top of page
  • Writer's pictureBrandilyn Hallcroft

Rebuilding My Heart: Lessons Learned from My Father’s Death

I used to say, “Suicide is a selfish act.” As I experienced more and learned about psychology, I realized how selfish it was for me to make this statement. I hear others make this statement, and I understand that they don’t understand what they are saying; I hope that this will help people view things in a different light. I have experienced suicide multiple times with people I care about in my life; the most profound one is the death of my father, who died from taking his own life in January of 2022. Since then, I have learned so much about this enormously tragic way to die. The issues are complex; I will tell my story and what I learned. 

Grief, Coping with Death

My Relationship with My Father

Before I explain what happened on the night of January 23, 2022, I will provide a back story. I was born in Wyoming; when I was eight years old, I moved to California with my mom, stepfather, and brother. My brother and I spent the school year in California and the summers in Wyoming, visiting my dad and other family members.

My Father’s Death
Me and My Dad

Without going into too many details (I don’t want to drift too far off of the topic), my dad and I had an up-and-down relationship. He was a kind man; he never abused me. However, the separation and other influences caused me to feel a sense of abandonment by him. I went through times when I wouldn’t speak to him. There was a span of ten years that I didn’t talk to my father at all. Six years before he died, I had this overwhelming need to reunite with him. I reached out. It took some time for us to reconnect, but we reconciled our relationship, and I am so grateful for that. The way that he left this earth would have devastated me more than it did had it not been for that reconciliation. 


In 2021, 35 years had passed since I lived in Wyoming. After California, I went to Texas, Colorado, and finally Nevada, where I currently reside. I felt an internal push from the universe to move back to Wyoming because I had a good relationship with my dad and felt I needed to be near him and the rest of my family. I started planning my move. He was the first person I told, and he was so excited that he offered to bring his trailer down to help me. He said, “It’s time to bring you home, kid, and I wanna be the one to do it.” His generosity in offering to do this meant the world to me! I fantasized about that drive I would have with him for months, creating this reality in my mind of laughing with him, telling each other stupid dad jokes, and understanding each other more. I started packing up my apartment six months before the move. Three months before the move, the only things left were two weeks' worth of clothes, my bed, one bowl, one plate, some silverware, and necessities. 


The Last Week of My Father’s Life

My entire focus was my move, which was supposed to take place in two and a half months, so I was working through the final checklist of my plans. I talked to my dad almost daily to discuss the plans and details. I gave notice to my current apartment and arranged my apartment in Wyoming. The utilities were arranged to be shut off here and turned on there in March. I had been dealing with some medical problems at the time, so I was going to doctors' appointments to make sure I would be in good enough health for the move.


On Wednesday, January 19th, a couple of wrenches were thrown into the plan. First, got a text message from my stepsister; she was going to come to Vegas to help me drive to Wyoming since I was having some medical problems. However, she made other plans and told me she couldn’t do it, so I was scrambling to find a backup. Then I received a call from the apartment I was moving to, they had given my apartment to someone else. I called my dad, and with a funny tone, I said, “Dad, I’m freaking out, man.” He responded, “Don’t freak out.” we both laughed. I explained what had happened, and he was upset about the apartment being given away, so he called them. Moments later, my phone rang, and my dad had the apartment on a three-way call. They wouldn’t give the details about the situation without me on the line. I remember him saying, “Why on earth would you do something like this? We don’t live in some big city; this is Wyoming, and our word is our bond here.” The problem hadn’t been resolved that day, but that moment when he stood up for me meant everything to me. I remember getting off the phone and crying, not because I was sad but because all the times that I felt abandoned by him in my youth were gone in that single phone call. This was my dad, and he had my back.


The next day, I got a call from the apartment complex; they had a new place for me in the same building as the one they gave away. I talked to my dad; he told me he would be going to dinner with my Aunt and Uncle over the weekend, and he would ask my uncle to drive down with him so I would have someone to help me drive up there in my car. The complications from the day before had been resolved with the help of my dad. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him on Friday, but I got the apartment number for the new place and sent the address to him via text. He responded with “Cool Beans.” those were my father’s last words to me.


The Night I Lost My Father to Suicide

On January 23rd, Sunday evening I was running some errands when a light on my dashboard came on. While in a parking lot, I Googled the light, and it said it was a brake light warning. I drove to an auto parts store to get a replacement brake light. The man at the counter told me it was a VW part and that I would need to order it from the dealership. I asked him to come out to my car, turn on the lights, and hit the brakes so I could see which one wasn’t working. Both lights worked just fine; that was odd. I thought maybe it was a short or a fuse. I left the store and thought, “I should call my dad and ask him about this.” I looked at the clock; it was just after 6:00 pm, so I stopped myself thinking he was probably having dinner and would just call him in the morning.


After that, I went home and bathed; while taking a bath, I thought of the singer Meatloaf. He had just passed away a few days before that. I remember my mom and dad listening to his music when I was young, and his passing sparked something in me. I suddenly started relating his death to my father, and I searched for the age he was when he died, thinking he must be around the same age as my dad; how much time do I have left with my father? Meatloaf was 74; okay, my dad is only 67, so there’s still time, and I am on my way.


I got out of the bath, wrapped myself in a towel, and had another towel on my head for my hair; I was sitting on my bed, lotioning my legs, when I heard a weird ringing sound coming from my computer in the other room. It took me a moment to realize what it was… A Facebook call. I grabbed my phone and saw that my cousin was calling me. I thought he was calling about the up-and-coming move; I hadn’t spoken to him in years. I answered the phone on speaker with excitement in my voice, I was happy to hear from him. His tone didn’t mirror mine, and he said:

“Hey, Brandi, I hate to be the person to bring you bad news, but your dad shot himself.”

My brain was not registering his words, so I responded:

“Where? Was he cleaning his guns or something? Is he okay?”

He said:

“I don’t know. I just got a call saying he shot himself, and I am on my way there, and I called you. Let me find out more; I’ll call you right back.” He hung up.

Still wrapped in a towel, my head started racing. I got up. I was pacing around, waiting for that callback. I was holding my phone, staring at it, and thinking it had to have been in the leg or something. He was just cleaning his guns. The phone rang again. It was my cousin. 

“Brandi, I’m so sorry he was shot in the head; he did it on purpose.” Life took me down to my knees, I collapsed and just started repeating, “No, No, No, No, No,” followed by, “Okay, Okay, Okay, Okay.” He said, “I’ll call you back when I arrive at the house.” We got off the phone.


My mom and I had been taking a break from each other at the time. We had some disagreements, and we hadn’t spoken in four months. She was my first call; it was nearly 8:00 p.m. my time, 9:00 p.m. in Wyoming, where she lives. She was in bed; she sounded groggy when she answered, and she heard me crying. With a voice of concern, she said, “What’s wrong?” I said, “Dad shot himself, he’s gone.” she responded with, “What? No, not Richard, he wouldn’t do that!” I was so distraught that I didn’t remember the rest of the conversation; I know we talked a bit more, but the memory of the details is gone. I got off the phone with her when a call came in from my brother. I answered it, and he heard me crying and said, “I guess you already know.” I said, “Brian? What happened? What do you know?” I was hysterically crying, and he said, “I don’t know,” and then he just hung up on me.


I was so confused. I was alone, dealing with the most tragic thing that had happened in my life. I was making phone calls after phone calls to different friends and family. I don’t remember the order of the calls, and I don’t remember everyone that I spoke to. I just couldn’t be alone in my thoughts. I was reaching out to anyone and everyone who would answer. There were moments between the calls when it was just me. Weird things were happening. I would be in one room of my apartment, and the next thing I knew, I was in another, and I couldn’t figure out how I got there.


It was getting late; I couldn’t sleep; more people were going to bed, and less became available for me to talk to. I sent a text message to my friend Summer; it was after 11:00 pm. She responded and talked to me until after 2:00 am that night. That part of that night stood out to me the most; she and I have known each other since we were 14; we talk here and there, but not all the time. She was there for me that night when I needed her most; she’s one of my soul sisters. I am so grateful for her sacrifice in that moment. (A special note: a month later, her first grandchild was born on my dad’s birthday.)


The First Week Without My Dad

I was preparing to fly to my dad’s funeral, but I couldn’t just get on the first flight out there. I was wearing a Holter monitor and had to get a note from my doctor for security at the airport. I also needed to find someone to watch my pets. Flights don’t go to where my dad lived daily; it’s a smaller city, so it’s not as frequently visited as big cities. I wasn’t able to get there until Friday. The funeral was going to be Saturday.


That week was tough. I don’t want to go into too many details about what happened out of respect for the people involved. I don’t want to bash anyone; my family and I have different perceptions, beliefs, emotions, and feelings about the situation, and out of respect for our differences, I will not create more pain for them. I will say this: some misunderstandings, misreadings, and misjudgments during that time drove a wedge between us during the time it took for me to get there.


It was uncomfortable when I arrived; I didn’t feel welcome there. I wasn’t expecting that. A few family members felt the same way I did about the situation; others were the opposite. I looked at things more from my father's perspective, wondering what I missed. I felt guilty for being so wrapped up in my move that I missed seeing the pain he was feeling. Some of my family felt different; they were angry at him for doing what he did. I disagreed, but I respected their feelings.


Rich Hallcroft, My dad

The next day was the funeral. The funeral was strange to me; it was at a catholic church. Everyone but my immediate family was in the church. We walked in after everyone else; it felt awkward to me. We walked down the aisle of this church, and it was packed with people staring at us as we entered. My brother and I both spoke; he talked about my dad’s life and accomplishments. I talked about his personality, humor, and feelings about my dad. The moment I remembered the most was when I was telling a story about him:

“I also remember helping him clean one of his cars when we lived in Basin. When I was little, he sprayed glass cleaner on the window, and I had to wipe it off with a paper towel. I unrolled a bunch of paper towels, and he stopped me, saying, “Jesus, you don’t need that much!”

As soon as I said “Jesus,” I realized I had taken the Lord's name in vain in church while standing next to a priest! I reacted, looked at the priest, and said, “Oh, no, sorry, sir.” everyone in the church laughed. Looking back, I am happy it happened that way; that was my dad. He had a good sense of humor, and that part of me was him; it was almost like I heard him laughing at that moment, too.


The priest spoke after that; he was aggressive, and I was uncomfortable. I wanted to walk out, but I was already in a weird place with many of my family members, and I didn’t want to make it worse, so I sat there and thought of a song that my dad loved when I was younger, “Addicted to Love” by Robert Palmer. We exited after his sermon with the immediate family leaving; first, I had to walk down that aisle again, which I hated doing. 


We all went outside. The town's firemen were there saluting; they had a table with a large silver bell. Everyone gathered around it, family in the front. The firetrucks were in the background; the chief was at the bell. It was the fireman’s last call. I was crying and shaking so hard. I had my sunglasses on and my head down. Two of my aunts were on both sides of me; I was squeezing their hands so hard they had their arms around me; one of them was holding the bottom of my arm, and I think that if they hadn’t been there, I would have fallen to the ground because it felt like my legs were going to give out on me. The chief spoke; I don’t remember everything he said. I only remember the “Last Call for Richard Hallcroft.” As the bell rang, and the sirens went off it was registering with me that he was really gone. I could hear others sobbing; I didn’t look up; I was just staring at my feet, hoping they had the strength to keep me up. It was one of the saddest experiences I have ever had, if not the saddest.


The Aftermath of Surviving My Father’s Death  

I went home from the funeral two days later. I wasn’t feeling very good but chalked it up to all the emotions I had just experienced. On my first night home, I woke up at around 2:00 am in a feverish sweat. I sat up in bed and said, “Oh shit, I think I might have Covid.” I had a test in my bathroom. I took it, and sure enough, I had it. Some family members were at the tail end of having it while I was there, and I must have caught it from one of them. I had managed to avoid getting it the first two years of the pandemic, ugh. I spent the next two weeks in bed sick. I’m glad I had it when I did because I slept a lot. I was still grieving, of course, so I would wake up crying and then just fall back to sleep.


After I started feeling better, I talked to people in my family. My uncle and cousin told me they were going to help me move; of course, it wasn’t the same as having my dad, but I desperately wanted to be closer to my family so I could have some support while dealing with the loss of my dad. I was grateful for their help, and I continued to move forward with my plans.


In the last week of February, plans changed again. I had just finished training with my dog, and there was a voicemail from my Uncle: “Hey Brandi, give me a call; we aren’t going to be able to use your dad’s trailer for the move.” I don’t want to villainize anyone I feel will deflect from the point, so I will not explain why I couldn’t use the trailer. I got home from dog training and started calling everyone I knew in Wyoming who could loan me a trailer for the move. I was angry, crying, and trying to understand the situation. I had a lot of people helping me and making calls for me, too. It was February 27th; I had less than 24 hours to find a trailer, or the alternative was to go to my apartment manager and ask to stay in Vegas. The lease must be signed 30 days in advance according to the contract. After nothing was coming through I went to the office here crying. I was a mess; I briefly explained what had happened and asked if it would be possible for me to stay. The next morning, the manager called me and said, “Brandilyn, I can offer you your apartment back, but you must sign the lease today.” With tears rolling down my face, I said, “Send it to me, and I’ll sign it.”


The First Year Without My Dad

That year was the hardest year of my life. There wasn’t an emotion in the spectrum of emotions that I didn’t feel that year. Losing my dad to suicide was all I thought about. During that time, I walked throughout my apartments with my dog and the groundskeeper with whom I had a good friendship. I met many of my neighbors, which was nice because I didn’t know many people in Vegas before that.


I had a lot of medical issues going on, and I had to go to so many doctors. The results from my Holter monitor were reviewed; my doctor was concerned about a couple of days during the monitoring. I asked what days, and she said the 23rd and 29th. I said, “Yeah, that was the day of my dad’s death and the day of his funeral.” She responded, “I’m surprised you didn’t go into the hospital for a heart attack on the 23rd; your heart rate was almost at 180. That was interesting to me. I don’t remember feeling anything in my body that night; stress is a crazy thing. 


There was a lot of family drama; it was unbelievable. This is a sensitive matter, so just as before, I will not go into details because I am putting it on the internet. I was hurt by a lot that happened. I am sure they are, too, from their perspective, but I can’t concern myself about their feelings and healing just as they shouldn’t concern themselves with mine. We still don’t speak to each other; I don’t have any hard feelings. I have, however, accepted the situation as it is, and if we never speak again, I am okay with that. I can’t change anything that’s happened and will not carry anything with me. 

Rich Hallcroft's Headstone

My dad’s siblings and I got a headstone made for my dad. My siblings and his wife didn’t want to participate, so we did it, and that was emotional but cool. My dad had a cousin I hadn’t met before; he created headstones. I was able to design it myself. I asked my aunts and uncles what they would like to represent my dad, so I took everyone’s thoughts to create the perfect representation for him. My dad’s parents had purchased two plots at the cemetery where they are but ended up only using one because they got cremated and put into this cool-looking rock capsule. The other plot was willed to my aunt and uncles, so they donated it to my dad. We all pitched in to pay for the cost of the headstone and it’s next to his parents. That was healing for me and his siblings.


After the smoke cleared, I wanted answers. There was and still is a riff between me and some of my family so I couldn’t ask much from them. I became close with one of my dad’s brothers and his family, who were a big source of support during that time. They were also in a place where people weren’t speaking to them so together, we worked to get as much information as possible. We ordered the police report, the autopsy report, and the toxicology report. This upset those who were already upset with me, but that doesn’t matter much. They weren’t talking to me when I ordered the reports, and they aren’t talking to me now, so nothing changed. I didn’t do it to hurt them; I did it for my healing, so I am not sorry for doing it.


What I Understand about Suicide Now

There are so many lessons from all of this. I wish I had not had to learn some of them, and I am grateful for others. Suicide isn’t selfish. It’s complex, it’s destructive, it’s extremely painful. The way that someone leaves this earth changes the way you grieve them. I didn’t realize that until my dad died. Losing someone through a violent act is so confusing, and there is a lot of anger attached to it. Anger is always a part of loss; however, it’s stronger with suicide. Some people are more angry than others, but it’s still a really powerful emotion.

Suicide Walk 2024

My dad was in deep emotional pain when he shot himself. His last words were, “I’m done.” I don’t blame him for what he did understanding what I know. I wish things would have turned out differently. I wish he knew he had support. I wish he knew how much people love and miss him, but I don’t blame him. He had reasons for what he chose to do, and although I can speculate what they could have been, I will never know. I don’t believe that he was thinking clearly when he passed. I don’t take what he did personally; there were times when I did, but not anymore. Now, when I think about it, I am just sad.


When I look back on what happened, I see the signs my dad was withdrawing. He wasn’t himself. I had mentioned this to someone in my family while he was still alive, but I don’t think either of us knew how serious the changes in his behavior were. I asked my dad several times if he was doing alright, and he said, “Yep, I’m good.” If someone doesn’t open up and share, you can’t know or help. Unless there are past suicide attempts or obvious signs, you don’t think that someone you are so close to is going to do it. I know that when I mentioned the changes in his behavior, I didn’t think this would be the result. Ironically, I had that pull to return to him and be close to him towards the end. I didn’t realize what that was until he was gone.


Suicide changes everyone close to someone who dies of it. It changes relationships and family dynamics and clouds good memories that you have for that person who died and the other family members suffering from the loss. There are so many reasons people make that choice, it’s not just one answer. For me, it has made me a better person. I am more conscious of the words I speak to others; I have more awareness of behavior patterns with the people I am close to.


I value healing more than I ever did. I realize how important it is to heal from things that happen in your life so you can be there for others. To be supportive in ways everyone needs at some point in life, you have to have the strength within yourself. Otherwise, you are too self-focused, and you unintentionally create more stress in other people's lives. I don't believe that people hurt others on purpose, but the lack of conscientiousness and awareness causes the pain. This isn't excusing bad behavior but more of understanding what is happening so you don't expect too much from someone who doesn't have what you need to give. If you give more to yourself regarding love, compassion, and understanding, it's easy to give it to others, too, and it doesn't drain you along the way. When you heal, you don't need as much from anyone else, so you don't drain anyone.


I made a vow to myself after I dealt with my grief that I was going to be someone who created joy with people, not someone who caused pain. I know that I will still hurt people’s feelings. I am sarcastic, and people are people, so you can’t control how they think or feel, which sometimes makes the not causing pain part hard. Still, creating joy is easy, and I know I do that more often. I do have my dad’s sense of humor, after all.


Facts About Suicide in the US

One of the most significant barriers to addressing suicide is the stigma surrounding mental health. Many individuals struggling with suicidal thoughts hesitate to seek help due to fear of judgment or misunderstanding. Societal attitudes, cultural beliefs, and a lack of awareness about mental health issues can perpetuate this stigma. Breaking this barrier requires open and compassionate conversations about mental health, emphasizing that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.


According to the CDC, Suicide is among the top 9 leading causes of death in the US among age groups 10-64. There is 1 suicide every 11 min. Men die of suicide nearly 4 times more than women. More than half of suicides are caused by the use of firearms. Wyoming, where my dad lived and died, has more suicides per capita than any other state; right behind Wyoming is the state of Montana.


For every suicide death*, there were about:

  • 3 hospitalizations for self-harm**

  • 8 emergency department visits related to suicide***

  • 38 self-reported suicide attempts in the past year

  • 265 people who seriously considered suicide in the past year


You are not alone whether you are dealing with the loss or experiencing suicidal thoughts. Please seek help. For more information, visit https://www.cdc.gov/suicide/facts/index.html. 


This year, in April, I attended the suicide walk here in Las Vegas. I was blown away by the number of people that were there. I was also really happy to see all of the booths that were a part of the event and the non-profits there to help support people. The help exists! This is a great resource for finding local resources wherever in the US you are: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.


Tips for Coping With Grief and Loss

As survivors of suicide loss, you need support while navigating the complex emotions of grief, guilt, and confusion. Here are some tips for coping that helped me:

Grief Journal
  • Allow yourself to feel your emotions. Don't try to bottle them up or pretend they don't exist.

  • Talk to someone you trust about what you're going through. This could be a friend, family member, therapist, or anyone else who will listen without judgment.

  • Take care of yourself physically and emotionally. Eat healthy, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly.

  • Find activities that bring you joy and comfort. This could be anything from spending time with loved ones to reading, listening to music, or in nature.

  • Be patient with yourself. Healing takes time, and there will be ups and downs.

  • Write it down! I always say this in my writing, and as it may seem like a shameless plug to sell my journals, the truth is journaling helped me heal, and creating my journals was inspired by this healing. I use this blog to share my processes with others and help guide them in their healing journey. My grief journal has a dedication to my dad. When I created it, I cried the whole time; it was part of my healing process. Honestly, all of my journals are part of the process of grieving my dad, but the grief journal was the hardest to start and lifted the most weight off of me.


You won’t get over it, so don’t even try. The memories and emotions will always be there, too; I cried multiple times while I wrote this post, and it’s been two and a half years. All you need to do is accept your truth and emotions and learn to live with them in a healthy way. Remember, you are not alone. Some people care about you and want to help.


My dad lived a life of service: a police officer, firefighter, fire investigator, husband, father, friend, son, and so much more. He lived a life that included helping others. I hope that by sharing this story, he can also help others in his death, thus carrying his legacy the way he lived.


“I will forever love you, Dad.” ~ Your Porkchop.


Comments


bottom of page