What to Know About Kristin Cavallari's Late Brother Michael Cavallari

Kristin Cavallari’s younger brother Michael was found dead in November 2015 two weeks after he went missing

<p>Courtesy Grand County, Utah, Sheriff

Courtesy Grand County, Utah, Sheriff's Office ; Jason Davis/Getty

Michael Cavallari in a photo released after he went missing; Kristen Cavallari arrives at the Melodies For Minds Fundraising event on February 06, 2024 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Kristin Cavallari lost her brother, Michael Cavallari, when he was just 30 years old.

The Laguna Beach alum’s brother was found dead on Dec. 10, 2015, nearly two weeks after he was reported missing. In the years since, Kristin has reflected on her relationship with Michael, who struggled with substance abuse issues, and often commemorates him on the anniversaries of his death.

“Home from a busy morning and thinking of my brother,” she wrote on Instagram three years after he died. “Today is the 3 year anniversary of his passing and I think this year is one of the hardest- as it’s real now. He’s not coming back and the shock is finally gone. Today and every single day, Mikey, we miss you.”

Kristin and Michael were born to Judith Eifrig and Dennis Cavallari in January 1987 and June 1985, respectively. Though she was close to her brother growing up, Kristin said on a February 2018 episode of Hollywood Medium with Tyler Henry that she knew that her brother struggled with mental illness.

“Mike dealt with, we think, bipolar disorder,” she said on the show. “He would go into these manias and think that everything's great, everything's fine and then he would just crash and would be depressed.”

Eight years after his death, Kristin is still keeping her younger brother's memory alive. From their close relationship growing up to how she continues to honor him, here’s everything to know about Kristin Cavallari’s brother Michael.

Michael and Kristin were separated when their parents divorced

<p>Kristin Cavallari Instagram</p> Kristin Cavallari and her brother Michael Cavallari in a throwback photo on Instagram.

Kristin Cavallari Instagram

Kristin Cavallari and her brother Michael Cavallari in a throwback photo on Instagram.

After Michael and Kristin’s parents divorced when they were 10 and 8, respectively, their dad moved to Laguna Beach, California, while their mom stayed in Colorado, where the siblings spent their childhood. Michael soon followed Dennis to Laguna Beach while a teenage Kristin moved to Chicago with her recently remarried mom, per MTV’s 2005 companion book Laguna Beach: Life Inside the Bubble.

However, Kristin had trouble adapting to life in Chicago, and after she got caught sneaking out of the house when she was in ninth grade, her mother sent her to live with her dad and brother in Laguna Beach — where she joined the eponymous reality TV show.

Michael even appeared in an episode of Laguna Beach in season 1 when Kristin asked him if she could ask her dad for a new car, to which he replied, “Keep dreaming.”

Michael and Kristin were close growing up

During a March 2020 episode of season 3 of Very Cavallari, Kristin shared that she and Michael had a tight bond as they grew up together in Colorado and Laguna Beach.

"Mike and I were always really close growing up. I have great memories of us as kids," she said. "He had a very, very sweet soul. He was really goofy and funny, kind of the life of the party in high school. Everyone really loved him. I miss him."

Michael struggled with mental illness and substance abuse before his death

<p>Kristin Cavallari Instagram</p> Kristin Cavallari and her brother Michael Cavallari in a throwback black-and-white photo on Instagram.

Kristin Cavallari Instagram

Kristin Cavallari and her brother Michael Cavallari in a throwback black-and-white photo on Instagram.

Prior to his death, Michael was "dealing with some demons," as Kristin explained during her appearance on Hollywood Medium.

The reality star said her family speculated that he had bipolar disorder, explaining that he was in a “constant up and down, up and down. And then you throw drugs and alcohol into the mix and it would just enhance everything.”

Following his disappearance, Kristin’s friend Patrick Kuehn told PEOPLE that Michael suffered from paranoia, which may have contributed to his abandoning his car before he went missing.

There was some sort of paranoia,” Kuehn said. “I’m guessing from what happened he thought someone was chasing him.”

Michael also had numerous confrontations with the law, having been arrested for a DUI in November 2014. He was sentenced to three years of probation, $390 in fines, one day in jail, three months of a first-offender alcohol program and victim impact counseling. In the days before he went missing, he was arrested again after an Orange County woman alleged he was standing outside her apartment with a shotgun following an argument. He posted bail for violating his parole on Nov. 23, 2015.

A friend told PEOPLE that they speculated that’s what Michael could have been running from when he started his drive four days later.

“He was probably sick of getting arrested and thought, ‘I gotta get out of here,’ ” they said, adding that they believed he was headed to Chicago to be with his mom and sister.

His car was found abandoned on a Utah highway in November 2015

Michael was last seen on Nov. 27, 2015, when cameras captured him entering a gas station store in Utah. That same day, authorities located his 2014 Honda Civic 75 miles away in Grand County, Utah. However, Michael was not in the vehicle and was nowhere nearby.

While the police searched for Michael, Kristin posted a throwback photo of the two as children on Instagram, thanking her fans for their support in the caption.

“​​I appreciate all the concern, thoughts, and prayers that have been extended to me and my family,” she wrote. “We remain hopeful and I will share any news that we receive. I have such gratitude for all those that have shared their support.”

Years later, Kristin reflected on her brother's death in a March 2024 episode of her Let's Be Honest podcast, sharing more details of what happened when Michael crashed his car.

“So my brother had a lot of issues with drugs and alcohol and he was coming off of a bender and he was driving from southern California to Chicago," she said. "This was the week of Thanksgiving in 2015. And he hadn't slept and he was driving through Utah, pulled over, crashed his car and because he was so out of it, he — the airbag went off, he got out of his car, left the car running, left his cell phone in the car."

She added that they speculated he then got out and walked "really far" and got lost, unable to find his way back.

His body was found nearly two weeks after he disappeared

Days after Kristin shared her post thanking fans, her brother’s body was found in the Salt Wash area, three miles from where he abandoned his car.

Grand County Sheriff Steve White told PEOPLE that based on his wanderings, as determined by ground and air search teams, “you can tell he was kind of disoriented.” White said there were no signs of suicide or foul play.

“We want to thank everyone for their love, support and prayers during this very difficult time. We have just been informed by the authorities my brother’s body has been found,” Kristin said in a statement to PEOPLE at the time. “This is a very painful time and we are still processing it all. We kindly ask everyone please respect our privacy during our time of grieving.”

The following February, an autopsy showed that Kristin’s brother had died from hypothermia after being exposed to cold temperatures, which the sheriff had previously speculated.

Kristin often honors her brother

<p>Kristin Cavallari Instagram</p> Kristin Cavallari and her brother Michael Cavallari in a throwback photo.

Kristin Cavallari Instagram

Kristin Cavallari and her brother Michael Cavallari in a throwback photo.

On the second anniversary of Michael’s death, Kristin wrote a touching tribute on Instagram with a black-and-white photo of the two of them as toddlers.

"We lost him completely unexpectedly and it’s been a rough road for me and my family. I’ve had some incredible signs from him though- which give me a lot of peace- including one today 🕯. We love and miss you everyday Mikey," she wrote in the caption.

Nearly five years after his death, Kristin honored him again during an episode of season 3 of Very Cavallari. During a trip to Italy, she left a gold coin and a photo of him at the altars of the church where her great-grandparents were married.

"I decided to go back to the church to honor my brother because this is an experience that I really wish I was able to share with him," she said. "If he can't be with me in the flesh, I just think it's a nice thing to do to honor him in spirit."

Kristin has opened up about dealing with grief after his death 

<p>Tammie Arroyo/Variety/Getty</p> Kristin Cavallari at the 2023 People's Choice Country Awards on September 28, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Tammie Arroyo/Variety/Getty

Kristin Cavallari at the 2023 People's Choice Country Awards on September 28, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee.

In the March 2024 episode of Let’s Be Honest, Kristin opened up about how she was dealing with her grief eight years after Michael died.

Grief is a wild thing and I actually feel like it is like a drug,” she said. “It’s almost like you’re in a bit of a haze and it’s a roller coaster, it comes in waves, you finally think you’re okay and it’s like BAM! It hits you again.”

She added that coping with her own grief took time and letting herself feel all the emotions associated with it. Now, she said, seeing "signs" from Michael — specifically gold coins — gives her and her parents comfort.

“I find so much peace in that because it just makes me feel like he's okay, I know that I'll see him again and that makes me really happy and it just gives me a lot of peace," she said on her podcast.

She continued, "I think my brother dying and me, like, really diving into the spirituality side of things has made me really comfortable with death and really comfortable with life and really comfortable with hard times because I just really think that we will all see each other again when we die. I really do.”

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