‘I Dream of Jeannie’ Star Barbara Eden Talked About How She Dealt With Personal Tragedy

by Allison Hambrick
Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

“I Dream of Jeannie” actress Barbara Eden unpacked how she carried on after suffering many emotional losses. In 2001, the star lost her son Matthew to a drug overdose. He was only 35.

“At first we didn’t recognize the behavior — the sleeping and the bouts of anger that would come up all of a sudden with this charming, darling boy,” said Eden. “I didn’t know what to do. I don’t think there’s anything worse than to lose your child. As a parent, I had a lot of guilt and anger, and following his death I was always on the edge of tears. Even though he was 35, he was still my baby.”

Prior to the loss of Matthew, Eden lost another son. In 1971, the I Dream of Jeannie actress miscarried after eight months of pregnancy. The loss was difficult to navigate as a mother and a working actress.

“You just deal with everything every day,” she stated. “I went right back to work and lost a lot of weight. I’d come home and look at my little boy who’s adorable and think, ‘I’m so lucky. I have this sweet child. I have a husband who loves me. What’s wrong with me?’ And nobody told me what was wrong with me. At that time going to a psychiatrist, people didn’t do it. You just healed yourself.”

For Eden, surviving tragedy meant finding a way to carry on. According to the actress, that’s the easiest way to overcome both professional and personal obstacles.

“People have to find their own way,” the I Dream of Jeannie star said. “Don’t be afraid. Everyone’s life is different. Everyone’s beginnings are different. Learn to recognize in other people what you have inside yourself because that’s the one thing we all have. We’re all connected. Knowing that kind of got me over a lot of humps when I first came to town and started auditioning.”

I Dream of Jeannie Star Talks Show’s Legacy

One source of joy for Eden is her fans. Though I Dream of Jeannie ended decades ago, she enjoys being known for the hit series.

“It was a happy show,” Eden explained. “One time I was sitting in the airport in San Francisco and a man came over to me and told me how much he enjoyed the show—this was in the ’60s. He said, ‘You don’t know who I am, but that group of men over there, we’re all psychologists and psychiatrists and we’re at Stanford University. And we all go home and watch the show, because it balances us out.'”

Additionally, while other actors might dislike being typecast, Eden didn’t care. She is proud to Be Jeannie.

“She’s easy to live with,” Eden said. “She really is. I like her a lot. I think what makes me so happy is that so many people around the world like her. Not me. They like that character. And they like the show for what it is. It takes people out of themselves and into another world. and I appreciate that. I like it very much.”