Moving Forward After Loss
- Actress Valerie Bertinelli was married to the late guitarist Eddie Van Halen from 1981 to 2007, but she still considers him to be a solemate. Bertinelli then married Tom Vitale in 2011, but she recently filed for divorce citing “irreconcilable differences.”
- Musician Eddie Van Halen died on Oct. 6, 2020, at the age of 65 after a 20-year battle with various types of cancer.
- Grief is an unavoidable and essential part of the healing process following the loss of a loved one to cancer. And one member of the SurvivorNet community tells us that moving forward after the loss does not mean you’re necessarily moving on. Things like time, therapy and support groups can help as you navigate the journey of grief.
Bertinelli and Vitale were married in January 2011, and they don’t have any children together. The couple separated in December 2019 and filed for legal separation in November 2021. As reported by USA TODAY, Bertinelli cited “irreconcilable differences” as cause for the file for divorce.Read More
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“I’m just having a very bad day,” she said in the clip. “But you know what? Sometimes we have bad days, and then we get over them, and then there’s a good day. So, I’m looking forward to the good day.”
Valerie Bertinelli Loses a “Soulmate”
And bad days have not been rare for the TV star in recent years. In October 2020, she lost her first husband legendary guitarist Eddie Van Halen after multiple battles with various forms of cancer. The two were married from 1981 to 2007. Despite their separation, Bertinelli considered Van Halen to be a “soulmate.”
“I just don’t feel like I’ve ever been loved like that, in that way, from anybody else,” she’s shared of her late ex-husband. “I just feel a connection with Ed that I’ve never really felt with anyone else.”
And part of that connection comes from the fact that her relationship with the iconic musician brought their only child, musician Wolfgang Van Halen, 31, into the world.
After Wolfgang’s nomination for Distance as best rock song at the 2022 Grammys, Bertinelli shared that she felt her ex-husband’s presence was with them at the milestone event.
“There’s only one other person that would be prouder than me. And that’s pretty impossible, but it would be Ed,” Bertinelli told PEOPLE’s Janine Rubenstein and Jeremy Parsons on the red carpet at the 2022 Grammys. “I feel him so strongly right now. He’s here with us. He is.
“I’m not gonna make you [Wolf] cry too, baby. But yeah. He’s here. Thanks, Ed. It’s fun.”
Eddie Van Halen’s Cancer Journey
Van Halen died after multiple battles with various forms of cancer. His first diagnosis, tongue cancer, came in 2000 when Wolf was just nine years old. For treatment, he had part of his tongue removed, but he was declared to be in remission in 2002.
Then around 2014, he was diagnosed with throat cancer after cancerous cells traveled there from his tongue. In 2017, cancer struck again when Van Halen was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. Then came a brain tumor in 2019. He received treatment in Germany for the lung cancer in order to extend his expected survival time and reportedly had gamma knife radiation, a type of a radiosurgery, to remove his brain tumor.
Needless to say, Van Halen struggled with his health for many years. SurvivorNet obtained a copy of the death certificate issued two months after his passing which revealed that he was suffering from both lung and skin cancer. The document lists Eddie’s cause of death as a cerebrovascular accident (stroke), but underlying conditions included pneumonia, lung cancer, myelodysplastic syndrome and squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck.
Myelodysplastic syndrome, a disorder which causes a disruption in blood cell production, often occurs in response to cancer treatments. He had been suffering from this disorder for the last six months prior to his death.
One important thing to note is that while we don’t necessarily know why each of his cancers developed, we do know that years of heavy drinking, drug use and chain-smoking might have increased his risk for cancer. And despite Van Halen’s claims that his throat cancer was caused by putting copper and brass guitar picks in his mouth for years, there’s no sufficient evidence to back up these claims.
There is, however, evidence linking smoking and excessive drinking to the disease. Throat cancer diagnoses can also be caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) – the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. According to Dr. Ted Teknos, the scientific director of UH Seidman Cancer Center, the rate of HPV-related head and neck cancers have exponentially increased since the mid-90’s.
“If you look at the percentage of patients who developed throat cancer, cancer of the tonsils, and the base of the tongue in the 80s compared to the 2010s, the rate of HPV-related head and neck cancers has gone up by 300 percent,” Dr. Teknos told SurvivorNet in a previous interview. “So there is no myth. HPV causes throat cancer, and it’s a sexually transmitted disease.”
Losing a Loved One to Cancer
Grief is an inevitable – and essential – part of the healing process after losing a loved one to cancer. And there’s definitely no one way to cope, but Doug Wendt shared his thoughts on grief in a previous interview with SurvivorNet after losing his wife Alice to ovarian cancer.
“We’re never gonna move on, I don’t even think I want to move on, but I do want to move forward,” Wendt said. “That’s an important distinction, and I encourage anybody who goes through this journey as a caregiver and then has to face loss, to think very carefully about how to move forward.”
Everyone’s journey of grief looks different, but therapy and support groups can also be wonderful options to explore. It’s also important to keep in mind that time does not heal everything, but it certainly helps.
In an earlier interview with SurvivorNet, Camila Legaspi shared her own advice on grief after her mother died of breast cancer. For her, therapy made all the difference.
“Therapy saved my life,” Legaspi said. “I was dealing with some really intense anxiety and depression at that point. It just changed my life, because I was so drained by all the negativity that was going on. Going to a therapist helped me realize that there was still so much out there for me, that I still had my family, that I still had my siblings.”
Legaspi also wanted to remind people that even though it can be an incredibly difficult experience to process, things will get better.
“When you lose someone, it’s really, really, really hard,” Legaspi said. “I’m so happy that I talked to my therapist. Keep your chin up, and it’s going to be OK. No matter what happens, it’s going to be OK.”