THE hearts of the nation must surely go out to Audrey Fitzpatrick this week following the violent death of her son, Dean.
She is a woman who has been well and truly battered by tragedy as she must now try to come to terms with the loss of both of her beloved children.
For more than five years, she has lived with the unrelenting sorrow of the disappearance of her 15-year-old daughter, Amy, in the late hours of New Year's Day 2008 in the Costa del Sol in Spain.
I first met Audrey in Spain, just days after Amy disappeared. She was launching a campaign to heighten awareness of the search for Amy.
She was determined that the population of the Costa del Sol and the Irish nation should be badgered, cajoled and encouraged to keep a lookout for her missing daughter.
She demanded that the Spanish authorities and the local police forces commit all their available manpower to search for Amy. But weeks and months went by with no trace of Amy. Yet this determined mother never gave up.
She lobbied Irish politicians to put pressure on their Spanish counterparts to demand renewed searches.
She travelled far and wide and did everything she thought possible to keep stories and billboard posters of Amy before the eyes of the public. At her side, was her partner Dave Mahon.
Almost two years after her search began, she tragically lost a beloved ally.
Her beautiful niece Beverley O'Sullivan (28), a talented singer who released a fundraising CD to help promote the search for Amy, was killed in a car crash.
Beverley had spoken to me about her love for Amy and how her younger cousin was her 'mini-me' because of her own love of music and dance.
Beverley was a tonic and a strong support for Audrey. Another layer of grieving loss began to be borne by Audrey when Beverley was killed.
Her son, Dean, left home to return to Dublin to live with his father. And, much later, Audrey returned to her native Dublin with Dave Mahon. Audrey had also relied on her elderly mother, Maura, for comfort and support during those sorrowful years after Amy's disappearance.
When Maura died a few months ago, Audrey lost someone who was a mum, a friend and a firm supporter.
Then last weekend, fate dealt her a truly crushing blow. Her only remaining child was dead at 23. Stabbed during an altercation with her partner, Dave Mahon.
Following this catastrophe, she had yearned for her mother's comfort and support.
Audrey told me herself: "Dean was all I had left."
Surely, it is for such women as Audrey that the phrase 'Mother of Sorrows' was created.