The Tragic Real-Life Stories Of These Young And The Restless Stars

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The following references suicide and abuse.

Set in the make-believe city of Genoa, Wisconsin, "The Young and the Restless" is one of TV's longest-running soap operas. Following its first broadcast in 1973, viewers have had a blast keeping up with the members of both the Brooks family and the Foster family, and as if the drama wasn't already too heated, more families came into the picture. What began as half-hour productions morphed into hour-long broadcasts that have since been syndicated worldwide.

While some of the storylines that have unfolded over the decades have been silly and soapy (lookin' at you, every plot line that has involved a character coming back from the dead), others have been objectively heartbreaking. The audience empathized with Devon Hamilton (Bryton James) and Hillary Curtis' (Mishael Morgan) when they lost their child in an accident, and further reeled in pain at Curtis' own death. Processing the ill-timed demise of Rey Rosales (Jordi Vilasuso) was as difficult for Sharon Newman (Sharon Case), as it was for viewers, given that she'd lost her daughter Cassie Newman (Camryn Grimes) in a similar tragic way.

While these bits of the show are purely fictional, in real life, the cast members, many of whom have stayed on "The Young and the Restless" for decades, have had their own misfortunes and untold truths. From life-threatening illnesses to catastrophic deaths to losing pets to raging fires, read on to find out real-life tragedies that have befallen "The Young and the Restless" cast.

Peter Bergman's eye scare

Peter Bergman was on his way to visit family when, as he recalled to Soap Opera Digest in a January 2022 interview, he noticed something was up with one of his eyes. He tried to dismiss it, but as he told the outlet, by the following day, his vision had taken a turn for the worse. "The curtain now covered a third of my vision in my left eye, so I called my sister and asked her if she knew of an ophthalmologist in town," he said.

It turned out that Bergman had a detached retina. Had he not caught it in time, he would have been rendered blind. He had to undergo an emergency surgery, which forced him to take a sabbatical from playing the character Jack Abbott on "The Young and the Restless." Since 1989, Bergman has been the Abbott patriarch, a role he took over from his deceased father, John Abbott (Jerry Douglas).

Before he could make his triumphant return to the soap opera set, Bergman had to recover from the procedure, and the process doesn't sound exactly comfortable. "I had to keep my face parallel to the floor for 50 minutes out of every hour for 7 days," he told the magazine. Clearly, it worked: Bergman made it to the year-end Christmas party, and in June 2022, he inked a five-year extension on the soap opera, per Deadline.

Melody Thomas Scott was abused as a child

In 2020, Melody Thomas Scott penned a memoir titled "Always Young and Restless: My Life On and Off America's #1 Daytime Drama." As she shared in a 2020 interview with Michael Fairman, the 288-page account of her life had been in the works for a decade. She began the writing process by unpacking her trauma, which includes suffering abuse at the hands of her grandmother and being sexually assaulted as a child. "I'm sure many people will be shocked to learn that I have that kind of background," she said in an interview with People.

Understandably, revisiting particular pieces of her childhood while putting the memoir together was difficult, and there were moments where she was hit with waves of panic. "That was my brain's way of letting me know I was not ready to put it on paper yet," she disclosed. She continues to work on healing, acknowledging that it's a long, not necessarily linear process. As she said in an interview with Variety, "I thought that I had worked through it all, with all of the years of therapy and medication and everything, but as I learned very quickly when I first sat down, 'Mmm no.'" In the aforementioned People interview, she said she hopes sharing her experiences with the world helps out other abuse survivors. 

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

Kristoff St. John's son died by suicide

Four years prior to Kristoff St. John's death, his son Julian St. John died by suicide. The 24-year-old artist had been struggling with mental health issues for some time. He was pronounced dead on November 3, 2014, after being found unconscious in a bathroom. "Our son was the light of our lives, an artist with a beautiful mind and spirit," his mother Mia wrote on Sqor Sports (via People).

Eric Braeden, who's played the role of Victor Newman on "The Young and the Restless" since 1980, told People that Julian's death wasn't something Kristoff really talked about with his co-stars. "I think we all sort of tiptoed around what obviously weighed most heavily on his heart and his soul — and that is the death of his son," Braeden said. "How do you discuss something so fundamentally tragic as that with even a friend? You don't want to touch that wound."

In February 2019, Kristoff's acting industry friends paid him a visit, only to find him unresponsive. He died at his home in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles. His death was reported as an accident, per Deadline, citing heart disease as the cause. The soap opera paid a tribute to Kristoff St. John on his final appearance and honored him with a special storyline.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Camryn Grimes' sister was diagnosed with cancer

In March 2021, "The Young and the Restless" actor Camryn Grimes shared devastating news with her fans on Twitter. Her sister Payton Grimes had been suffering from an unidentified condition that landed her at the Children's Hospital Los Angeles. After multiple tests, Payton was diagnosed with lymphoma.

Following the revelation, there was an outpour of sympathy from Camryn's fans, many of whom left messages of support and hope. Camryn and her family set up a GoFundMe page, from which they managed to surpass a projected $20,000 dollar target for Payton's medical funds.

By December 2021, an update on the page showed that Payton was well on her way to recovery. "She has remnants of tissue that show inactive – cancer free. It is believed her body will eventually absorb what is left of the massive growth she had inside her chest," wrote Heather Grimes. Payton had undergone chemotherapy and was able to make major milestones, including gaining weight, growing her hair back, and getting a driver's license. To celebrate this update, Payton's family took her to Disneyland, aka the Happiest Place on Earth, and shared photos of their trip on the GoFundMe page.

Courtney Hope's long-term collaborator died

On her Instagram page, Courtney Hope broke the news that Kenneth Mader, a filmmaker with whom she had collaborated on several projects, had died. "This one is a difficult one. Yesterday, I lost an amazing soul, mentor, friend, director, co-producer and supporter. I will miss my dear friend Ken Mader dearly, and I am so thankful for all my time spent with him collaborating and creating on many projects," she wrote, in part.

Mader had been diagnosed with neuroendocrine carcinoma, per Soaps in Depth. In November 2021, a GoFundMe page had been created to raise money for his treatment costs, per an Instagram post by Mader. His final post on the social platform was during Thanksgiving 2021, through which he thanked his friends, family, and followers for walking with him on his journey.

Amongst Mader's most notable collaborations with Hope, who's played the role of Sally Spectra on "The Young and the Restless" since 2020, is a film called "Displacement," which was released in 2016. It features Hope in the leading role of Cassie Sinclair. As Hope told Fox 4 News, they spent over two years making the flick. "When it came together ... it was really gratifying," she said. Theirs was a story of two like-minded people coming together to independently create art.

Mishael Morgan had an emergency eye surgery

In April 2021, Soap Opera Digest reported Karla Mosley from "The Bold and the Beautiful" would be subbing in for Mishael Morgan on "The Young and the Restless" for an unknown amount of time. A week after this news broke, Morgan was back in action. The reason for her brief departure wasn't related to any sort of behind-the-scenes drama. Morgan, who has been on "The Young and the Restless" since 2013, had to step away from production because she had a detached retina that required emergency surgery.

In an interview with Soaps in Depth, Morgan revealed there were no warning signs, and it was lucky that the issue was spotted during a routine check-up. "I didn't see any floaters, flashes...I didn't have any pain, I wasn't getting any headaches," she said. "I had absolutely no symptoms. Which, the doctor said it was rare, but some people don't exhibit any symptoms."

In a since-deleted Instagram post (via Soaps), Morgan shared a photo of herself post-surgery spotting an all-new look which she partially captioned, "But saving my vision, rocking a new, sexy pirate look and one crazy story for the books... pretty fun!" On return to work, Morgan was equally enthusiastic. She posted a picture of herself without an eye patch, writing, First day back and it's like riding a bike!"

Mishael Morgan lost family members in a house fire

In March 2022, "The Young and the Restless" actor Mishael Morgan shared with her Twitter followers that her brother-in-law Nazir Ali, his wife Raven Ali-O'Dea, and their children died unexpectedly in their Ontario home. "On Monday morning my husband's only brother, perished with his wife & 3 kids in a tragic house fire," she wrote. She also shared a link to a GoFundMe page. 

The fire erupted in the house at two in the morning. "Our firefighters, when they responded — they were here quickly — they were met with heavy smoke and flames coming from the front of the building and back of the building," said Brampton Fire Chief Bill Boyes, per Brampton Guardian. Additional occupants of the Ali residence were rescued from the raging blaze. As noted in The Canadian Press (via iHeartRadio), Ali-O'Dea's mother died some days later from injuries sustained in the fire.

In April 2022, Morgan posted on Instagram to thank those who have been there for her family in the wake of the tragedy. "My family has been through the unimaginable and yet we stand," she wrote. "Never forgetting our loved ones but looking to a future filled with their light and love."

Christian LeBlanc's brother died of AIDS

On a 2021 episode of Maurice Benard's "State of Mind" podcast, "The Young and the Restless" actor Christian LeBlanc opened up about his family and his mental health. In 2003, his mother died from cancer. LeBlanc shared that he's long been an advocate for mental health and making it more of a priority, but noted that it wasn't until he was struggling with the grief related to this loss that he decided to take on his own mental well-being. "I think there's such a sense of shame that we're just coming out of for mental health," he said. In a later interview with Hellenic News of America, LeBlanc championed Benard's podcast, which is centered around open discourse about mental health. "His podcast is a needed show, especially in these times when people tend to feel more alone and that they are less able and less capable to do things," he said. 

Another personal tragedy that shaped LeBlanc was the death of one of his seven siblings. On "State of Mind," the actor shared that one of his brothers died from complications related to AIDS, noting the stigma and lack of support his brother — and so many others — experienced. "My brother was treated as somebody who had a 'special cancer' that only happened to him because of a 'moral failing' at 25," he said. "And he died because of it. Don't make any mistake — the government killed him."

If you or someone you know is struggling 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.

Melissa Ordway's missing dog was found dead

In 2016, "The Young and the Restless" actor Melissa Ordway's pet dog Buddy went missing. Fans rallied around her, and as Soap Hub noted, she posted signs about the pup around her neighborhood and online. A few days after she shared he'd gotten out, Ordway let her Instagram followers know that their search had a tragic outcome. "I'm heartbroken and devastated to report that we have found Buddy and he is in heaven now," she wrote alongside a collage of sweet photos of the dog. "He was a cuddle bug, a gentleman, Liv's main squeeze, our protector and our all around best friend." 

Five years later, Ordway lost yet another fur baby, Riley, who'd been in her family for 16 years. She shared pictures of their happy memories through the years, including snaps they'd taken while going for a bike ride, celebrating Christmas, and hanging out in bed. She shared that Riley had won her over from the very first time they met. "Thank you for being an angel here on earth. Now you're amongst all the angels in heaven. I know you're playing with your brothers and running after a soccer ball. I love you," Ordway wrote of her beloved dog.

Ordway's pooches have always been an important part of her life. As she told Da Man in 2010, "I love spending as much time as possible with my family, friends and my dogs!"

Tracey Bregman was hit by the Woolsey Fire

In 2018, the Woolsey Fire raged through Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. A number of celebrities' homes fully or partially burned down, including Miley Cyrus, Gerard Butler, and Neil Young, per Variety. "The Young and the Restless" star Tracey Bregman was also impacted by the natural disaster, per Soaps.

Bregman evacuated her home before it was destroyed by the fire. On a 2018 episode of "The Talk" (via Soaps), she cried while recounting the experience of rushing out her house and leaving so sentimental and precious belongings behind. The following year, she told BeondTV that as difficult as it had been to go through this, she took comfort in the fact that she could connect with and lean on her neighbors and friends who'd been impacted — and vice versa. "The one thing that we all have in common is our ability now to let go and not have attachment to things," she said. "We had homes filled with all of our stuff and our past and everything, and it's almost as if someone cleared that, and yet we now don't want that anymore."

One year after the fire, Bregman penned an emotional Instagram post. "I hold everyone's hand as we look back and now as we look forward to new beginnings and things that truly matter," she wrote. In June 2020, Bregman filed a lawsuit against her insurance company. Per PRNewswire, the actor maintained she had not been adequately compensated by her insurer.

Lauralee Bell lost two pets within weeks

"The Young and the Restless" actor Lauralee Bell announced on Instagram in June 2020 that her dog Bo had died. As she noted, the timing was especially difficult because her family's other dog Couver died just a month prior after a sudden onset of seizures and stroke. When Couver died in late April 2020, Bell wrote, "He was a dog that would see you walking toward a couch or the bed and adjust to make sure there was room for you."

Understandably, losing two dogs within a matter of weeks was hard on Bell, but she tried to find some level of peace in her grief. Following Bo's death, she posted, "Hoping he found his brother over the rainbow bridge (a term l learned from my animals lovers out there as I had never heard that comforting visual)." She also noted Bo's connection to Chelsea, another of their Labradors. "Stay close as your twin & sidekick Chelsea here needs to feel you around us," Bell wrote.

In 2021, Bell shared on Instagram that her family had welcomed two Labrador puppies into their home. Raising a puppy — let alone two — comes with a set of challenges, but as she made clear in her hashtag set, she was more than okay with those challenges. In an April 2022 post, Bell shared of a snapshot of her young pups with Chelsea. "Our life enhancers but butt kickers!" she wrote, adding that Chelsea was showing her younger furry siblings the ropes.

Tricia Cast's husband died of cancer

In October 2019, local ABC affiliate 13WHAM reported "The Young and the Restless" actor Tricia Cast's husband, musician Bat McGrath, died of cancer. The then 73-year-old McGrath was diagnosed with colon cancer the previous December. Following his diagnosis, he told 13WHAM that he opted out of treatment because he didn't think it was worth spending the end of his life that way. "I've had the best, absolute best, life," he said. "I'm totally at peace with the decision." 

According to WXXI News, McGrath continued to make and release music following his diagnosis, and he held performances in Rochester, New York, a place that was close to his heart, as it was the city where his band The Showstoppers got their start. His final show at Rochester's Lyric Theatre sold out. Per the Democrat & Chronicle, he brought Cast up on the stage at the end of the performance. Cast told City Newspaper that it meant a lot to her and McGrath that he had the opportunity to spend his final year making and playing music. "I am super grateful, and that gratitude is real, undeniable, and it helps."

While they both had come to terms with the reality of McGrath's prognosis, his death was in no way easy on Cast. In the aforementioned interview with City Newspaper, she said, "I could not begin to find the words. I'm on the healing path, but it's hard." 

Beth Maitland's ex-husband died of a heart attack

Only a year after "The Young and the Restless" actor Beth Maitland ended her 26-year-long marriage to Christopher Banninger, he died of a heart attack. Maitland informed the public of his death through a post on social media. "He passed away with no pain and with dear friends holding his hand. He is survived by our daughter Emelia, and although you may know we were recently divorced, I have spent 35 years of loving this man with every ounce of me and I feel so sorry for the pain this loss brings to so many of you who loved him too," her post read (via Soaps).

Banninger worked behind the scenes in the sound department, credited as a mixer on numerous productions including "Rolling Vengeance" and "Full Moon Under Blue Water." On television, Banninger's sound expertise was highlighted on shows such as "All My Children," "The Parkers," and "General Hospital." 

Per The Blast, the two separated in 2016 and Banninger filed in 2018. Even in death, Maitland still referred to Banninger as her husband. In December 2019, she wrote on Facebook, "And to CBS Soaps in Depth, this was taken one week before my husband passed away. Happier times, but a reminder that life does go on and we have so many things to be grateful for."

Melissa Claire Egan's nanny's relatives were killed

In 2022, "The Young and the Restless" actor Melissa Claire Egan shared on Twitter that her nanny's niece and brother died in a tragic accident. "There are no words. Two beautiful souls," Egan wrote. Jose Palacios Gonzalez and Samantha Palacios were killed when a truck rammed into their apartment in Long Beach, California. The driver fled the crash site. Per the Los Angeles Times, Gonzalez died at the scene and Palacios died in the hospital. 

According to the GoFundMe page created to raise money for funeral expenses, the driver was believed to have been drunk at the time of the incident. The suspected driver was later identified as 24-year-old Octavio Montano Islas, per the Los Angeles Times. An arrest warrant was issued, but in April 2022, the Los Angeles Times reported the suspect was still at large. Per the Press-Telegram, a local HOA president told KTLA that it was suspected he'd been over-served at a local bar. "Hit-and-runs happen all the time here," he said. "And now we have a family that died."

Greg Rikaart contracted Covid early in the pandemic

In March 2020, Greg Rikaart announced on Instagram that he had contracted Covid-19. The life-threatening virus, which forced the world to shut down at around the time Rikaart tested positive, left him with a fever for almost two weeks, as well as a number of symptoms, such as chills and the loss of taste and smell. "I am a pretty healthy 43-year-old who doesn't smoke, doesn't drink much, eats well and exercises regularly and this has been the hardest experience of my life," he wrote. At the time of his diagnosis, there were still a lot of unknowns about the disease, and the U.S. was still about a year away from the vaccine rollout.

Per CDC recommendations, Rikaart isolated from the rest of his family while he recovered from Covid. Understandably, being both sick and alone during this time was especially difficult. "When you are scared and vulnerable like that, one of the only things that can make you feel better are your loved ones," he said in an interview with USA Today. However, to keep loved ones safe, isolation is key.

After he was clear of Covid, Rikaart, who has landed several Emmy nominations for portraying Kevin Fisher on "The Young and the Restless," told USA Today that the shortness of breath symptom still lingered. "It was a long, long battle, and I'm grateful that I never ended up having to go to the hospital," he said. 

Jess Walton's husband's cancer returned

After forty years together, "The Young and the Restless" veteran Jess Walton's husband John James died. In 2018, James underwent surgery to have a cancerous tumor removed, and the procedure was a success. In a May 2021 Instagram post, Walton shared that her husband's cancer had returned. "John has loved, protected and supported me, our family, and our country all these years and he has constantly helped those around him, both at home and all over the world," she wrote. Three months after the post went up, James died. 

Following her husband's death, Walton shared with her Instagram followers that she and their children took care of James up until his death, which was a bittersweet experience. "For us to be able to devote ourselves to him in his home with all that entails, and give him love and care and comfort from the people he loves the most, was our honor," she wrote. Walton noted that he not only was a pillar of support in their family, but helped so many others. In the 1980s, James founded the Grief Recovery Institute, an organization dedicated to assisting people as they move through grief. 

Walton continues to celebrate James on Instagram, sharing photos of her late husband regularly. In December 2021, for example, she posted a snapshot from the day they became husband and wife. "Wherever you are my angel, thank you for it all," she wrote. "I'm kissing you in my heart."