‘Little House on the Prairie’: Melissa Gilbert ‘Fell Into a Deep Depression’ After Michael Landon Died

Melissa Gilbert thought of Michael Landon as a father figure after shooting Little House on the Prairie together for about eight years. In her memoir, Prairie Tale, Gilbert writes about how she felt following Landon’s death. It was not an easy time.

Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert in Little House: A New Beginning
Michael Landon as Charles Ingalls, Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls Wilder | Frank Carroll/NBCU Photo Bank

How Melissa Gilbert learned Michael Landon had died

Gilbert found out that Landon died when she was watching CNN. Shortly after, she spoke to his daughter, Leslie, on the phone.

“She told me about the unusual things that happened during the last twenty-four hours of Mike’s life,” she wrote. “He had seen the proverbial light that guides people onto the next phase of their journey. He had seen his late mother waiting to comfort him. As a family, they had shared moments that, on hearing them, didn’t lessen my sadness but reassured me that death isn’t a horrible, scary thing as much as it is a transition to something else.” 

Melissa Gilbert was ‘heartbroken’ when Michael Landon died

Gilbert took Landon’s death extremely hard.

“I was heartbroken,” she wrote. “My mother came over and my sister, sweet thing, brought me a milkshake.”

Following the actor’s death, Gilbert’s “phone rang off the hook with requests from reporters wanting a comment.”

“It seemed everyone in the world wanted a quote,” she wrote. “Yet I was incapable of communicating. 

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Gilbert managed to give her publicist a statement and proceeded to fall “into a deep depression.”

“I stayed in bed with the shades drawn,” she wrote. “Anytime I got up and tried to move around, it felt as if I was moving through mud. I walked around dazed in my pajamas for days.”

But then, her husband at the time, Bo Brinkman, came home with two puppies.

“He told me that with a two-year-old and two puppies, I had my hands full,” she wrote. “Bless his heart, he knew exactly how to gently get me up and moving.”

The former Laura Ingalls actor delivered one of the eulogies at her TV father’s funeral

When it came time for Landon’s funeral, Gilbert was asked to deliver one of the eulogies.

“I said of course, no question,” she wrote. “The second I hung up, I regretted it. What the hell was I going to say? Scratch that. There was so much to say. But how was I going to stand up in front of his family, his children, his friends and talk about him without bludgeoning everyone with my feelings?”

But Gilbert wrote a eulogy she was happy with for Landon with the help of her playwright husband. She even got through the delivery.

At the post memorial reception at the Landons’ home in Malibu, Gilbert was surrounded by Landon’s friends and family, many of whom were Little House on the Prairie cast and crew. She was right where she was meant to be.

“There was a lot of hugging and crying, but there was also a lot of laughter as we all shared stories about Mike’s fantastic sense of humor,” she wrote. “It was very comforting to be around people who’d known Mike so well and loved him as much as I did, if not more.”