The Most Tragic Things About Valerie Bertinelli's Life

Valerie Bertinelli
Valerie Bertinelli - Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Perhaps you first met Valerie Bertinelli as an actor on "One Day at a Time" in the 1970s or '80s. Perhaps you later grew to love her work on Food Network shows like "Valerie's Home Cooking" and "Kids Baking Championship." Yet Bertinelli has had maybe more than her fair share of sorrows behind the scenes.

Some of the tragedies in her life happened before she was even born, while others have been a slow burn over several years. Many emotional happenings in her life tie back to her passionate marriage to rock star Eddie Van Halen and the weight and body confidence issues she's managed for much of her life. Her book "Enough Already" delves into how she's coped with many of these tragedies, but it's still a process that she's working through. After all, you don't magically overcome tragedies and emotions overnight.

You might want to grab some tissues as you take a deep dive into some of the sad events that have shaped Bertinelli's life. They not only help explain part of what makes her who she is today but also who she's becoming as she works through it all.

Read more: The Biggest Scandals To Ever Hit The Food Network

She Never Met Her Older Brother

Valerie with brother Patrick Bertinelli during childhood
Valerie with brother Patrick Bertinelli during childhood - wolfiesmom / Instagram

One of the first tragedies of Valerie Bertinelli's life happened shortly before she was born. Not only did Bertinelli not meet her brother, but she didn't even know she had an older brother until she was a teen. The tragedy happened on a friend's farm when Bertinelli's mom was pregnant with her. Bertinelli's brother Mark was only 17 months old when he wandered off on his own. During his solitary adventures, he found a soda bottle and helped himself to a drink. Unfortunately, the bottle contained poison and the toddler died.

When she attended her grandma's funeral near her brother's grave, her son was the same age Mark had been when he died. She told People, "I was holding Wolfie who was 17 months old and thinking how did my mom survive? She had to keep going and I learned that from her. She had to carry on. She had a very hard life. She always tried to make the best of everything."

Her First Marriage Ended After More Than 20 Years

Wolfgang, Valerie, and Eddie
Wolfgang, Valerie, and Eddie - wolfiesmom / Instagram

It was love at first sight when Bertinelli met rock star Eddie Van Halen backstage at a Van Halen concert in 1980. They married only eight months later in 1981, when Bertinelli was 21. Their son, Wolfgang, was born in 1991. While the relationship was long-lasting, it wasn't for forever.

Bertinelli and Van Halen were married for 20 years before separating in 2001 and divorcing in 2007. While they forgave each other's early infidelities, it was largely Van Halen's drug and alcohol addictions that finally tanked the relationship. Bertinelli admitted she had her faults as well. She told Rob Lowe on his podcast Literally! that she also took drugs "for a few years there until I just couldn't take it anymore. Cocaine was everywhere and easy to get." It took the divorce for Van Halen to become sober the next year. By then, it was too late for their marriage, and they both moved on even though they still loved each other.

Infidelity and drugs weren't all to blame, as both knew their son was watching. As Bertinelli told Oprah, "One of the many reasons that Ed and I split up is to give Wolfie a better vision of what two people who are supposedly in love treat each other like. Ed and I weren't treating each other like two people that loved each other, and that's what Wolfie was seeing."

She Lost Her Dad In 2016

Nancy and Andrew Bertinelli
Nancy and Andrew Bertinelli - Valerie Bertinelli / Facebook

When Bertinelli's father died it was the first in a series of deaths of people close to her over a short period of time. He died in 2016, the year after Bertinelli last appeared on "Hot in Cleveland."

Her father, Andrew Bertinelli, was an Army veteran and spent 32 years working for General Motors after he left the military. After he retired, he did consulting work in England that helped to make the Channel Tunnel between England and France possible.

According to Bertinelli's book, "Enough Already," around 2014, her father started having small heart attacks, which slowed him down tremendously. After a heart attack that could have ended his life had they not already been in a doctor's office, Bertinelli and her siblings realized it wasn't a good idea for their parents to live alone anymore. That's when the siblings placed their parents in an assisted living facility.

When Andrew died in 2016, he was 82 years old. His obituary asked for donations to be made in his name to the Translational Genomics Research Institute. The institute researches heart problems among veterans -- a cause now dear to the Bertinelli family because of their father's heart issues during his final years.

She Lost Her Mom In 2019

Valerie Bertinelli, siblings, and mother during childhood
Valerie Bertinelli, siblings, and mother during childhood - wolfiesmom / Instagram

Bertinelli's mom, Nancy Bertinelli, died in 2019, three years after losing her husband. She was 82 when she died, just a day before what would have been their 65th anniversary. The two met after Andrew Bertinelli offered her a ride home from a movie so that she wouldn't have to wait for a bus in the snow. Five months later, they were married.

Nancy was a travel agent and had five children and four grandchildren. She was responsible for driving Bertinelli to auditions when she decided she wanted to try acting as a teen. Nancy was also an artist, specializing in oil paintings. However, she lived half of her life with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that affected her heart and ability to move around comfortably.

After her mom died, Bertinelli told Woman's World, "If I could suggest to anyone who still has one of their parents or both parents with them, just soak up what you can. Find out what you can from them. Even if you are angry with them sometimes or they annoy you -- because they are our parents and we're going to be annoyed by our parents. I can say that, because I annoy the hell out of my son."

She Was Heartbroken When Her Rockstar Ex Died

Valerie, Wolfgang, and Eddie
Valerie, Wolfgang, and Eddie - Valerie Bertinelli / Facebook

Even though Bertinelli and Eddie Van Halen's marriage ended in 2007, they always held onto a special love for each other. When Van Halen died from lung cancer in 2020, it affected Bertinelli deeply.

In her book "Enough Already," Bertinelli said that, after cancer treatments in Germany in 2019, he showed up at her house on Thanksgiving to give her a gold bar pendant he'd gotten for her there. "I hope you don't think it's weird, you know, that I bought my ex-wife this gift and didn't get my wife anything. I just love you." Such was their relationship.

Bertinelli and their son Wolfgang stayed with him during his final week and a half in the hospital, taking shifts with Van Halen's brother and his wife Janie. His last words to his ex-wife and child were that he loved them. She wrote on Instagram after his death, "40 years ago my life changed forever when I met you. You gave me the one true light in my life, our son, Wolfgang. ... I'm so grateful Wolfie and I were able to hold you in your last moments. I will see you in our next life my love." Before he died, she told him, "Maybe next time, we'll get it right." Bertinelli said, "I loved Ed more than I know how to explain. I loved his soul" (via People).

She Was Grief-Shamed About Her Ex's Death

Eddie, Wolfie, and Valerie
Eddie, Wolfie, and Valerie - wolfiesmom / Instagram

After Eddie Van Halen's death, some people weren't kind to Bertineli as she expressed her feelings about her ex-husband and his death on social media. While plenty of people were supportive of Bertinelli's grief, not all were. Some people responded to Bertinelli's Instagram tribute to Van Halen by claiming she should have kept quiet as his ex and was perhaps taking attention from Van Halen's widow.

Some thought her public mourning was just an attention-seeking gimmick. However, other commenters were quick to come to her defense, saying that we can't pretend to understand all the intricacies of other people's long-term relationships and their grief. After all, Van Halen and Bertinelli had a relationship that spanned two-thirds of their lives.

Bertinelli told TODAY, "It's weird. Grief shame is something I never thought would happen to me. ... I miss him. And I'm allowed to miss him. He was a huge part of my life. Just because we loved each other didn't lessen the love that he had for [his wife] Janie or me for [my husband] Tom, so it's a different kind of love. I don't know how to explain it. Maybe one day I'll figure it out and write a book about it."

She Was Body Shamed For Grief-Related Weight Gain

Valerie Bertinelli Instagram video pics
Valerie Bertinelli Instagram video pics - wolfiesmom / Instagram

Having lost three important people within four years, it's no wonder Bertinelli put on some weight after, as she said herself, she began using food to try to feel better. Unfortunately, some commenters on social media weren't kind about those changes. About nine months after her ex-husband's death, Bertinelli was scrolling through some of her old recipes on Instagram to include in the cookbook she was writing, "Indulge." However, she broke down when she ran across a hateful commenter telling Bertinelli that she needed to lose weight.

Bertinelli made an Instagram video in response. She tearfully said, "You're not being helpful because when you see somebody who has put some weight on, my first thought is that that person is obviously going through something. Because if I could lose the weight and keep it off, I would. But since I haven't been successful with that my whole entire life, at 61, I'm still dealing with it. You think I'm not tired of it, lady?"

As people responded to her video with empathetic comments and relating their own struggles, she asked, "Aren't we tired of body shaming women yet?!" Just two days earlier, she'd announced her then-upcoming book "Enough Already: Learning to Love the Way I Am Today."

Her Second Marriage Became Toxic

Valerie Bertinelli and Tom Vitale
Valerie Bertinelli and Tom Vitale - Valerie Bertinelli / Facebook

Bertinelli met Tom Vitale in 2004, during her separation from Eddie Van Halen. However, they didn't marry until 2011, four years after her first divorce was finalized. But, 11 years after it began, the Bertinelli-Vitale marriage officially ended in 2022.

Divorce papers said the pair had differences they couldn't get past, but that was a mild version of the real story, according to Bertinelli. One then-unspoken problem was verbal abuse. Bertinelli said, "I have been screamed at so many times and told how fat and lazy I am. I realize ... that was someone just projecting on me whatever they needed to project on me, but my part in all of it was believing it, and I don't believe it anymore. But it still doesn't stop the feelings from coming up and the hurt" (via People). Bertinelli didn't mind telling the world what Vitale had done to her. She posted on X "You know, there is a difference between talking s**** about a person and talking truth about a s***** person.

Bertinelli had to pay Vitale $2.2 million because of a pre-nuptial agreement, but she argued that the price was worth getting out of such a toxic relationship. She even went so far as to celebrate her divorce day by calling it the "second best day of my life" and referred to herself as "happily divorced" on X.

She Was Scrutinized For Having Been A Jenny Craig Spokesperson

Valerie Bertinelli in jenny craig t-shirt
Valerie Bertinelli in jenny craig t-shirt - Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Bertinelli has talked often about her struggles with weight and body confidence as related to her self-worth. Those issues started back in elementary school and her teen years on television. As she struggled with weight gain and loss, she eventually became a Jenny Craig diet spokesperson.

In 2021, a commenter on X responded to Bertinelli's new body confidence stance in 2021 by saying, "[Y]ou spent decades telling the rest of us to get thin, shilled weight loss shakes, potions & snake oil & NOW [you] wanna be a body-shaming warrior? You don't get to be a victim when you helped create the problem" (via Yahoo! Life). Bertinelli is critical of her years of pushing diet culture with Jenny Craig. Yet, while she thought of deleting her posts, she decided against it, concluding that the result pushed a conversation that needed to happen.

A couple years later, Bertinelli wrote an Instagram post, further explaining her enlightened viewpoint and journey. Referring to a bikini photo taken a few years before, she said, "This is a 150lb body on a 5'4 frame. I don't weigh myself anymore because this is considered overweight by [whose] standards I don't know. It's stupid and I believed them for far too long."

She Learned She Had A Secret Uncle

American and Italian flags
American and Italian flags - Vector/Getty Images

When Valerie Bertinelli appeared on the PBS series "Finding Your Roots" in 2024, it was because she was curious to learn more about her paternal grandfather, who grew up in Italy.

The first surprise she received was that her grandfather, Nazzareno Bertinelli, married someone who wasn't her grandmother in 1922, a week before he left Italy for the U.S. However, Nazzareno left his new wife behind and listed himself as single on his immigration paperwork. His Italian wife, Domenica Cellerani, had a baby, Ernesto, seven months later -- a half-uncle Valerie never knew she had. When Bertinelli's grandfather married her grandmother, Angelina Bertinelli, he listed his marital status as having never been married before. Among her own father's things, Bertinelli found letters that her uncle Ernesto wrote to his American family before he died in 2004. However, she doesn't think they ever met.

When she learned of her grandfather's secret past, Bertinelli told PBS, "What I really am doing in earnest right now is to have no judgment because I don't know what was going on with Nazzareno. I know that his life was incredibly difficult. I don't know if Domenica brought him joy. I don't know if Nazzareno brought Domenica joy. But they had a beautiful little boy, Ernesto, who seems to me wanted to reach out and spread some of his love. So that all can't be bad."

Food Network Ghosted Her

Valerie Bertinelli smiling
Valerie Bertinelli smiling - John Lamparski/Getty Images

Since Bertinelli had been on "Kids Baking Championship" since it first began in 2015, she assumed she'd be working there for another season. So, it was surprising when she didn't get a call back for the 13th season of a show she adored.

When People wrote an article claiming that talks negotiating her return to "Kids Baking Championship" had stalled, she responded on X by saying, "There were never any talks, so no talks could be stalled. I got an inkling I might not be asked back when I saw I was not in the holiday specials. I got a text by a third party on Friday that told me I would not be back. LOL I was basically ghosted."

One reason she'd been on the show so long was an exclusivity contract Bertinelli had with Food Network from 2018 to 2022. Seasons 11 and 12 were shot together in the final year of the contact, filming which she said saved her life while going through so much. Those making the decision about her employment likely assumed they'd have to renew Bertinelli's exclusivity contract for her to continue hosting. Yet, they couldn't since the network was already in the middle of layoffs and budget cuts. Even though she understood the reason was business-related, Bertinelli said in a 2024 Instagram video, "It really hurt my feelings to know that I'm not going to be asked back."

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, is dealing with domestic abuse, you need help with an eating disorder, or know someone who does, contact the relevant resources below:

Read the original article on Mashed