Comedians on death and loss

I’ve seen Chelsea Handler on and off on a few of the shows that we watch, including The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, but I never really thought much of watching her standups or shows until she talked about how she had a therapy session and came to the realization that she lacked empathy and needed to build it. I’ve occasionally heard her reference her brother who passed away, but I had no idea how he passed or what her relationship was to him.

The other day, we watched one of her standup specials that was filmed this past summer in New Jersey. She talked about her older brother Chet, and how he used to come home from school and she would try to “take care” of him by “serving” him a big bowl of his favorite cereal. They were close and had a special relationship. He was leaving for a hiking trip in Wyoming, and he promised that they’d spend time together when he came back. He never came back because during his hike, he fell off a cliff and died. She was only nine years old, and he was 22. As soon as she heard the news that Chet had died falling off a cliff, her immediate response was to take all the cereal boxes in the kitchen and throw them away.

As soon as I heard this, I just immediately started crying. It was like an automatic response to this awful shock and tragedy that she and her family had to face. Through work with her therapist, it was unclear whether she was more traumatized by the fact that he died, or rather that he made a promise to be with her again but never came back, or maybe both. Every time I hear stories of sibling deaths and siblings’ reactions to the deaths, I can barely handle myself. It’s just too much raw pain and trauma. His death happened over 30 years ago, yet it stays with her until this day and continues to shape how she sees the world and deals with life events.

I guess that’s also me, too, with Ed. Others don’t really get it until it happens to them.

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