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 soulmate. Bertinelli then married Tom Vitale in 2011, but she recently filed for divorce citing “irreconcilable differences.”
- Now, Bertinelli is saying she’s perfectly happy being alone.
- Grief is an unavoidable and important part of healing following the loss of a loved one to cancer. But remembering all the wonderful ways the person you’ve lost enriched your life can also help you move forward.
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
“I am gonna be more than happy to be happily divorced and spend the rest of my life alone,” she said. “I’ll be happy that way. Well, with my six cats and my dog and my son, and hopefully one day grandchildren.”View this post on Instagram
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And when asked if she sees herself ever looking for love again, her answer is simple.
“Oh God, no,” she said. “Because of the challenges that I’m going through right now, because divorce sucks. I can’t imagine ever trusting anyone again to let into my life. So I have some trust issues that I’m sure I’m going to have to get past.”
Valerie Bertinelli Grieves the Loss of Her “Soulmate”
On top of the emotional exhaustion she’s probably feeling amid her divorce, Bertinelli’s mind likely still wanders to thoughts fo her late first husband legendary guitarist Eddie Van Halen. He died in October 2020 after multiple battles with various forms of cancer.
In her recent conversation with Kotb, Bertinelli spoke about what she has learned about life while grieving the loss of her late loved one.
“Love,” she told Hoda. “If there’s nothing else in this world, go back to that key point that you know you have inside you, that you know that you feel for the people that are closest to you. That love. Love always wins no matter what, even when they’re gone.
“There’s still that love there to be grateful for that you had.”
Van Halen and Bertinelli 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 in an older interview. “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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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“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
Losing someone you love to cancer can cause immeasurable pain – as Valerie Bertinelli knows all too well. But grief is an inevitable – and essential – part of the healing process.
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.
“I Don’t Want to Move On; I Do Want To Move Forward”: Doug Wendt On Being A Caregiver and Tragically Losing His Wife 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.”
Remembering all the wonderful ways the person you’ve lost enriched your life can also help you move forward – something Caleb Farley can surely attest to. In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Farley talked about his mother’s battle with breast cancer. He also discussed how he opted out of his position as a cornerback for the Virginia Tech Hokies due to COVID-19 concerns. Having lost his mom to breast cancer in 2018, he knew he wanted to be extra careful during the pandemic.
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Farley announced the news of his opt-out in an Instagram video saying, in part, “I cannot afford to lose another parent or loved one… Though the competitor in me badly wants to play this season, I cannot ignore what’s going on in my heart, and I must make the decision that brings me the most peace.”
Farley trained for the NFL draft instead of playing for Virginia Tech, and his efforts paid off. He was selected by the Tennessee Titans as the number 22 overall pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft.
Farley’s mother fought two battles with cancer. He watched as she went through multiple rounds of chemotherapy while still working and taking care of her family. Although his “superhero” mother will not get to see him play in the NFL, Farley will take many lessons he learned from her and apply them to whatever challenges he faces in life moving forward.
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“My mother raised me to be very religious, very God-conscious. That’s been everything to me, and my life. That’s like the building blocks of my, of my life,” Farley told SurvivorNet. “Anything that’s happened to me, any adversity, any good times, any bad times, I’ve always kind of stood on that rock of faith. I can’t thank her enough for how she raised me and because it was her who gave me all of that, um, spiritually, she, she just filled my heart with love and joy. I’ve had a happy life because of her.”
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