How Did Chelsea Handler's Brother Die? Details On Death Of Chet Handler

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How Did Chelsea Handler's Brother Die? New Details On The Death Of Chet Handler

She writes about how his death impacted her in her new book.

Last year, Chelsea Handler came out with a new book. In it, she discussed some of the harder things she's had to go through in life — like losing her older brother, Chet, when she was only 9 years old.

The book, Life Will Be the Death of Me: ... And You Too!, is the "funny, sad, super-honest, all-true story of Chelsea Handler’s year of self-discovery — featuring a nerdily brilliant psychiatrist, a shaman, four Chow Chows, some well-placed security cameras, various family members (living and departed), friends, assistants, and a lot of edibles."

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In the book, Handler talks about what losing her brother at such a young age was like and how it has continued to impact her as an adult.

How did Chelsea Handler's brother die?

His death was tragic.

Chet Handler died when he was 22 years old. He fell off of a cliff during a hiking trip in Jackson Hole, Wyoming in 1984.

The now 45-year-old comedian, who was only 9 when Chet died, said she started realizing that she hadn't properly dealt with the loss until she started going to therapy.

She started seeing psychiatrist Dr. Dan Siegel, who was featured on her Netflix series, Chelsea, after she was enraged by the 2016 presidential election.

"I thought I could go through life without ever having gone to therapy," she said. "Like, I’m tougher than that, I’m smarter than that. I don’t have to visit my childhood stuff.

"It turned out, the election represented to me the world being unhinged, which was exactly what happened to me when my brother died when I was 9 years old. He told me he’d come back, and he said he’d never leave me with these people, referring to my parents... and he was just going hiking and that I would always have him, and he never came back."

He was the eldest of the Handlers.

Chet was the oldest of the six Handler kids. In a 2017 Instagram post honoring her brother, she talked about how her family has never been the same.

"33 years ago this month my brother Chet died. He was 22, and the oldest of 6 kids. We were never 6 again. Only 5. The number was never the right number again. But, because of that day, I learned how to live and love and laugh," Handler wrote.

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A post shared by Chelsea Handler (@chelseahandler) on Jul 11, 2017 at 4:52pm PDT

It made her family feel incomplete.

Handler described her brother as "kind of my protector, kind of a father figure, a big brother, a crush, your first boyfriend" and that after his death, her family became incomplete.

"You just feel broken," she said, adding that seeing her father so sad was hard for her.

"I didn’t like seeing my father weak. I’d already lost my brother; I couldn’t lose my dad too, and I did. My dad never recovered," she added. "I dealt with it by just, if anybody talked about Chet or mentioned him, I’d just leave the room. I’d get on my bike, and I’d ride my bike for hours around the neighborhood. I could cry on my bike, but I wouldn’t let anyone see me cry in person." 

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She said it's the reason she doesn't trust men.

Handler also spoke about how her brother's death impacted her romantic relationships as an adult.

"I don’t trust men because the most important person in my life lied to me," she has said, referring to her brother promising that he would return home from his hiking trip. "So for me to get to a place where I can admit I actually do want to be in a relationship — I’d love to be in love — is a huge thing."

She added, "I always thought that was a sign of weakness, and it’s like no, it’s actually a sign of strength to say that. You don’t have to say it like I need it. It's like I want it. I’m 44 years old now. I’ve done a lot of work on myself, and I will continue to, and I do want to share my life with somebody. Why do I need to be single and proud all the time? I deserve to be in love with somebody."

Many of her fans appreciate her talking about her loss.

After Handler opened up about the death of her brother and how it has impacted her life, many of her fans reached out to thank her.

Many people commented on Handler's original post of her brother with their own stories of loss.

"I lost my baby bro, Johnny, almost 5 years ago in a senseless accident. Not a day goes by that I don't wish I could pick up then phone and talk to that dude about any thing. This picture of your brother has such a beautiful light. Sibling loss is really f***ed up. It's weird and hard and it is such a lonely avenue of grief. Thank you for sharing," one commenter wrote.

She visited a national park for the first time last summer since her brother's death.

In June 2019, Handler conquered her fear and went to a national park after she had avoided them her whole life due to her brother's death.

She posted photos of her trip, writing, “I’ve avoided our national parks my whole life because of the way my brother died and this year, I decided that was over. I’m glad these were the last kinds of reminders my brother got to see. It sure makes you believe in all sorts of magic.”

Fans started pouring in with their support for Handler, calling her post "beautiful" and "brave."

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Emily Blackwood is a writer and editor living in California. She covers all things news, pop culture and true crime.

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Editor's Note: This article was originally posted in April 2019 and was updated with the latest information.

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