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Céline Dion Speaks to PEOPLE After Husband Réne Angélil's Death: 'The Support We've Received Has Been Such a Blessing'

updated 01/23/2016 AT 10:15 AM EST

originally published 01/21/2016 AT 10:15 AM EST



Céline Dion is coping with the loss of her beloved husband René Angélil, followed by the death of her brother just two days later. Click here for the full story, only in PEOPLE.

While Céline Dion grieves the loss of both her husband, Réne Angélil, and brother, Daniel – both of whom died of cancer last week – she is taking solace in the love pouring in from friends, family and fans across the world.

"The support we've received has been such a blessing," the grieving singer, 47, told PEOPLE Thursday at the chapel of rest at the Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal.

Céline Dion Speaks to PEOPLE After Husband Réne Angélil's Death: 'The Support We've Received Has Been Such a Blessing'| Tributes, Celine Dion, Rene Angelil

The scene outside

John R. Kennedy / Splash News Online



Dion stood by her step-sons, Patrick and Jean-Pierre Angélil, in a receiving line at the open-casket service.

Thousands of mourners flocked to the parish, waiting several hours in the freezing cold to pay their respects to the late music manager, as well as offer their condolences to Dion, who remained at the basilica all day and into the night. (The service ended at 9 p.m.)

Angélil and Dion's pride in their state and success story helped make them the beloved national icons they are today – and one of the reasons so many came out to honor his memory.

Céline Dion Speaks to PEOPLE After Husband Réne Angélil's Death: 'The Support We've Received Has Been Such a Blessing'| Tributes, Celine Dion, Rene Angelil

The crowd

Robin Psaila / Sipa



"René and Céline, they were a marvelous couple. Us Quebecers, we love them because they're Quebecers as well, and they did very well," a woman from Montreal (who preferred to not share her name for privacy reasons) told PEOPLE after paying her sympathies to Dion after waiting for three hours.

"Céline is Quebec. She is an ambassador for Quebec. And this was her great love, and we had to be there for her. They're inseparable—they're like one person, and now she lost half of herself. So I feel for her. And he was such a great man, and he was such a great soul. We had to celebrate his life coming here today," Judith Picard, of Montreal, told PEOPLE of why she waited for more than three hours to meet Dion.

For much more on Dion and Angélil's love story and how the singer is focusing on the couple's children, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

Céline Dion Speaks to PEOPLE After Husband Réne Angélil's Death: 'The Support We've Received Has Been Such a Blessing'| Tributes, Celine Dion, Rene Angelil

Celine Dion on the cover of PEOPLE



For much more on Dion and Angélil's love story and how the singer is focusing on the couple's children, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

Mary Belisle, another well-wisher from Montreal, also waited three-plus hours to offer her sympathies.

"I did tell Céline, 'thank you for being here' because she's receiving everyone, one person at a time, and she's taking more of her time. That's why we kind of froze for hours before getting inside: It was worth it because it wasn't like in-and-out, in-and-out – she actually took the time; she shook our hand, and some actually even kissed her," she tells PEOPLE. "It was very personal words, even the eye contact. She was very sincere."

Adds Picard: "You could tell our love was helping her – she was taking it in."

Angélil's funeral is scheduled for Friday at 3 p.m. at the Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal.
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