People die every day. It’s inevitable, and it can’t be avoided. A lot of those people have made mistakes in their past. Some of them have learned from their mistakes and moved on, and some continue to do the same things over and over. Most of the aforementioned ones try to use their experiences as life lessons to help others. Celebrities are no exception to the first rule, and they are certainly not exceptions to either of the latter rules. They become the role models of today’s society, either negatively or positively, and sometimes even a mix of both. They have the potential to be heroes, having left their marks on those who knew them, those who admired them, and those who wanted to know him. So how do you deal with a celebrity death?
A recent death of one of my own personal heroes has devastated hundreds of thousands of people. On July 13th, 2013, Cory Monteith, the thirty-one year old star of Glee, passed away after overdosing on heroin and having a large amount of alcohol in his system. He was a victim of his own demons, a battle that started during his young teenage years. A battle that he fought for several years to defeat. He did, for a time. Earlier this year, he entered rehab willingly, but unfortunately, did not win the war he had been fighting so hard against.
It was one of those things that you just never get over. I dislike showing emotion in public, which is where I was when I found out the news. Nothing really got to me until I got home about an hour later after waiting for my mom to come pick me up from work. Once I was in the comfort of my own home, the tears had a steady flow for about six hours. And it continued for two days. Dumb, right? At first, I was a little embarrassed, I admit. But then I put everything into perspective.
Let’s go back to 2009. It was my junior year of high school, and I wasn’t feeling too good about myself. I hadn’t since I started high school, and even went back to middle school. I always thought of myself as the outcast. My group of friends was not large by any means, something I thought was necessary for high school. I’d had one boyfriend in high school, and that relationship lasted one complete week and ended right before Valentine’s Day. I had yet to hit my pretty stage, I was a little chubby, and then there was the fact that I was the strangest person I’d ever met, along with the few people I chose to associate with. At that time, the popular shows were Hannah Montana, Wizards of Waverly Place, Gossip Girl, and so many other shows involving the perfect, popular, successful people. And then there came the High School Musical trilogy, which showcased other things I didn’t have – a rich family, performing talent, and the ability to successfully put together a chemistry assignment.
When you’re a teenage girl in today’s society, those aren’t easy standards to live by. But then the pilot for a television show about misfits became a reality, and while most of the characters still possessed the qualities that I did not have, I could still relate to most of the characters, which just grabbed my attention quite easily. And whenever I start to like something, I do all the research I possibly can to get as much information as I can about the people making it possible for me (I told you I was weird).
My research allowed me to discover a small group of very caring, very kind, very giving people. This small group cared more about today’s society than any other group of people I had ever seen. And, being a teenage girl, my attention was drawn to the cutest guy of them all. And that was when I started to become attached to an actor.
As the years went by, things began to change. There were more cast members, more news, more events. At one of these events, Cory revealed that he’d had a rough past with drugs and alcohol, and had even told people that he was lucky to even be alive, his addictions had been so extreme. And to find a celebrity that would be honest enough to admit something that nobody had to even know about was almost a magical experience. Finding that in somebody as real to you is rare, and that’s not even in Hollywood. My respect for this actor had practically skyrocketed.
About a year and a half ago, he began dating one of his costars, Lea Michele, who played his character’s main love interest. This relationship didn’t sit well with about half of the show’s fandom, who insisted that Lea was in a semi-closeted lesbian relationship with another costar. I witnessed almost daily tweets sent to him about how he wasn’t right for his girlfriend. About how he was “too fat”. Some even told him that he should be dead. And on July 13th, those became a reality.
The star began dropping the weight slowly, but very noticeably sometime last summer. It was claimed that he lost it for a movie role, but now that I think back on it, I actually wonder sometimes if it was due to the drug use, which later was revealed to be heroin. And at the height of his career and life, he lost it all.
I had never been super close to somebody who had died. Two boys from my high school died within two months of each other, and that affected me, but I never knew them as close friends. One I had never even met. So I never thought that a celebrity death could affect me. Then again, there were members of bands that passed away, and those affected me, but I never cried about them. So why did Cory’s death affect me the way it did?
I believe it had something to do with how I got through high school with the show. How I had researched as much as I could about the people involved with the show down to where they had attended high school at. And Cory Monteith was one of the most special ones to me. The cast members had all made sure they taught us how to love ourselves, how to care for others, but Cory – the one who had the most reason to not like himself and to not like others and to give up hope completely – was the most effective.
On August 11, 2013, we all watched his girlfriend become a true hero with him. Lea Michele got onstage to accept her award and dedicated it to Cory, and then assured us that we would all get through this together with some time, and also assured us just how lucky we were to witness his life. And I still cry when I see the posts on Tumblr about it, or when my friends bring it up. But that’s because it’s a death. And death is sad.
So why was I so upset and angry about the loss of a celebrity? The gifts he gave me through Glee and just being himself are things I’ll always cherish. People with such a wonderful soul are rare to come across, and it’s even rarer that you’ll find somebody like them. Cory touched my heart, he touched my soul, and he touched my life. He helped me learn how to accept myself, accept others, and how to love myself. And that’s my answer to my own question.
I know I’ve said a lot regarding this, and the majority of this isn’t talking about his death. But I don’t like to remember people by the way they died. I like to remember people by the way they lived, regardless of whether or not it’s negative. Remembering someone by how they died is a label forever.
For those of you who don’t know how to deal with the death of a celebrity that you cared about, or any celebrity in general, just remember it’s okay to grieve over somebody you’ve never met. It’s okay to be upset, or angry, or not have anything to say at all. Compassion. That’s what you’re showing when you mourn the loss of somebody, and compassion is a wonderful thing to possess. And how do you deal with celebrity death? Allow yourself to deal with it the same way you would with a person you know. Give yourself time, and with time, you’ll heal.