"I know my mother would deny this – she never got past it,” Melissa Rivers says of her father's 1987 death

By Rachel DeSantis
May 01, 2019 03:00 AM
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Melissa Rivers says she’s proud to be a survivor, and to have made it through the immense anger she felt in the wake of her father’s suicide.

Melissa, 51, was just a sophomore in college when her father, TV producer Edgar Rosenberg, died by suicide at age 62 in 1987.

In an interview on the new ABC Radio podcast Life After Suicide, hosted by ABC News’ Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton, Melissa opens up about the resentment she felt toward not only her late father, but her mother, Joan Rivers, in the immediate aftermath.

“I was angry at my mom, I was angry at my dad, I was angry at the UPS guy, I was angry at the person in traffic, I was … I used to feel like, I used to call it like this free floating sort of anger, and God help whoever it landed on that day,” Melissa recalls. “I was really mad at my mom, really mad, and we’ve spoken very openly about that.”

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The Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best? star says she placed some of the blame on her famous mom partly because she and Rosenberg had recently separated – though she says her vitriol toward Joan only lasted about a year.

Joan, who died in 2014 at age 81, was well aware of her daughter’s resentment, as she explained to PEOPLE in 1993.

“The way I see it, Melissa blamed me. But she wasn’t going to turn to me by the casket and say, ‘You killed Daddy!’” said Joan. “[We] tried to go on with our own lives and were both so broken that we couldn’t help each other.”

Melissa Rivers, Edgar Rosenberg
| Credit: Ron Galella/WireImage

In the decades since, Melissa says she’s learned to let go – something she doesn’t think her mother ever did.

“What I found fascinating – and I know my mother would deny this – she never got past it,” Melissa says. “She felt terribly embarrassed, terribly angry, terribly embarrassed … I don’t think she ever got over the anger. She will tell you she would and she used to say to people, ‘Well, I just still can’t believe what he put Melissa through, and he did that to Melissa,’ and you want to be like, ‘Mom, I’m probably better than you are on this one.’ ”

Melissa Rivers, Joan Rivers
| Credit: Noam Galai/WireImage

Despite the pain left behind, Melissa channeled her emotions into something more productive, and emerged a true fighter.

“It’s so interesting that something that could have destroyed my life and something that created so much unhappiness and anger has become something now to do something really good that I care about and it’s become so much of a definition of who I am, and that I’m proud that I’m a survivor,” she says.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “home” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.