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With sentencing over, the healing can finally begin

With the sentencing over, the healing can begin.

But for the family left devastated by Eamonn Lillis's manslaughter of his wife Celine Cawley, it may be a long time before they even feel like healing has started.

In a victim impact statement, Celine's sister Susanna wrote of how the memory of her "good-humoured, roguish, fun, compassionate, caring sister" had been erased.

In its place were images of her final moments.

The intrusion of memories like these are typical symptoms of traumatisation in people affected by terrible events.

Usually, the trauma dies down of its own accord after weeks or months.

But those hurt by Celine Cawley's death had to endure the lead up to a trial, the trial itself and the publicity that inevitably surrounds a case of this kind.


It is only the resolution provided by conviction and sentencing that will allow them to grieve and to gradually replace the tragic memories of Celine with happier ones.

They must deal with a double loss: not only that of Celine, but also of Eamonn who seems to have been liked by the family but who then killed Celine and lied about it.

As is so often the case, following a killing or a suicide, those left behind are left with an urgent longing to know what really happened and why.

"Was she in pain? Was she conscious? Was she frightened? Did she think about (her daughter)? Did she know she was dying?" are some of the questions haunting Susanna Cawley.

"The terrible realisation is that I'll probably never know what happened."

Ultimately, if they are ever to have any peace, this family like others will have to accept that, indeed, they will never know what happened.

Nor will they ever know why it happened. It is entirely possible that Eamonn Lillis himself does not know why it happened, why he carried out that sudden violent act that killed his wife and devastated those closest to him and to her.

None of this excuses his actions, which included his failure to get medical help as soon as he saw she was injured.

People outside the family, too, have to try to come to terms with these events now that the trial is over.

For instance, some of those who worked with Celine Cawley and Eamonn Lillis may have been deeply shaken by what happened.

In a sense, their world also was invaded by sudden, shocking violence on the morning of Celine's death.

The world is no longer as predictable as it was before that terrible day.

They know now, in a way they might not have known before, that terrible deeds are done by ordinary people on ordinary days.

The ripples of Celine Cawley's death go far beyond the house on Windgate Road. But at least, with the trial over, everyone affected can hope the healing has started though all they can see right now is pain.

Padraig O'Morain is accredited as a counsellor by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy