Actress Melissa Gilbert revealed that she was told her father, Paul Gilbert, who passed away in 1976, had suffered a sudden stroke. Still, she discovered years later that he actually committed suicide.
Paul, a World War II veteran and talented entertainer, died when Melissa was 11 years of age. His death occurred two years after she started playing Laura Ingalls Wilder on the hit television series "Little House on the Prairie."
At the time, not many people knew the real reason for his death, and that included Melissa and her siblings. They were being protected from the truth, but this same truth ended up haunting her in adulthood.
SHE WAS TOLD A LIE
During an interview with "Oprah: Where Are They Now?" she revealed that she and her siblings were told their father died after suffering a stroke. Years later, though, she found out it was a lie. She said:
"There were only a couple of people who knew the truth -- that my father had, in fact, committed suicide."
GRIEVING HER FATHER
The veteran actress experienced the grieving process once more when she took in this reality as a grown-up. She admitted it was a "bad time" for her because she couldn't function for weeks. Apart from that, she couldn't get the answers to the many questions in her head.
In fact, to cope with the loss, she hired a private detective to help her sort out what happened. Ultimately, she shared that her father was a veteran who was in uncontrolled excruciating pain. After threatening suicide, he decided to end his life.
Melissa Gilbert at Georgia World Congress Center on May 3, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia | Source: Getty Images
Through it all, the actress still had an unsettled question that played in her head. She wondered why she wasn't enough for her dad to stick around for, which she believes is something that all children whose parents commit suicide feel.
However, she's come to realize that her father was in unbearable pain, which is why she understands why he had to do what he did back then. These thoughts plagued her for months, however, and she needed to take medication for it.
SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS
When Melissa became a mother herself, she realized that she wanted to learn about her birth parents. She was adopted, and while she was fully content with the Gilberts, she felt it was necessary to know where she came from.
Staring at her son when he was born, she realized that this was the only person she knew connected to her by blood. Ultimately, she found out her mom had passed away, and she keeps in touch with her birth father from a distance.
LETTING HER SECRETS OUT
With everything that has happened, Melissa decided to write a memoir about her life, something her mom was against. After all, the actress admitted that her mother was in charge of everything about her life, from her food intake to her career, to how she dressed.
Melissa started her profession as a child actress in the late 1960s. She landed her breakthrough role on "Little House on the Prairie" for 10 seasons until 1983, before starring in successful TV movies like "Choices of the Heart," "Donor," and "With a Vengeance."
LIVING ON HER OWN TERMS
Years later, Melissa decided she wanted to live her best life, according to her own terms. Writing a memoir was a way for her to unpack everything she'd experienced and let it all out. Speaking about her new goal, she once said:
"Today, I just want to be my best and I don’t fear disappointing anyone other than myself and my family."
Melissa is a proud mom to Dakota Paul, known as Cody, whom she shares with actor and producer Bo Brinkman. During her marriage to Bruce Boxleitner, she also bore a son, Michael Garrett. She is currently married to actor Timothy Busfield and is a stepmom to three children.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org.