While speaking with the co-hosts of The Talk on Tuesday, Inaba, 51, described the “hard” decision to eliminate the Dawson’s Creek alum, 42, from Dancing with the Stars on Monday night’s episode. The verdict came just after Van Der Beek announced that his wife, Kimberly, 37, had a miscarriage over the weekend.
“As a human being, what he and his wife Kimberly suffered is heartbreaking and I have so much sadness in my heart for them and my prayers are with them,” Inaba said, beginning to become choked up. “But, you know, this is when it’s really hard is that, as a judge, I have to judge the dance.”
Inaba admitted the decision weighed so heavily on her that she even experienced a physical reaction, becoming nauseous after the taping of the episode.
“I went home and I vomited,” she said.
At the end of the day, however, the judge said she had to separate the contestant’s personal life from their dancing, and she had to uphold professionalism to determine the better performance.
“I know on Dancing with the Stars we show their stories and we get to know them and they become family — their pain is my pain,” Inaba explained. “But at the same time it’s like in the Olympics: If something happens to
somebody before they get on the gymnastics mat, it doesn’t matter what happens in your personal life.”
She added: “I have to judge what’s happening on the dance floor, and in my opinion, I had to choose who I believed was a better dancer and had come further.”
Saved by the judges instead was former Fifth Harmony member Ally Brooke, who will proceed to the finals. Conflicted over the vote amid his family trauma, Brooke tried to offer up her spot to Van Der Beek, which he respectfully denied.
“He was just like, ‘I can’t accept that,’ and ‘It’s very, very kind,’ and he said, ‘Just enjoy it,’” she told reporters after the show. “I talked to him afterward as well and I tried to offer again … and he was just like, ‘No, please, you just enjoy it and you shine and don’t be afraid to shine,’ are the exact words he told me.”
Earlier in the episode, an emotional Van Der Beek revealed the devastating news that his wife had lost their sixth baby on the way.
“My wife Kimberly and I went through every expecting parent’s worst nightmare. We lost the baby,” he said. “The little soul that we had expected to welcome into our family took a shortcut to whatever lies beyond.”
“You never know why these things happen, that’s what I’ve been telling my kids,” he continued. “All you know is that it brings you closer together, it breaks you open, it opens your heart, it deepens your appreciation. It makes you more human.”
Although Van Der Beek admitted that he didn’t think he’d be dancing on Monday evening, he chose to compete for Kimberly, who pushed him to continue.
Continuing to perform served as a valuable outlet for the actor, according to his dancing-pro partner Emma Slater, who told PEOPLE that he “needed the show.”
“He said to me, ‘I need the show. I’m grateful to have an outlet and to have a form of physical expression and keep that engine to keep me going. I need to feel normal and not fall into the pit,'” Slater, 30, recalled.
She added: “[Kimberly] was not having it, him staying at home,” Slater said. “She was making sure [he came here], pushing him out the door! He’s been torn; she’s the person who said ‘I need you go to there and dance and show everyone how great you are and shine.’ That’s what he did tonight.”
Next week, the four remaining celebrities — Brooke, Lauren Alaina, Kel Mitchell, and Hannah Brown — will compete with their pro partners during the live finale.
The Dancing with the Stars season 28 finale airs Monday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.