Sad Details About Hallmark's JoAnna Garcia Swisher

The following article includes references to mental health struggles.

Some stars' lives are touched by tragedy early on; a number of celebrities have had to overcome childhood poverty before making it big, for example. But for JoAnna Garcia Swisher, many of her most heartbreaking moments came after she found fame.

Swisher's backstory would make any Hallmark heroine weep into her hot cocoa with envy. According to the New York Post, her family was well-off when she was growing up, and it seems that the Florida native was also well-liked at school — her classmates at Tampa Catholic High School decided to crown her homecoming queen. She joined the cast of the Nickelodeon show "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" at age 14, but she didn't sideline her studies to focus on acting right away. After she graduated, she pursued a higher education at Florida State University, where she was a member of the Tri Delta sorority. When she shifted her focus back to acting after just a year, the "As Luck Would Have It" star was far luckier than most young women who head to Hollywood in hopes of making a living with their craft. "Three days after I arrived, I got sent to North Carolina to do a made-for-TV movie with John Ritter," she told Glamour. This was soon followed by a gig on "Party of Five."

But while the "Sweet Magnolias" actor has been truly blessed in her career, her life has not remained unblemished by anguish.

Being a WAG wasn't always easy for JoAnna Garcia Swisher

JoAnna Garcia Swisher has a famous husband: former New York Yankees player Nick Swisher. JoAnna met Nick in 2009, not long after she and Trace Ayala, Justin Timberlake's best friend, ended their brief engagement. When she decided to marry Nick in 2010, JoAnna had to become more selective about the acting roles she accepted. She explained to the AP that she and Nick had agreed to prioritize his career because it would likely be shorter than hers.

JoAnna loved cheering for her husband, but she learned the hard way that rival baseball fans can be a mean-spirited bunch. In a 2017 appearance on "Conan," she recalled Nick telling her that some fans tried to make him lose focus on a game by chanting, "JoAnna's average." Said the actor, "They really wanted to tear me down." But one of the hardest experiences she had to go through was witnessing her husband get injured and decide to hang up his cleats. After undergoing surgery on both knees, Nick couldn't be the player he once was. "When you're used to being able to do certain things physically, and then suddenly you can't, it's soul crushing," he wrote in a 2017 post announcing his retirement on The Players' Tribune.

JoAnna was also heartbroken for Nick. In a letter to her hubby that she shared on Facebook, she wrote, "I just wanted to shield you from the criticism, from the chatter, from the rejection."

JoAnna Garcia Swisher's experience with postpartum depression

In a "BUILD Series" interview, JoAnna Garcia Swisher revealed that she struggled with postpartum depression after giving birth to her daughter Sailor in 2016. She was grateful for having a father who was an OBGYN because he was able to assure her that what she was feeling was okay. "I felt very not grounded on any level," she said. It especially bothered Swisher that her experience giving birth the second time was different from her first, as she didn't have the same issue when she and her husband welcomed their other daughter, Emerson, in 2013.

Swisher shared more details about her experience on "Mama Said with Jamie-Lynn Sigler & Jenna Parris." She recalled realizing that she was unable to feel joy like she used to, saying, "I was like, 'This is as good as it's ever gonna feel." JoAnna further revealed that she found it upsetting that Sailor wasn't a very affectionate baby at first. "I didn't feel super-connected to her," she confessed.

Swisher was also unable to breastfeed, and there was a lot of stress in her life at the time: The family had just moved out of their Los Angeles home, JoAnna had gone back to work too soon, and Nick Swisher was about to retire. On top of all of this, JoAnna admitted that her postpartum affected how she felt about her husband. She recalled calling Jamie-Lynn Sigler and telling "The Sopranos" star, "I hate him."

She was devastated by her father's death

JoAnna Garcia Swisher shared an incredibly close bond with her father, with her oldest daughter even bearing the middle name Jay as a sweet homage. "My dad has always been all about family," she told People

Sadly, Jay Garcia died in November 2019, leaving his daughter devastated. In a poignant Instagram tribute, Swisher wrote, "When you left this earth you didn't just take a piece of me with you, you shot through my heart like a cannon."

Two days before Jay's death — which tragically happened the day before he would have celebrated his 74th birthday — Swisher revealed that he had been suffering from an unspecified medical issue for a while. "I have held my breath for weeks. Prayed harder than ever before," she wrote on Instagram. After Jay's death, Swisher shared her heart-wrenching reaction to realizing that she was about to lose her father. "I sat in the hospital kicking the walls with my foot. Hoping that if I could somehow shatter the block wall it would hurt less," she recalled in another post. She also revealed that her father kept assuring her that everything was going to be all right while he was on his deathbed. The pandemic happened months after Jay died, and his namesake took the compounded tragedies hard. "My older one, she's really questioning. Like yesterday, she just randomly asked me if she could feel mad at God," Swisher said in a 2020 Romper interview.

JoAnna Garcia Swisher grieved her mother before she died

JoAnna Garcia Swisher's mother, Lorraine Garcia, died a little over a year after the actor lost her father. On the "XOXO" podcast, Swisher told her former "Gossip Girl" castmate Jessica Szohr that her mom had dementia, [15:09] so she began the grieving process while Loraine was still alive. Still, it was incredibly difficult for Swisher to witness her mother's final moments. "I held my mother's hand as she took her last breath. It was after 18 excruciating hours of watching her body adjust to the transition her brain, her head, and her heart had already made," she wrote on Instagram.

A month before Loraine died, Swisher marked her parent's 74th birthday with a bittersweet post. Swisher expressed her love and appreciation for her mom and revealed that she inherited her creative streak from Loraine. "Your memory may have been robbed from you these past few years, but the imprint and inspiration that is uniquely you is still very much alive," she wrote.

On "XOXO," Swisher said that one thing that helped her when she was grief-stricken was shooting "Sweet Magnolias." [14:48] Caroline Lagerfelt plays her character's mother on the show, and Swisher's castmate [17:10] also became a much-appreciated maternal figure to her when the cameras weren't rolling. [18:43] However, no one can fill the hole left behind by a beloved parent. Of the loss of her mother and father, Swisher told Wondermind, "I think losing them will inform the rest of my life."

The actor struggles with anxiety

JoAnna Garcia Swisher told Wondermind that dealing with anxiety has been a lifelong struggle for her. Of how it first manifested, she said, "I was uncomfortable a lot, really worried, [and felt] the weight of the world." Now, it usually presents for her as being fearful about the uncertainty of what's to come. It can also be triggered by feeling overwhelmed. In a December 2023 Instagram post, the Hallmark star told her Instagram followers she was grappling with an "anxiety spiral." She revealed that she had been sick with the flu, and even though she was exhausted, she couldn't help but focus on everything that she needed to do. Swisher's automated slideshow included a photo of her with her eyes closed and her hand on her face. An instrumental version of the Christmas song "Sleigh Ride" accompanied her pictures, so her stress seemed to be holiday-related. In a blog post on her website The Happy Place, Swisher wrote, "Anxiety has robbed me of enjoying some of the most precious moments in my life, distracting me from truly being in the moment."

Swisher told Wondermind that she finds it helpful to go to therapy, and she also works with an energy healer who helps her improve her mental health by tapping into her mind-body connection. "For someone like me who struggles with anxiety, getting into my body is my biggest tool that I have to get back to the present," she said.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.