When Richie Sambora's father, Adam, was dying of lung cancer in New York last month, Denise Richards didn't think twice about crossing the country to lend her support. Though the couple had quietly broken up in March, "Denise wanted to be there for Richie as a friend," says a source. When Richards' rep confirmed the split on May 15, those close to the pair said they simply decided their families needed to be their priority right now. "Richie is concentrating on [his daughter] Ava, 9, and [supporting] his mom," says someone close to the Bon Jovi guitarist, 47, whose father died April 21. Another friend says Richards, 36, "is going through a lot dealing with her mom," Joni, 53, who also has cancer.

In fact, a big part of the couple's relationship was helping each other through difficult times. When they began dating, Richards was in the middle of a nasty divorce from Charlie Sheen, and Sambora had recently split from his wife of nearly 12 years, Heather Locklear. One friend cites "a lot of things" as factors in the breakup, including the strain of their parents' illnesses: "The last year had been really hard. It just got to the point where it seemed better to move on for now."

  • Contributors:
  • Maureen Harrington/Los Angeles,
  • Julie Jordan/Los Angeles.