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‘I Dream of Jeannie’ star Barbara Eden reflects on son’s overdose death 20 years later

The 90-year-old actor remembered her son Matthew as "a beautiful human being."
Barbara Eden, Matthew Ansara
Actress Barbara Eden and son Matthew Ansara attend the "Hollywood Walk of Fame Ceremony Honoring Barbara Eden with a Star" on November 17, 1988 in Hollywood, Calif.Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Barbara Eden is reflecting on the tragic loss of her son, 20 years after his death at 35 from an accidental heroin overdose.

The 90-year-old "I Dream of Jeannie" star spoke to People about her son Matthew's struggles with addiction and what she learned after losing him in 2001.

Barbara Eden is reflecting on the loss of her son, Matthew Ansara, shown here with her in 1988. Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

“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. I was scared to death,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do.”

“He was too young to know he needed rehab or help,” she continued. “It’s a wonder that he lived to be 35.”

Matthew was Eden's son with her first husband, Michael Ansara, whom she was married to from 1958 to 1974. She has been married to her third husband, real estate developer Jon Eicholtz, 83, for the last 30 years.

Barbara Eden tried for seven years to get pregnant before having her son, Matthew.NBC

Her son spent 14 years going to rehab on and off until his death.

“When Matthew was clean and sober, he was such a beautiful human being, inside and out,” Eden said. “Drugs are inexplicable. It’s so frustrating.”

"I don’t think there’s anything worse than to lose your child,” she added. “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.”

Eden has shared lessons from his loss with other families experiencing addiction issues.

"I began to speak with parents who were going through the same thing,” she said. “I think parents should know that it’s not a bad thing to be strict with your child. If you know what’s going on, you have a chance to help. Ultimately it’s up to them, but there’s hope.”