The Heartbreaking Loss That Changed Ellen DeGeneres' Life

Season 5 Episode 501
Aired on 10/25/2015 | CC tv-14
When Ellen DeGeneres was in her 20s, she suffered a loss that shifted her focus in life. One night, Ellen says she fought with her live-in girlfriend over the phone. Then, the next morning, she learned that her girlfriend had been killed in a car accident.

"We were living together at the time, and my brother's band was performing. We had broken up, and we had fought a lot. She was trying to get me to come back home. I acted like I couldn't hear her because the music as too loud," Ellen says. "I was planning on moving back in—I just was trying to teach her a lesson."

During Ellen's drive home that night, she passed a mangled car on the side of the road and heard sirens approaching the scene. "It had just happened and nobody was there yet, and we just kept going," she says. "I found out the next morning that it was her in the car."

After that night, Ellen says she felt a lot of guilt and second-guessed every decision that led up to the accident. "I think it made me realize how ... easily you can lose somebody. I mean just, literally, in an instant, she just was gone," she says. "It shifted my entire focus and my life."

While mourning her loss, Ellen says she wished she could pick up the phone and call God to talk about it. Instead, she picked up a pen and began to write. "The whole thing came out, the whole conversation, the whole phone call," she says. "When I finished writing, I just thought, 'Johnny Carson would love that. I know he would appreciate that, and I'm going to do that on the show.'"

In 1986, Ellen got her chance to do just that on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Watch as she shares more about her life-changing loss.

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