December 08, 2016 01:34 PM

December 2015 was a bittersweet time for mother of three Kristin Cavallari.

Just weeks after she welcomed the birth of her third child, daughter Saylor James, with husband Jay Cutler, the former Hills star learned about the sudden and unexpected death of her brother, Michael. Nearly two weeks after he went missing, Michael, 30, was found dead in the Salt Wash area near exit 175 on I-70 in Grand County, Utah, which is described as having steep and rocky terrain.

In the year since her daughter was born and she laid her brother to rest, Cavallari, 29, described the past 12 months as a “roller coaster” and told Access Hollywood that “it was tough leading up to the anniversary.”

“My dad was in town and staying with me, I was with my mom, so we were together and that helped — that was nice,” said Cavallari of having her parents close on the anniversary. “My mom is 40 minutes away from my house. Obviously she understands what I’m going through because it was her son. She also lost her brother when she was my age, and so it’s been really nice to have her because she really understands what I’m going through on many different levels.”

Although her mother has served as a strong support system for Cavallari, she revealed that the season has “been tough.”

“We’re looking at it more about every time we talk about him and think about him, it’s more of a celebration of his life and really truly knowing that he is in fact in a better place,” she said about her late older brother.

But despite the sadness of her brother’s death, Cavallari said that welcoming her daughter into the world was a “positive” addition for their family.

“It was a weird time. I had my daughter on a Monday, my brother went missing  — we didn’t officially know until the week after, but then it was two weeks of not knowing exactly what was going on and it was tough. It was the extreme highs and the extreme lows, but I definitely think that it ultimately helped,” said Cavallari of Saylor’s birth. “She was a great distraction. She was a very big positive thing in my life that was going on at a low time as well, so it helped. But it’s interesting because now her milestones I also associate with my brother’s death … and I think it’ll be like that for a while.”

To remember her late brother on the 1-year anniversary of his death, she took to Instagram to share a heartfelt post in his honor. “The last few days have been tough…yesterday was the anniversary of my brothers passing. There hasn’t been a day that’s gone by where I haven’t thought of him and missed him,” Cavallari began.

“I know he is watching over me and my family though from all of the amazing signs he has given us,” she continued, and concluded the post, “Love and miss you so much, Mikey.”

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