. I have also, at times, found myself 

thinking of suicide – wanting desperately to be with my son again. 

I’ve been in the darkness of the valley at times, but through prayer, I have seen 

the light far off. 

The final theme of this journey – found – has come to me as a great sense of 

purpose in the work of Olly’s Future and of reconciliation for what has 

happened and my faith. It has also come in the wonderful friendships I now 

have with Oliver’s friends and a far greater awareness of transcience of life and 

of what really matters. The words of Julian of Norwich are often in my mind –  

‘All Shall Be Well and All Manner of Things Shall Be Well’. 

I have also learnt that we do the best we can with the knowledge, experience 

and understanding we have at the time and I would urge everyone to accept 


My faith has helped me but this may not be your experience at all. Everyone’s 

path to healing is equally unique and valid. 

All of us here are connected by a sense of loss or by suffering. But I would 

suggest there is something even greater at work connecting us. It is love. 

 If it were possible to see this, we would look around us today and behold the 

most magnificent array of hues filling this church, representing all the nuances 

of love.  Quite similar, in fact, to the tulip on your programme.

At the End:

Thank you to all who have made this service possible and, in particular, all of 

you who chose to spend your time with us today in this beautiful church. 

I would also like to thank Rev’d Sam Wells and Sian……….         .It’s been a great 

pleasure getting to know you as I’ve felt my way through this first year. Also 

thank you to Music Director Michael Earis for putting this delightful 

programme together and the Events Team for the reception that follows.

Thank you to members of the enchanting St Martin’s Voices, soloists and 


Thank you also to the speakers for their honestly and courage – and it does 

indeed take courage –  in sharing their stories. Thank you Olly, Amandip, 

James, Mike, Harald as well as the readers Larissa and Ella. 

I would like to thank Larissa Pearce again for all her hard work and tenacity. 

We have made a very supportive double act.

I’d also like to thank my team at Olly’s Future and my trustees who supported 

me in wanting to take on the running of this event as part of our work. Please 

do say hello to Charlie and Oskar after the service, as well as Ella, Matthew, 

Rose and Rusty who will be downstairs. They are all so dear to my heart. 

Thank you also to the wonderful charities that are supporting this event. 

Please do go and see their stalls after this service.

Thank to all of you for being here and to those who have made a donation 

already. Please do make a donation towards the considerable costs via the 

envelopes in the pews or the card readers.  if you can towards the considerable costs 

for this service all of which go towards the cost of the venue, reception, 

musicians etc. Any money left over will go towards next year’s service.

And finally, I want to thank David Mosse for having the vision and desire to 

create a service for those affected by suicide. It’s important we acknowledge 

his beloved son Jake who was the reason for this service in the first place. This 

is his legacy. 

Please do join us for tea, coffee and a chance to meet one another. Just follow 

everyone outside. 

An Awkward Question – By Olly Lavy

An Awkward Question

There’s nothing more important than your family
I wish held my brothers hand through the agony
Schizophrenia, man it baffles me.
Mental health is a war zone, and it battles me

My brother had demons in his head, was that consequential?
Or did he just fall victim of his, own potential

Bro had a laugh that was warm and a heart that was pearly
Never been on-time, but in the next life, he went early

In this cruel cruel world, he’s the one chosen
But now he rests, and I’m the one Frozen

The reason he did that, I guess we’ll never know
Can’t hold that against him, like Elsa gotta “Let it go”

See finding something to blame, just don’t help with the pain.
Cos when you complain, you just go through it again, then next week it’s the same.

See suicide ain’t a sprint it’s a relay
Pain get’s passed on and you re-play
It’s fucked ay…

But death gotta be easy cause life’s is hard
But the struggle with death, is what makes life dark

Scars get deeper than you wouldn’t believe
Same time the pain, I don’t want it to leave

It’s all that I am and I can’t get a rest
Same time, I don’t wanna get it off my chest

Message after message on my phone
Meantime I’ve never felt more alone

Friends lookin’ out for me, but nobody see’s me.

We went through school at a similar age,
But when we speak now I’m on a different page.

Nothing feels the same in conversations,
I watch myself give impersonations, 

You start off numb then your bubble gets burst,
I’ve got envy for those that haven’t been cursed.

Is he really hurting or on the fence,
If she’s not in pain, then I’m taking offence.

Today it sounds ludicrous,
But I used to be humorous,

Facetious kid, l would to take the piss
I feel anger now, and I’m new to this.

Depression’s come before, 
But I’ve never been this raw
10 emotions in an hour, my life’s a see-saw

Man I think I’m going mad again,
It’s like I’m happy for a second then I’m sad again.

My eyes burn from the crying and my brain hurts from panicking
My mind’s on the dark side, friends call me Anakin

If I look around, I’ve got no reason to feel bitter
But the feeling that I’m weak, just makes me feel shitter

Swamped everyday like I’m 6 feet deep
I’m so tired, I’m beyond sleep

Small talk, how are you, that’s an awkward question
The feeling of grieving’s complex to mention

I feel happy, sad and angry at any one time
The easier response is to just say I’m fine

Olly Lavy

Amandip Sidhu’s Testimony

I am Amandip Sidhu and I am also bereaved by suicide.
My older brother died in November 2018, he ended his life due to immense work pressures without any help or support available. He was a doctor, caring for others in a stretched system trying his best. He was unable to go on. 
His story is tragic in that for all his life he was revered and respected for his achievements and personality. He was the “go-to” person where if you needed something, he was the person to turn to. He was cultured to devote his life to helping others but in the end, did so in a state of immense distress and pain. He worked hard for his patients, colleagues, friends and family but yet he could not speak openly about the difficulties he faced being a doctor. It was only until he was forcibly signed off work sick due to stress and anxiety where he opened up about his state of mind which proved to be fatal and too late… 
He tried reaching out for help, but there was nothing that could respond to him and keep him safe. He felt alone, isolated and exasperated. His suffering could only be eradicated by the thought of ending his life to escape the torture he was enduring. Immersed in a world where he could not live happily in his environment, nor adapt himself to assimilate into the world around him, the paradox that emerged grew to engulf and ultimately consume him. 
I write this today, some years on from his passing still not believing the way in which he departed this Earth. I say to you all, fellow bereaved by suicide, to reflect on our loved ones state of mind and how deep their suffering truly was.
I started a charity called Doctors in Distress to advocate for the protection and maintenance of positive mental health in doctors and all healthcare workers. Our health system appears to have become a psychologically unsafe space to work in, where adverse mental health and exposure to continued and dangerous levels of stress are an occupational hazard. Society must remember that our caregivers are also human. Disease does not discriminate, and nor should we. 
Of my (and all of yours) pain I can only say this:
“Grief is a substance which we all must consume at some time in our lives.
It is forcibly ingested into us, and we cannot control our reaction to the poison that enters our mind and body.
What makes things easier is knowing that their suffering has ended. The person is gone and is now at peace, their wish was granted. 
The acceptance of that is an antidote to the poison of grief, a state of tranquillity is inevitable.”

Revd Dr Sam Wells

An Influence Immense; a Loss Unfathomable
In March this year a person I deeply admired, younger than me, ended her life. At the inquest a month ago both her husband and her psychotherapist testified that they had no idea something like this was coming. She was immaculately efficient, fiercely funny, highly disciplined, rigorously honest, and universally loved. Within minutes of the news becoming known, people were searching for understanding, comprehension, and consolation. I spent much of the rest of the day on zoom with those who hoped I could offer some insight, explanation, or comfort. I couldn’t. I could only offer one thing: companionship. I wonder if many, perhaps most of us who gathered an hour ago for today’s service were likewise looking for understanding, comprehension, or consolation. But the one thing I most hope you’ve found, during and after this service, is companionship.
The person I much admired was called Anna. I couldn’t attend her funeral, but I scoured the words people had said about her to find understanding, comprehension, and consolation I couldn’t conjure up for myself. One put it succinctly: ‘Alongside a deep humility … lay an incapacity to recognise in herself the gifts that others saw in her so abundantly, or to show towards herself anything like the depths of love that others felt for her.’ Those words actually helped me a lot. It wasn’t blaming Anna: it was just naming the truth that she for reasons no one seems to know got into a place of having an inexplicably low opinion of herself. The same person said another beautiful thing: ‘Dying so young, she leaves an influence as immense as her loss is now unfathomable.’ That summed up her legacy perfectly. Another friend said a similar thing differently: ‘The extravagant and unconditional love of God she showed to others, she sometimes found harder to see belonged to her too. Her story about herself was sometimes different from the one we gratefully related. … Those who got close to her will recognise this fragility in her. We loved her for it, but she doubted it was loveable.’
Six months later, this is what I’ve learned from the loss of Anna. I’ve learned again how fragile and precious life is, and how we do well to cherish those we care about and tell them what they mean to us while we have the chance. I’ve learned that you can never fully know what’s in another person’s heart and soul. I’ve learned how a person’s words about love, about life, about God, about hope, can mask their most profound doubts about everything. I’ve learned how the immense good and beauty a person can offer in their life is not lessened by the last thing they did. I’ve learned that there are some questions in life to which no one has the answer, and to which, however much we ask, we’ll never receive an adequate reply. 
But most of all, I’ve learned what I learned that first evening after the news about Anna broke: the solidarity of companionship. Anna created a community, even after her death: all who admired her found through her a language to express what they most valued in life. They lost her, but in a paradoxical way, they gained each other. And that points to something important about what we’re doing together today. We’re a community brought together by tragedy and near-tragedy. Everyone here has chosen not to seek solace alone, but to find understanding, comprehension, and consolation in companionship. Insight may be elusive; explanations may never be forthcoming; sadness may never end. But companionship is a precious gift; maybe the most precious of all. Answers may be hard to find: but perhaps the best place to look is one another.

Time to Heal – by James Mitchell

Leah, my wife of 14 years and mum to our two beautiful boys, Ollie and Harvey,  took her own life on 1st May 2020. 3½ years ago now. She was 44 years old. 
The most tragic and desperately sad day, but not completely unexpected. 
Leah had decided from a very early age that every day should be challenged.  Sitting still was not an option. There was a whole world out there waiting to be  discovered. New people to meet, new tastes to savour. Every day needed to be  filled with excitement, adventure and drama. Never really settling for life’s  somewhat tedious routine. And everyone she met couldn’t help but be touched  by this magnetic energy. 
But lying beneath this fun-loving exterior was a deeply troubled soul. Her  childhood had been very traumatic. Daughter to an alcoholic. She would recall  drunken fights between her father and older brothers, with her mother seemingly  offering little support. Clearly, deep emotional damage had been done – and trust  in anyone or anything could never last. 
But there was something strangely attractive about these fragile insecurities. We  had met 20 years ago and quite apart from being drawn to this beautiful and fun loving, spontaneous girl, I had this overwhelming desire to try and heal. To  provide unconditional warmth, love and security. And despite regular explosive  outbursts towards me, I wanted to stay the distance.  
Bringing our first son into the world came with it an unexpected tragedy. Infected  with a virus during birth caused him severe brain damage, ultimately diagnosed  with tetraplegic cerebral palsy. Devastating.  
Our second son was born two years later – thankfully healthily without any such  complications. But this was the start of Leah’s slow downward spiral. A wonderful  focus and commitment around the boys’ upbringing continued to be interspersed  with long dark periods of deep lows, depression and heavy drinking. This became  the pattern. Sobriety followed by rehab. Year after year. Including one attempt to  end it all. I did my best to shield the boys, but in trying to protect us all I started to  normalize this erratic, dysfunctional behaviour. It wasn’t until early 2018, many  years later, that I had the courage to face reality and to start the emotional  detachment. 
Slowly realizing that I was no longer going to be there to pick up the pieces, and  with both of us recognizing that we needed to separate, Leah moved away from  the family home. I continued to support her the best I could, but she was quick to  get in with the wrong crowd and soon lost her focus on the boys.
Strangely, this new-found resilience and emotional detachment enabled me to  secure a significant work promotion. Hugely liberating and yet utterly exhausting,  in equal measure.  
Those last months of 2019 and early 2020 thankfully brought some peace to  Leah’s life. She seemed to be working hard on her sobriety and we were able to  enjoy Christmas Day together. Mother’s Day in March 2020 was the last day we  saw her, as lockdown was announced the next day. Not being able to see her boys  tore at her deeply. All her demons seemingly returned to haunt her. 5 weeks later  she drew her last breath. 
The first month was a blur of emotions. Huge sadness followed by anger. How  dare she.  
And yet after the funeral, there was a strange sense of relief. For her and for us.  
Those early months were obviously not easy. But the boys have been incredibly  mature. Unbelievably so.  
Harvey, then only 10, said to me ‘I know I should feel much sadder than I do, but  Mum’s been living away for over a year now and I just don’t see her much’. Ollie,  then 12, was equally matter of fact, but this was because of his limited cognition.  The school had helped prepare a beautiful ‘social story’ explaining using easy  
words and pictures that his mummy had been very sick and had now died. He  could remember her by thinking of her favourite colours, or singing her favourite  songs. He still has this story in his school bag – to look at whenever he needs. 
We celebrate her life on Mother’s day and the anniversary of her passing.  
How am I? Well, I’ve been able to take a complete step back from my career so I  can fully support my boys. They give me such strength.  
I still sometimes wake up and expect her to text or call. 
I’m working hard to get proper balance back in my life.  
But the skies are clearer and the road ahead, I hope, less traumatic.  And sharing my story with you today is bringing yet further closure. Thank you.

The Theme of the Rose – By Mike McCarthy

The fragrance of a rose induces a sense of nostalgia for me of happier days and childhood.  Whether carried as a button hole on my schoolboy blazer for a family wedding or drawing me in with scent into grandma’s garden.  The roses represented light, security and innocence.  Often over the past two and a half years I have asked myself:  Where have the roses gone?

I look back to the 20th February 2021 and wonder what I must have been thinking as I went to bed and closed my eyes.  Did I give thanks for the good fortune that life had granted me?  Did I give a thought to the blessings of a wonderful family and a good home?  In all honesty – I can’t remember.  But I do remember the call at just after 3 in the morning from my son’s fiancée and I do vaguely remember the two hour drive to their home through a grim, wet, February night.  And when we arrived I remember seeing a pair of old shoes on the lawn that had been used by my son Ross just two days earlier to dress a snowman for his three -year-old son Charlie.  The snowman had melted and all that was left were the shoes.  On a day such as that – the scene spoke of unbearable loss and the fragility of life.  

But inside the house Ross had left a letter full of loving farewells to his family and urging Charlie to be brave.  The police took it away but when we eventually got it back Ross spoke to me for one last time and his words went straight to my heart.  He said:  “Please fight for mental health.  The support is just not there.”  After ten years of suffering with depression my son had asked for therapy, been put on a six-month waiting list and died two weeks into the wait.  As he faced his last moments he recognised a cause to be championed in a world that he would not be part of.

I now think of the immediate aftermath as my driftwood days…when I lost all direction and hope.  I filled the void by trying to find any scrap of solace; I stroked the leaves of a tree planted in our garden 31 years earlier to celebrate Ross’s birth.  I went to throw a rose into the Derbyshire river where he swam as a boy and as a teenager and I watched as the yellow flower floated to who knows where.

But in the fog he kept whispering the words:  “Please fight for mental health” and in the grief the words began to give me direction.  In every sport we celebrate physical prowess with an incalculable number of symbols…trophies, medals etc.  But where were the symbols for mental well-being?  At the very heart of our society – where were the conversations about the something that robs us of so much promise, potential and Hope?

The Baton Of Hope – so beautifully designed and created by goldsmiths and silversmiths to the royal family Thomas Lyte – was carried through 12 cities in twelve days of Summer this year.  In one year we have created a Workplace Charter encouraging employers to play their part in a more compassionate society.  We have helped to establish new connections, new groups and much greater interest in a subject that for generations has been overlooked or even ignored.  Almost a thousand baton bearers walked through the streets in what was endorsed by the Prime Minister as the biggest suicide prevention initiative the nation has ever seen.  But our journey has just begun.  

Different people see different things in the Baton Of Hope.  Some see an upward spiral leading to a swirl of semi-colons representing the belief that with positive action we can create a future for those who are at risk of losing hope.  

Inside the darkness of the handle are inscribed the words of Desmond Tutu:  Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”

To me the Baton represents an unfolding flower.  A symbol of love and compassion. A new golden rose.  From Ross’s final words…  Fresh hope. 

On The Death of the Beloved – Poem by By John O’Donoghue

Reading by Ella Jarvis

Though we need to weep your loss,
You dwell in that safe place in our hearts,
Where no storm or night or pain can reach you.

Your love was like the dawn
Brightening over our lives
Awakening beneath the dark
A further adventure of colour.

The sound of your voice
Found for us
A new music
That brightened everything.

Whatever you enfolded in your gaze
Quickened in the joy of its being;
You placed smiles like flowers
On the altar of the heart.
Your mind always sparkled
With wonder at things.

Though your days here were brief,
Your spirit was live, awake, complete.

We look towards each other no longer
From the old distance of our names;
Now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath,
As close to us as we are to ourselves.

Though we cannot see you with outward eyes,
We know our soul’s gaze is upon your face,
Smiling back at us from within everything
To which we bring our best refinement.

Let us not look for you only in memory,
Where we would grow lonely without you.
You would want us to find you in presence,
Beside us when beauty brightens,
When kindness glows
And music echoes eternal tones.

When orchids brighten the earth,
Darkest winter has turned to spring;
May this dark grief flower with hope
In every heart that loves you.

May you continue to inspire us:

To enter each day with a generous heart.
To serve the call of courage and love
Until we see your beautiful face again
In that land where there is no more separation,
Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
And where we will never lose you again.

John O’Donohue

‘Time Together’ 2022

Listen to the service recorded on September 3rd, 2022

Programme 2022

David MosseOpening Address 2022

Opening Address – Time to Talk 2022
David Mosse

Thank you for coming to this Time to Talk service, for all who are affected by suicide.

Coming here may have been difficult for you, because facing suicide is difficult. So much in our society recoils from speaking of suicide. This is what brings loneliness and isolation to those who feel suicidal, as well as to those in grief after suicide. That’s why we’re here, today: to know we are not alone.

I’ve discovered that a mutual empathy brings together those who have experienced being suicidal and those experiencing the trauma of loss through suicide.

Indeed, in the turmoil of sudden and traumatic loss, many bereaved by suicide, have a powerful sense in themselves of the overwhelming pain and the loneliness that made the person they loved wish to die. I know I felt a shadow of his pain, after the death of my son Jake 12 years ago.

Those are terrible moments of darkness, fragmentation – being scattered into pieces  – and existential threat. These are also, commonly, moments of trauma which are without words or voice. 

We might say that those we love who killed themselves acted out what they could not put into words; what they could not speak, or tell… and this leaves us with the echoing question, why, why?

The aloneness and silence of suicide, and of its grief, is why we come together now in this service: to bring words, voices and music.

We are meaning-making animals. Our very being depends on the sense we can make of life. Suicide throws everything into confusion. We are in disbelief.

Suicide almost always comes as a sudden shocking event, that nobody truly foresaw. Even if we knew of a loved one’s despair, we never expected this to actually happen. But we often forget this. Consumed by our own sense of responsivity and guilt, we forget that we really didn’t know what was going to happen.  

I have realised something recently about what happened to me after Jake’s death, which I think many share. Immediately I heard, I was so overwhelmed with disintegrating confusion that I couldn’t think. But very quickly, I grasped for sense with a story of what happened that placed me at the controlling centre. Of the many spinning wheels that aligned to produce this tragic death, I homed-in on the bit that shouted, ‘I should have done something…’ The many ‘if only’s followed … and the searing guilt..’ 

Guilt is the way we (I) cope with intolerable, suffocating powerlessness, as we try to take control over what is utterly beyond us – something that cannot unhappen, but cannot be accepted. It can be calming to blame oneself. Neuroscientists even tell us that we can be addicted to the feeling of guilt. But then beyond the almost unscalable mountain of my parental responsibility lay the field of others’ fault – the failures of attention and care.

Self-blame, the blame of others, and the struggle against meaninglessness, are processes of grief after suicide. 

In my journey with grief, I have been helped by listening to the stories of others, hearing things that help my own sense-making. And  through compassion for others, I have come to blame myself less.

Suicide brings a double grief: grief for the loss person who has gone, but also grief for the manner of that death. This second grief, for suicide, can be so overpowering that it crowds out the quiet sadness of loss – maybe for years.

Last Monday, I was at the wedding of one of Jake’s best friends. I was touched to be invited; in a way representing him. I felt Jake’s presence, and his absence, in my body. I knew that whatever he had done in his life, and wherever he had travelled, he would have been there at that exact time, at that wedding. As Jake came up in the speeches, and I witnessed the enduring impact he is having on young lives 12 years on, I felt the sadness of his absence; but something else too. The tears that came to me were for him the wonderful person that he was, but not about his suicide. I could feel how he was loved and continued to matter deeply to his friends.

My journey of grief after suicide began with the bewilderment of death beyond the reach of love.. At that wedding, and more often now, I feel love beyond death.

The structure of this service follows our journeys after loss, through the high-sided valley of grief and pain towards something found. What I have found is my son in my heart less shaped by his suicide. Wherever you are, I hope that in this service you find something to help you on your journey.

Love is Stronger than Death – by Revd Dr Sam Wells

Suicide is the biggest taboo in our culture, because death is the stripping away of everything that matters. The loss of breath, of our body, of relationship, of consciousness, of memory, of hope, of identity, of capacity, of strength, of life, of love. To die at your own hand is all of these things, but with some added pain. It’s a fearful statement of the utter loss of confidence in life, and in love. And to those around you, even if not intended that way, it can be experienced as a profound and unanswerable form of rejection.
Death poses the most disturbing question of all. And that is this. Is life, is this energy and activity and awareness and thought – is all this the most real thing? Or is there something, deep down, beneath it all, that is truer, more permanent, more eternal than life – something called… nothing? It’s the most troubling question, because if nothing is more real than this something, then everything around us is no more than a kind of long-term illusion, a perpetual mirage – which is here today, and perhaps tomorrow, but gone the next day, never to return. It does your head in. It makes you wonder if the reason people keep busy is to avoid ever thinking something like that. It makes you wonder what would become of any of us if we allowed ourselves to sit and think like that for a long time.
And it’s this question that’s at the heart of the Christian faith. And the strange thing is, tucked away in a relatively obscure book in an unfindable section of the Old Testament, lies the answer. Towards the end of the Song of Songs are the five words that sum up Christianity. ‘Love is strong as death.’ Or, some say, ‘Love is stronger than death.’ When all things are said and done, and death has done everything it can do, there’s still love – fragile, maybe, battered, certainly, but abiding, nonetheless. Life is more than nothing. Just before those words, we read, ‘Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm.’ The central moment in the Christian faith is when a man more or less had those words tattooed on his arm and went to die in such a way that his arm was exposed to the world. And he was utterly isolated. Deserted and betrayed by his friends. Apparently abandoned by God. Practically no one was there, besides people mocking him. 
And what his death proclaims is what we’re gathered here to affirm. Which is that, however bleak suicide can be, however isolated, sad, forsaken and neglected a death can be, however much a person taking their own life can seem to obliterate life and relationship and hope and everything, at the end of time, love is stronger than death. It’s just five words. Love is stronger than death. 
This, I sense is the motivation of most of those who organise around the prevention of suicide. It’s the inspiration for most people who work in mental health support and create opportunities for those who feel they have nowhere to turn and life is hopeless. It’s the conviction underlying this service. It’s a mission statement for life. It’s what we’re saying by going downstairs and reaching out to a stranger and listening to their story. It’s not something to shout. It’s something to whisper. It’s a way to live.

Love and Light – by Ann Feloy

How do we go on?  We, who have lost our precious sons and daughters, our brothers, sisters, partners, parents and friends? 

When my son died, I felt the years ahead would be wasteland stretching before me until we could be reunited. Oliver – Olly to all his friends – died on February 14th, 2017, two days before his 23rd birthday.  He left behind his bereft family – me, my husband Chris and our older son Samuel – as well as a small but loving wider family and more friends than for a lifetime.  

He was a beautiful, bright star. Oliver’s great sense of fun and bounding energy would light up a room. His charisma and warmth drew people to him instantly. He was intelligent and knowledgeable beyond his years, but he also loved to party and play sport.  He was a mean jazz singer and could salsa like no other. He was a role model to his friends and yet he was also humble, downplaying his talents and always putting others first.  He was an old soul, loved by everyone who knew him.

There’s an award at UCL, where he gained a first in History six months before he died – but it’s not for History. It’s the Oliver Hare Altruism Award and it’s a testament that he is remembered as a humanitarian and for the compassion he always showed. He left a lasting impact on so many, simply through being kind. 

I marvel at how much he did in his short life. During his gap year he kept journals of all his adventures, writing on long haul flights across continents, lying on rickety beds in hostels, under makeshift tents in the Amazon jungle, on endless bus rides across Bolivia, Chile, Peru and Argentina, on beautiful beaches in Australia and upon breath-taking mountains in New Zealand. He was the lead for a jazz show at the Adelphi Theatre which still lives on in our memories for the joy it brought.  At 18, he won an economics prize to become the Apprentice to the World Traders Livery Company – a four-year role which saw him rub shoulders with the great and the good in the city of London and dine at the Mansion House. 

At Christ Hospital School where he went from 11 to 18 years of age, the World Traders established a prize in memory of Oliver for the Best Musician of the renowned marching band which Oliver led as Drum Major through the streets of London for the Lord Mayor’s Parade and at events such as the opening at Lord’s Cricket Ground. 

He spoke French, Spanish and was learning Mandarin when he died, shortly after returning from his third trip to Shanghai, where he was working with the British Council. 

Oliver seemed to go downhill in a matter of five weeks on returning to England for the Chinese New Year. In early January 2017, he saw a doctor and described feelings of depression and anxiety for the first time. A few weeks later, he was prescribed Citalopram by another doctor over the phone. It was the first time he’d been prescribed an anti-depressant and after just four days of taking the SSRI, he was gone. 

I felt a sense of precognition before Oliver died which is hard to explain. It were as though a greater power was at work and for a long time afterwards, I felt as though I had one foot in this world and one foot in the next. 

Because of Oliver, my belief and trust in God and an afterlife have grown.  I now have a greater insight into life and death than I thought possible and a deep sense of purpose through the work I do in Oliver’s memory. 

So, to come back to my question – how do we go on? My answer is this. We do, because we must. It is we who keep the light burning for them in this world. We, who keep their spirit alive, no matter how hard that may seem. We light the candle and guard the flame. And we do this through love, for our love for them never dies. 

It was an outpouring of love that led to our charity – Olly’s Future – being formed. Some of Oliver’s dearest friends are the trustees and support me, as Chair, in our suicide prevention work to save further young lives from being lost.  Our motto is ‘Love and Light’, reflecting the qualities Oliver brought in abundance to this world. We are his future now. Our promotional video features Oliver singing a song recorded at that Adelphi Theatre show in 2015: ‘LOVE is all that I can give to you’. Could there be another more fitting song? 

At my son’s funeral, the vicar told the vast congregation that it were as though ‘Storm Oliver’ had suddenly arrived and overwhelmed us all. He said that, in time, the tumultuous seas and hurricane winds would subside and we would see before us a new landscape. Nothing would ever be the same again. It has taken five years to arrive at this place.

Samuel has brought Diana into our lives and we now have a grandson, Magnus, and they have another baby on the way – this time a daughter. 

The piece of music you are going to hear next is called ‘Sea of Solitude’ and is the fifth movement of a Sinfonia composed by Jonathan Brigg, dedicated to Oliver. It seems to perfectly reflect the sorrow but also peaceful acceptance after the storm when we see the dark clouds part and the light beginning to shine again. 

I am truly blessed to have been given the gift of being Oliver’s mum, despite his short life.  I thank God for the time Oliver was with us. He taught me and so many others such a great deal and he continues to inspire us to do good. 

Ann Feloy  3rd September, 2022.

Testimony – by Sharon Grenham-Thompson

A year ago today I was busy in the kitchen, preparing for a family visit, the first since we’d moved into our new house. As I buzzed around, humming to myself, drinking my morning coffee, I had no idea that by teatime my world would be shattered. 
My 17-year-old son Leo took his life at just before 2pm on 3rd September 2021 – making today the first anniversary of his death. On that terrible day I lost a son, my other children lost a brother, my husband a stepson. Leo was also a grandchild, a godchild, a cousin, a nephew, a pupil, a team-mate, a friend. The waves caused by his suicide fanned outward like a tsunami in the days that followed the news, encompassing not only those who knew him, but also those professionals who, in various ways, had to deal with the aftermath. Even our cat and dog were left confused and anxious. 
We’ve had the nightmare of investigations, an ongoing inquest procedure, lawyers and police and insensitive bureaucracy. We’ve had to face what would have been his 18th birthday, and just recently, the day he should have received his A level results. There have been been the public holidays, the private anniversaries, the silly little everyday reminders that trip you up when you’re least expecting it. Oh, the agony of his shoes in the cupboard, his coat on the hook, his favourite food on the supermarket shelf! Much of it has seemed unreal – it still does – and no matter how many memorial plaques I fix, trees I plant, and visits to his grave I make, there’s a large part of me that still hasn’t grasped that he’s not going to walk back through the door one day. 
In fact, there’s a large part of me that feels…unmade. Dislocated, dissolved. Scattered into pieces, blown to the four winds, like litter on the side of the road. I don’t know how to gather myself in again. 
I’ve had to grapple with devastating guilt, endless questions, utter bewilderment. The most devastating and unanswerable question in the world – why?  
There’s been horror, anger, fear, and a sense of loss that at times I’ve only been able to express in screams or the wordless sounds of deep, deep keening. The earth has seemed out of kilter, and I’ve lived outside of time. Future doors have been slammed shut, present moments are altered profoundly, and even my sense of the past, and what was true and reliable and real, has been rocked to the core. The pain has been physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. I’m not really sure how I’ve survived the past 12 months. In fact, there were times when I didn’t think I would – or should. 
But here I am. Here I am knowing that I’m not alone. That seems to me both utterly tragic and strangely comforting. That there are others – people like you – who are walking a similar path. There’s no doubt that the unfailing support of my husband, the love of my family and friends, the forbearance of my colleagues, and the kindness of complete strangers has helped me to hold on. It seems to me in this, the worst of human experiences, that whilst we may feel powerless, we can hold a light for one another when the way ahead seems dark. And I hope we can hold a light for those who are in such a lost place themselves that they feel they cannot stay. 
When you lose someone to suicide, all their potential seems to disappear. At least, that’s how I saw it at first. Now I sense that I have inherited Leo’s life – his potential, his character, his gentle soul. I will guard it and cherish it, carry it within me as I did when I carried him before he was born. And I will look for its reflection in the faces of those I meet, loving them as I have loved him.   
Three days after his death, I wrote a blessing for Leo, my gentle boy who loved the golden evening light and the stars in the night sky. My words have now been put to music by Ali Willis and published by Encore Music. Andrew and his choir are going to sing it now – and I offer it as a blessing for you, and especially for those whose lives you carry in your heart. 

Blessing For One Who Has Taken Their Own Life – by David Whyte. Reading by Chukumeka Maxwell

You decided to leave us but we can never leave you,
not in our minds,not in the inner recess of our wondering hearts,
nor in the long twilight horizon where you will always walk
in our memory.
Above on the mountain the lark will rise from the summer grass
to the sky above your home and the song it sings
will forever carry the mystery of your going.
You turned away from all our help,so that we have to
ask for your help now, not in answers but in asking
the difficult and beautiful questions your life bequeathed.
We are still not sure if you ever asked for the helping hand,but still we hold
our hands out now to take yours in ours,to reassure you in the quiet of the morning
or the silence of the night and in all the day to come when in our minds you still need our care
to help you go on where we can’t go,to see you safe beyond the quiet line
of our understanding.
To walk with you now arm in arm with our regrets
and our affection that one last mile along the way you
wanted to go, the quiet in which we wave
goodbye, only the sign of our secret promise to you, the continued
and helpless testament of our unspoken love.

Latest news

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The next stop on Rory’s journey in India was meeting with Priti Sridhar, CEO of the Mariwala Health

A visit to the Centre for Mental Health Law & Policy! 

We’d like to say a massive thank you to the team at the Centre for Mental Health Law

Charlie Thomson raised £3,250 for Olly’s Future by running in the Brighton Marathon

Charlie Thomson, our fantastic Chair, raised an amazing £3,250 for Olly’s Future by running in the Brighton Marathon