While promoting her new book, Life Will Be the Death of Me: ... and you too!, with USA Today, the comedian discussed recently learning to heal from the loss of her brother, Chet, who died at age 21 after falling off a cliff during a 1984 hiking trip in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
"I started coming home and writing down the stuff that Dan, my doctor, was telling me about [how] I was emotionally attached to this 9-year-old girl and that was the reason I had become the way I'd become," Handler said. "Because I'm so resilient and I want to be so strong and I wrote it because I thought, 'Wow, if I'm going through this, then how many other haven't dealt with their pain?'"
Handler was the youngest of six kids, while Chet was the oldest. She told the outlet that her late brother occupied a special role in her heart. "[He was] kind of my protector, kind of a father figure, a big brother, a crush, your first boyfriend," she said. "You just feel broken."
The comedian said her family was a "wreck" following Chet's death, including her father, Seymour. Handler's mother, Rita, died of breast cancer in 2006 after a 15-year battle with the disease.
"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 shared. "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."
Handler has spoken a lot about her brother while promoting her new book. During an interview with Maria Shriver on the Today show, she confessed that Chet's death shaped her approach to relationships.
"I can't be in a relationship because I have such a deep injury that I have never addressed," she said. "There's no shortcut through grief. You can't go around it. You can't ignore it. You have to go through it."
During a 2012 interview with Rosie O'Donnell on The Rosie Show, Handler said being so young when her brother died made things even harder for her.
"I was used to walking into a room and having everyone pay attention to me and I couldn't get any attention. I was in pain too and I felt like no one was tending my pain," she expressed.
"I also look back at that as one of the most informing things of my life," Handler added. "You know, I don't know what my family dynamic would be with my brothers and sisters if that hadn't happened because we're all so tight because of it."