15 Stars Who've Suffered Devastating Family Deaths

There’s nothing more painful to go through than losing a loved one. It’s an inevitable part of life that we all experience at some point. Most of us are introduced to the experience as kids, losing a pet, or losing grandparents. As heartbreaking as it is to say goodbye to the old family dog or your 95-year-old grandmother, it’s a loss we come to accept because that’s the circle of life.

There are certain deaths we might have an easier time coming to terms with. If someone’s elderly and it’s that time— they’ve lived a good, long life. If someone’s gravely ill and suffering for a long time— they’re in a better place. However, many of us experience death in our lives that aren’t so easy to deal with. For instance, losing someone suddenly when it shouldn’t have been their time. When someone loses their life because of the actions of someone else. When a parent has to bury their child. It’s those deaths, the untimely ones, the tragic ones, the unexpected ones that really tear us up.

Celebrities are of course, no different than us when it comes to the circle of life. They welcome loved ones and they lose loved ones. And just like us, the unfortunate few suffer unthinkable losses in the most tragic of ways. From murders, to disasters, to freak accidents, celebrities are definitely not exempt from the most devastating hardships. The following 15 celebrities have endured some of the most agonizing grief ever known to the human heart.


15 Kanye West

Everyone knows the arrogant, outspoken, Kardashian-loving Kanye West. A lot of people either forget, or don’t know about the blow he endured in 2007 when he lost the closest person to him, his mom. West’s mom, Donda, died suddenly at the age of 58 after experiencing complications following plastic surgery.

West and his mother shared an incredible bond. He’s said that his mother was the biggest sacrifice he’d ever made for his career. He whole-heartedly blames himself for her passing revealing he doesn’t think his mother would have gotten plastic surgery if it weren’t for being in the Hollywood spotlight.

West has been famous for creating controversy and having opinionated outbursts. This past November, all of the strange behaviour came to a head when he was hospitalized due to an episode of “temporary psychosis”. The hospitalization came a month after the armed robbery of his wife, Kim Kardashian, and during the anniversary month of his mother’s death. The “pompous jackass” front we’ve seen from him might have been just what West needed to camouflage the demons he’s been struggling with on the inside.

14 50 Cent

At the young age of 8 years old, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson experienced the tragic loss of his young mother. Sabrina Jackson had her son when she was only 15, and his father was never around. To support her son, Sabrina sold drugs and evidently got involved with the wrong people. When she was only 23 years old, Jackson’s mother died in a mysterious house fire. Jackson described her death as a murder, "Someone put something in her drink and turned the gas on,” he said in an interview.

Sabrina’s death was dramatized in the biopic, Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ which is loosely based on Jackson’s life. He believes that had his mother and his father both been around to guide him as an adolescent, he may not have chosen the path of drug dealing and violence that he did.

13 Jackie Kennedy Onassis

Jackie Kennedy Onassis was the wife of the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy. Unless you live under a rock, you know how his presidency ended despite the fact it was 53 years ago. On November 22, 1963, The President and The First Lady were on a political trip in Texas. A precession of vehicles was taking them to a scheduled event, and the two were seated next to each other in the presidential limousine. As the motorcade turned a corner shots began firing. Onassis unwittingly got a front-row seat to the bloody scene of her husband’s assassination.

The first shot was in Kennedy’s upper back. He leaned in towards his wife as she wrapped her arms around him. Seconds later while Onassis was still holding him, another bullet hit the President directly in the head sending fragments of scalp, skull and brain matter all over the vehicle’s interior. Kennedy was pronounced dead in hospital. Onassis refused to remove her blood-stained clothing and didn’t want any of her husband’s blood washed from her face. The suit she was wearing was donated to the National Archives and Records Administration and will not be placed on public display until at least 2103.

12 Usher

R&B star, Usher was the step-father of his wife, Tameka Foster’s children. Although the two divorced in 2009, he remained close to his former step-children. Foster’s son, Kile Glover was 11 years old in 2012 when he was critically injured in a freak accident. He and a friend were riding on an inner tube in a lake when they were run over by a man on a Jet Ski. Glover and his friend were both seriously injured. Unfortunately, the 11-year-old suffered severe brain injuries and had to be taken off of life support two weeks following the accident.

The man on the Jet Ski, Jeffrey Hubbard was a family friend of Usher’s. He was arrested and charged in 2013 for the death of Glover. His defence team argued that what had happened was a tragic accident that Hubbard was remorseful about. However, he ended up being convicted of homicide by vessel and sentenced to four years in prison.

11 Juvenile

Rapper, Juvenile received shocking news back in 2008. His 4-year-old daughter, her mother, and her 11-year-old half-sister were shot and killed in their Georgia home. The killer? His daughter’s 17-year-old half brother on the mother’s side. Anthony Tyrone Terrell was arrested with three counts of murder and three counts of aggravated assault against his mother and two younger sisters. Those who knew him and his family were shocked, claiming he was a respectful teen who loved his family. No one saw it coming whatsoever. Because of his age he was exempt from the death sentence. Instead, he was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences.

Juvenile was shocked and devastated over his daughter’s death. He received criticism for not attending the funeral, but stated he was too overwhelmed over the news to attend. He also said he didn’t want his celebrity status to divert any attention away from the ceremony.

10 Sofia Vergara

18 years ago, before Sofia Vergara was the sexy Gloria Delgado-Pritchett on Modern Family, she was a 24-year-old living in Colombia with her mother, father and five siblings. On August 12, 1998 disaster struck the family when Vergara’s older brother, Rafael, was shot and killed during a kidnapping attempt. There were rumours going around that he had been having an affair with a woman who was dating a prominent crime boss in the area and many think that Rafael had a hit ordered on him.

“We come from a successful family, and he knew he was a target for kidnapping,” Vergara has said. “He always had bodyguards. Then one day he went out alone and was shot dead. I was devastated.” The killer, or killers were never brought to justice.

9 Eric Clapton

Whether you’re an Eric Clapton fan or not, there’s no doubt you’ve heard his song Tears In Heaven. The ballad tugs at the heart strings and is relatable to anyone who has ever lost someone they love. The song was written after Clapton suffered the devastating loss of his 4-year-old son, Conor.

In 1991, Conor and his mother were living in a high-rise New York condo. A housekeeper had opened up a window to clean it when the youngster apparently darted toward it and fell 49 stories to his death. Following the accident, Clapton made multiple public service announcements to raise awareness for child-proofing windows. He dealt with the death by diving into his work, including releasing Tears In Heaven which ended up winning a Grammy. “I almost subconsciously used music for myself as a healing agent, and lo and behold, it worked... I have got a great deal of happiness and a great deal of healing from music,” he’s said.


8 John Travolta & Kelly Preston

Hollywood couple John Travolta and Kelly Preston suffered a devastating loss back in 2009. Their 16-year-old son, Jett, died while the family was on vacation in the Bahamas. He’d had a seizure in their vacation home’s bathroom and hit his head against the bathtub. Following his death, the Travoltas revealed that their son was autistic and had a history of seizures.

The family was shattered. John admitted in an interview that the death of his son was the worst thing to have ever happened to him. He said he didn't know if he would make it through the grief and “didn’t want to wake up” following the death. Preston called the agony of losing her son unfathomable, but tries to share a message with others that you can live after the loss of a child.The couple also share a 16-year-old daughter, and welcomed a second son in 2010 who was born after Jett’s death.

7 Mike Tyson

Boxer, Mike Tyson and his family were devastated after a freak accident took the life of his 4-year-old daughter, Exodus, whom he shared with an ex. She had been playing on an unplugged treadmill inside a home gym. It is believed that she slipped and got her head tangled inside a looped cord that hung from the machine’s console. The cord acted as a noose, she was trapped and hanging for an undetermined amount of time when her 7-year-old brother found her. She was rushed to hospital and put on life support. Unfortunately, efforts to save her were unsuccessful and she was pronounced dead the following day.

Tyson, a known hothead initially felt enormous rage following the accident but refrained trying to find blame in anyone. During an interview with Oprah Winfrey, he eluded to doubts about how “accidental” the death really was. “There was no animosity. There was no anger towards anybody. I don't know how she died and I don't want to know,” he said. “If I know somebody's to blame for it, there will be a problem.”

6 Luke Bryan

Country star, Luke Bryan had a love for country music at a young age. When he was 19 years old he mustered up the courage to move to Nashville and pursue his dream as a musician. Unfortunately, just days before he was set to make the big move, tragedy struck his family. His older brother, Chris, was killed in a car accident. The trauma over the loss changed everything in Bryan’s life. He had to be there for his family, and so he stayed in his hometown in Georgia and went to college instead of following a music career. Some years later, his family pushed him to continue pursuing his dreams and he moved to Nashville.

Shortly after the big move, Bryan had his first hit song and released his first album. He had been invited to sing at Grand Ole Opry and his older sister, Kelly, arranged for 129 of Bryan’s hometown friends to attend the show. A few days after the performance, his sister died in her home from an undetermined cause.

The tragic loss of his two older siblings affects Bryan immensely to this very day. He dedicated a heartfelt performance of his song Drink A Beer to Chris and Kelly at the 2013 CMA awards.

5 Mia Farrow

Mia Farrow was like the Brangelina of the 70s, 80s and 90s. She built a family made up of mostly adopted children from all around the world. The former actress, activist and model was the mother of 14 children. Four of her kids were biological, while 10 were adopted. Unfortunately, out of her 14 children, Farrow only has 11 surviving.

Farrow’s 10th child, Tam, was adopted from Vietnam. She had a heart condition and died in 2000 at the age of 19 due to heart failure. On Christmas day in 2008, her 3rd child, Lark, died at the age of 35 due to AIDS-related pneumonia. Most recently this past September, her 12th child, Thaddeus, died at the age of 27 in an apparent car accident. Medical examiners later ruled that the death was a suicide when an autopsy revealed he had a self-inflicted gun shot wound to the torso. Farrow, now 71 years old, has experienced every mother’s worst nightmare not once, but three times.

4 Jennifer Hudson

Singer and American Idol contestant, Jennifer Hudson rose to fame in 2004. In 2008, she endured a horrific tragedy. Her mother and brother were shot dead inside their Chicago home. An Amber Alert was issued for Hudson’s 7-year-old nephew who also lived in the home and was missing. Three days later his body was found in a stolen car. He too had died from multiple gun shot wounds.

Hudson’s brother-in-law, the estranged husband of her sister, was charged with all three of the murders. In 2012, he was sentenced to three life sentences plus an additional 120 years. He continues to deny having anything to do with the murders and claims he was set up by Chicago police.

Hudson became a mother in 2009 following the murder of her family. "I went from being an aunt, having a mom, and being a child to not having a mom, becoming a mom, and raising my own child,” she said in an interview. Motherhood helped her cope with the tragedy, "I tell David all the time, 'You saved my life.’"

3 Joe Binden

Current Vice President of the United States, Joe Binden might be the subject of some hilarious political memes, but what he’s gone through in the past is certainly not a laughing matter. In 1972, shortly after being elected to the Senate and one week before Christmas, the Binden family experienced an unimaginable tragedy. His wife at the time, Neilia Hunter, and his three children were involved in a terrible car accident. His wife and his 13-month-old daughter, Naomi, were killed. His two young sons, Hunter, then 2 and Beau, then 3 survived. Unfortunately, in 2015 when Beau was 46, he died of brain cancer. It hasn't been an easy road for Joe Binden. He says his current wife, Jill, and his two surviving children are his support system.

2 Roy Orbison

Singer-songwriter, Roy Orbison, or “the Big O” as he was nicknamed, was huge in the 1960s. However, his flourishing career came intertwined with three unimaginable misfortunes. Orbison’s first wife was a woman named Claudette. The couple had two boys together, Roy Jr. and Anthony. Orbison and his wife had a love for motorcycles. They were out for a ride one night in 1966 when tragedy struck. A pickup truck pulled out in front of Claudette, she hit the door and was killed instantly at the age of 24. Orbison was devastated and distracted himself by throwing himself into his work. The song by Orbison, Too Soon To Know is about the death of Claudette and decades later remains to be a tearjerker.

Two years after his wife’s death, Orbison received the devastating news that his family home had burnt down. Inside it were three of his sons. Unfortunately, his two eldest that he shared with Claudette perished in the fire. Themes of Orbison’s songs often reflect his feelings of pain and loss.

1 Kelsey Grammer

Actor, Kelsey Grammer has gone through unfathomable family tragedies. When he was barley a teenager, his estranged father was shot and killed. He had two of his half-brothers die in a scuba diving accident. And, when he was only 20 years old he was riddled with guilt after his little sister was raped and murdered by spree-killer, Freddie Lee Glenn.

Karen Grammer was only 18 years old when she witnessed multiple men, including Glenn, rob a Red Lobster where she was working. Knowing she could identify them, the men kidnapped the teen, raped her repeatedly and then dropped her off in a trailer park. It was then that Glenn stabbed her in the throat and back, leaving her to die. Kelsey came to identify the body. He had to deliver the news to his grief-stricken mother, destroyed that he failed to protect his little sister.

“Every one of us is going to experience some terrible loss,” Grammer stated in an interview. “I just got a big dose. For every story you hear that’s tragic, there’s another that’s equally tragic or more so. I think you come to look at it as part of life.”


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