The 61-year-old actress makes the revelation in her new memoir, Enough Already: Learning to Love the Way I Am Today. In an early excerpt of the book obtained by People, Bertinelli recalls the final moments she and Van Halen's son, Wolfgang, spent with the late rock star before his sudden death in October 2020 following a long battle with cancer.
Bertinelli says she and Wolfgang spent every day in the hospital with Eddie, who was also surrounded by his second wife, Janie Liszewski, and his brother, Alex Van Halen. And it was in those final moments when Bertinelli says Van Halen offered his last words to her.
"'I love you' are the last words Ed says to Wolfie and me," Bertinelli writes, "and they are the last words we say to him before he stops breathing."
Bertinelli refers to Van Halen as her "soulmate" in the book, explaining that "I loved Ed more than I know how to explain." She adds, "I loved his soul." Bertinelli also recalls how people on the outside looking in viewed the early part of their relationship.
"We were portrayed as a mismatch," she writes in the book. "The bad boy rock star and America's sweetheart but privately, Ed wasn't the person people thought he was and neither was I."
Bertinelli and Van Halen got married in 1981 and welcomed their now-30-year-old son, Wolfgang, in 1991. They separated in 2001 and divorced in 2007, but remained amicable.
But being amicable also presented its own set of challenges. Bertinelli said she regrets holding back from getting too close to Van Halen as he endured cancer. At the time, Bertinelli was married to Tom Vitale and Van Halen was married to Liszewski. It was the actress and musician's second try at marriage. And, despite the long run during their second marriages, Bertinelli said both of the marriages were struggling.
"There is no chance we are going to get back together," Bertinelli writes, "but I do know if one of us were to open up, the other one would too, and I don't want to get into that."
A little over a year after Van Halen's death, Bertinelli still struggles to convey exactly how much Van Halen meant to her.
"I can't explain the feelings Ed and I had for each other," she writes. "Who really knows had he not died. I doubt it. I loved him more than I know how to explain and there's nothing sexual about it. It was more than that. And Ed and I understood that."
Bertinelli goes on to write in the book, due out Jan. 18, that there was "no greater love than what we had between the two of us."
Three months after his death, Bertinelli went on the Todayshow and admitted she caught herself starting a text message intended for her late husband. "It's hard," she said. "... I've gone to text [Eddie] a few dozen times. It's like, 'Oh, no, I can't text him right now.'"
"40 years ago my life changed forever when I met you. You gave me the one true light in my life, our son, Wolfgang," she wrote. "Through all your challenging treatments for lung cancer, you kept your gorgeous spirit and that impish grin. 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."