'I buried my son on Christmas Eve' - A father's renewed hope after losing Shane (23)
Eddie D'Alton retrained as a counsellor after bereavement
A father has spoken out about overcoming the pain of burying his 23-year-son on Christmas Eve after he died by suicide.
Templeogue native Eddie D'Alton knew there was something bothering his son Shane, who had emigrated to Australia with friends in August of 2008. He seemed fine when he made the big move, but he didn't seem in good form while they chatted on Skype.
Shane's friends grew worried and contacted his parents to express their concerns over his alcohol consumption.
"We put it down immediately to homesickness, since he'd never been away that long ," Eddie told Independent.ie.
Eventually, Shane decided to return home for a short period, where a doctor diagnose him with deprssion.
Despite this, around two weeks after arriving home, Shane returned to Australia.
Towards the end of the year, things took a turn for the worst. Shane had been mugged while out with some friends.
"I got the dreaded phone call on a Saturday night, that Shane was taken to hospital under protective custody after he had drank too much."
A policewoman told Eddie that there was something troubling Shane. A few days later, Eddie flew out to bring his son home to Ireland.
"When I arrived and we met, he just broke down. It was not the Shane that I knew before he went away."
Shane saw a doctor and was voluntarily admitted to hospital, where Eddie had hoped his son might make progress. A few days later, he was brought home for the weekend.
"There was a Liverpool match on one afternoon. He was a fanatical Liverpool supporter at the time, but he just wasn't interested.
"He lay on the couch inside and I tried to make conversation with him. He just wasn't engaging."
During the weekend, Eddie and his wife Sue went out for dinner, while Shane spent the evening with his younger sister and his cousin. When they got home, they found Shane in his bed not breathing. He was surrounded by notes addressed to his friends and family.
He was rushed to Tallaght Hospital, where he was worked on for around three hours, but the young man had not breathed by himself for around an hour. Shane passed away in the early hours of Sunday morning.
"That was the start of the trauma for us. We were in shock for the next few days.
"We buried Shane on Christmas Eve. Santa Claus was still coming to our home when Shane died, so Santa Claus had to come. Even though, Christmas Eve, were were up burying our son in the cemetery, Santa Claus had to come that night."
From the period of Shane's death to his funeral, the D'Alton family were surrounded by friends and relations to ensure they felt supported, but in the weeks that followed, Eddie really began to feel his son's loss.
"As time progresses and you're left on your own, the shock really starts to hit," Eddie said.
We were very lucky to have good family and good friends. From that day to this day, almost nine years on, people still call over to offer support and have a chat. That got us through, even though the pain never goes away.
"There's not a day goes by that we don't think of Shane and feel sad for Shane. If Shane could have had just a flavour of the love we have, it might have helped him not to do what he did."
As the years went by, Eddie made a decision to change career and offer support to the people who went through the same heartache that he did.
"I went back to college and I trained to be a counsellor and a psychotherapist. Three and a half years after that, I graduated," Eddie said.
"A lot of hard work for a 50-odd person, to go back to school after 40 years, but I qualified as a therapist, psychotherapist and counsellor and then I started working towards helping people who have been bereaved by suicide."
When dealing with clients, Shane says he can sometimes see the psychical tenseness leave once he tells them that he too has lost a loved one to suicide, as it shows them that he does know what they are going through.
In the years since Eddie has taken up his new job, he notes that society has become a lot more open when discussing mental health and suicidality, but that there is still a way to go.
Eddie maintains that one of the most important elements of his job is reminding people that sorrow and grief may dominate some days, there will be better ones on the horizon.
"Some days there may be dark clouds, but you've got to remember that there will be brighter days ahead."
Mr Dalton is now involved in suicide-prevention charity Turn the Tide on Suicide (3TS), which has recently published a handy pamphlet to recognising the signs of suicide and taking the three steps to prevent it.
These wallet-sized cards are available either as a download directly from 3ts.ie or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org to order hard copies.
They are intended to be a useful resource for teachers, sporting organisations, clubs, doctors, pharmacies and workplaces all over the country.
If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article please contact the Samaritans on 116123 for support or visit the website on www.samaritans.org.