Carol Burnett still thinks of her daughter Carrie every day 21 years after her death: ‘She was a force’

Carol Burnett is one of the most beloved comedy stars of all time, and this month she will celebrate her 90th birthday.

Ahead of the major milestone, Burnett has been opening up about her incredible life and career — but in one recent interview, she opened up about a devastating loss that’s still always on her mind over 20 years later.

Ga Fullner /

Carol Burnett’s daughter Carrie

The iconic star had three daughters with her former husband, producer Joe Hamilton. The oldest was Carrie Hamilton, born in 1963.

Carrie followed in her famous mom’s footsteps as an actress. She had a major role on the TV series Fame, and played Maureen in the first national tour of the musical Rent. She also appeared in many TV shows, including The X-FilesMurder, She Wrote and thirtysomething.

But things weren’t always easy between the mother and daughter. Carrie struggled with drug addiction as a teenager, causing heartbreak for Burnett.

“My daughter Carrie got into drugs. In that situation, don’t be their best friend,” Burnett told AARP in 2020. “When we got her into a third rehab, oh, she hated my guts! You have to love them enough to let them hate you.”

Bart Sherkow /

“I thought … was there something I should have seen, something I should have known, something I would have spotted? You know, what did I miss? Was I not strong enough?” she told ABC News in 2002.

But Burnett told AARP that her daughter got sober by the time she was 18, and the two became closer than ever and “had a good 20 years” where they were “joined at the hip.”

Carrie’s career took off and her relationship with her mom was never better… until a personal tragedy struck: In 2001, Carrie was diagnosed with lung cancer that later spread to her brain.

NEW YORK, NY – CIRCA 1983: Carol Burnett with daughter Carrie Hamilton circa 1983 in New York City. (Photo by PL Gould/IMAGES/Getty Images)

Carrie’s cancer battle

But just like her mom, Carrie had a strong sense of humor which she used to get through the battle: “Carrie had a spirit about her, all through her treatments,” Burnett told ABC News.

Burnett was also moved by her daughter’s mantra: “In the hospital she said, ‘Every day I wake up and decide, today I’m going to love my life.’ And that was her mantra.”

Carrie died in 2002, at the age of 38. Burnett was devastated by the untimely death of her beloved daughter, but ultimately found the strength to keep going.

“You don’t get over it, but you cope,” she told People in 2018. “What else can you do? When Carrie died, I didn’t want to get out of bed for a while, but I had a play to finish that we started that Hal Prince was going to direct. I owed it to Carrie, and I owed it to Hal.”

‘Still with me’ 21 years later

In a new interview ahead of Burnett’s 90th birthday, she opened up about her daughter’s death over 20 years later, and says she still thinks about Carrie every day.

“There’s not a day or almost a moment goes by that she’s not with me,” Burnett told People Magazine this month. “We worked together, we laughed together, we cried together. She was a force.”

American comedian and actress Carol Burnett and her daughter, American actress Carrie Hamilton (1963-2002), event unspecified, in New York City, New York, 1996. (Photo by Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

She says her daughter’s strong spirit during her sickness still serves as an inspiration to her.

“When she got sick, I remember she was in the hospital and I would go to see her every day,” Burnett recalled. “One day, a nurse at the hospital said, ‘Carrie cheers us up.’ I asked Carrie why she was always cheerful, and her reply was, ‘Everyday I wake up and decide.’ That’s the key word, decide.”

“I say that to myself every morning.”

Carol Burnett at 90

Burnett turns 90 on April 26. Despite the heartbreaking loss she faced 21 years ago, she’s still going strong and has a positive attitude.

Joe Seer /

She has recently been the recipient of many lifetime achievement honors, including the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor and the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award. In 2019, the Golden Globes named their television lifetime achievement award after her, the “Carol Burnett Award,” and she was the first recipient. Last year, she returned to TV in a memorable guest role on Better Call Saul.

“I can’t wrap my head around it,” the legendary comedian told People about turning 90. “I still feel like I’m about 11, but I’m amazed. It sure went fast. But I’m glad because I’ve got all my parts — got my hips, I got my knees and I’ve got my brain, so I’m happy about that.”

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