The sudden loss of 'Glee' star Cory Monteith hit a lot of fans hard this past weekend. Among them was our summer intern and devoted Gleek Andres Gutierrez, who shares his personal experience below and reflects on the unique challenges around grief and substance abuse.
I was having a relaxing Saturday evening when I found out about Cory Monteith’s passing. After a fun day of shopping and hanging out, the last thing I expected to hear was that kind of news. So maybe that’s why when I woke up on Sunday morning I was surprised again when my boyfriend reminded me. The rest of the morning was a blur as I tried to comprehend that someone so important to me, who I would consider a friend even though we had never met, was gone. A numbness and shock overcame me, preventing the truth from sinking in fully.
I didn’t know Cory, but I knew Finn Hudson pretty well. On the TV show "Glee," Finn, played by Cory, was a leader. He was the main character, but he was so much more. He became a teacher to his peers, he supported his step-brother Kurt when he was bullied, he inspired his girlfriend and friends to reach for their dreams, and he helped his friends learn to accept every part of themselves. One of the most touching moments for me was when he tried to help Santana come to terms with her sexual orientation -- his performance of, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” still brings me to tears. As a Gleek, I struggle to imagine what the show will be like without him.
Cory’s passing brought forth other feelings and memories for me as well. A few years ago, my mother, who was struggling with substance abuse and had been in and out of rehab, passed away suddenly. Much like Cory, who was in rehab earlier this year, she tried to seek help for her problem. Their passings are unfortunately paralleled in my mind and in my heart. Although there isn’t the same emotional connection with Cory as there is with my mother, I recognize the similarities in their lives and in their passings. They each had their struggles and made some choices that were not always for the best, but they also tried to use the lessons they learned from those experiences to share something better with the world.
"Glee" is a show for young people that is meant to make everyone feel special and realize how important their voice is and how powerful their presence can be. My mother raised me on the values of respect and equality and taught me to be a force of love and positive energy in the world. When my mom passed it felt like I was only supposed to speak about the positive things from her life, which left me feeling uncomfortable because her substance abuse had been such a major part of my life. Likewise, with the passing of Cory, I know that as a celebrity and as someone who played such an iconic character, his problem may either be forgotten or excused. I realize, though, that these two individuals were not great because of, or even in spite of, their problems; they were great people who happened to have problems. As such, I believe that the best thing that I can do is acknowledge them completely, learn from them and move forward with my life spreading the message that I believe they were hoping to teach me.
What about coping? For me, coping comes in many different forms and it depends on what I need at the moment. Sometimes it means that I listen to music, sometimes, like now, I write and sometimes I sit on the couch and watch "Glee" with my boyfriend. Coping happens differently for everyone at different times and maybe for you it means something else. Maybe this passing brought up different memories for you, like it did for me, and coping might mean revisiting strategies that worked in the past. Whatever works for you, provided that it’s safe both physically and emotionally, do it. And if there is something that I take from all of this, it’s that when I need help or when I see someone who needs help, I will reach out.
Do you have thoughts, feelings or a favorite Finn moment that you’d like to share? Or have you found or made tributes to Cory that you would like to share? Comment below or join our discussion in the ReachOut Forums.
Andres Gutierrez is excited to be starting an internship with ReachOut.com this summer! Andres will be entering his senior year at Stanford University in the fall where he is pursuing a degree in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity with a focus in Education and Counseling. He finds writing to be one of his favorite forms of self-expression and stress-relief and is also hoping to complete a minor in Creative Writing. At Stanford, Andres has worked as a Peer Counselor, a mentor in the LGBT Center and as an Outreach/Communications Coordinator with a partnership focused on raising awareness of mental health and wellness across the spectrum of gender identities and sexual orientations.
Photo by David Tonterias