the nature of grief

This was meant to be little more than a bullet-point on today's Friday5, but I found I had so many thoughts about it that it was worth a post on its own. So in lieu of today's Friday5, I want to take this opportunity to be a bit serious and weepy about a show that's usually quite silly, on a blog that's usually lighthearted.

This both is and isn't a post about Glee and Cory Monteith and the tribute the former paid to the latter this week. It is about that because of obvious reasons, but it's not totally about that because I don't consider myself to be a huge fan of the show and it really doesn't mean much to me in the grand scheme of things so it's not like you have to be a fan to read this and hopefully relate.

For a little context, I remember watching the pilot for Glee online before it aired on TV. I thought it was good. It was fresh and original and yes, there's a place in my fangirly heart where musicals go to soar. Seeing Spring Awakening live on stage (though without Lea Michelle I should add, since we are talking a bit about Glee here) was one of the most stirring experiences I've ever had as a consumer of art. I just love the way music adds layers of emotion to story. It hits me in the gut every time. But I digress... I've watched Glee ever since, even though my interest in it has waned over the years. I don't even know or like much of the music that's featured on that show, but it's still easy to enjoy if you don't take it too seriously. It's popcorn entertainment. Something you can easily watch while you're also trying to fold laundry or manage any other task. So that's me and Glee. I watch, but I could just as easily not. It's not must-see-TV for me.

When I first heard of Cory's death, I was shocked, as I think many people were. He was so young. Sure he looked even younger than he was, but still, he was young. And I liked his character on Glee. He was definitely one of my favourites. There were moments when he felt like the only real person on that show, surrounded by caricatures who were constantly making bad decisions. Yes, he made bad decisions too, but they felt natural and real. And he was so very sweet. Plus, Cory was Canadian, something I've always noted with actors, being Canadian myself. He was very much so the boy next door.

Everything I knew about him from watching him on Glee seemed so distant from the news that he struggled with addiction. It seemed impossible. And then, even though I really had no specific/heavy attachment to him, the news broke that he'd died and I felt kinda heartbroken. Moreso than I would have thought, given my casual feelings about Glee. It was just so tragic. And there was just something about Cory. It didn't seem fair that someone who was working hard to better his life, both for himself and his loved ones--someone who had been to rehab and seemed to really be trying to turn things around--would have to die because of a bad choice he made one night. It wasn't an accident. Not really. Not in the car accident kinda way. But I guess in the way that I'm sure he was just trying to relax and have a fun night. He didn't know he was going to die. He should have realized. It makes me mad that he didn't. It was a sickness, but not in the way where you can tell someone's time is coming. If only he hadn't... yeah, it's easy to say that, but of course, he was struggling. And he lost. But I still find myself thinking about the what ifs and if onlys... because it feels like this shouldn't have happened. And that's what gets me. I think that's what gets a lot of people when someone young dies tragically. It hurts us, whether we know the person or not, because there's such a strong feeling of injustice that goes along with it. It shouldn't have happened. It didn't have to happen. And whether or not you actually know someone doesn't change the fact that a death such as this one makes you realize how unfair the world is. And that can be haunting.

When Cory died I didn't write about it here on the blog. I was taking a bit of a summer break from blogging and though it was big news, I just didn't know what to say about it. I was still sorting out my own grief I guess, which sounds silly because a) I didn't know him and b) again with the whole not a diehard Glee fan thing. But deaths of pop culture icons mean something to us because we feel like we do know them. And now that we've seen the show's tribute to their quarterback, I feel it's time to write about it. I didn't think I'd cry watching the show because I'm historically not a big crier. That's changed a bit since my daughter was born (hormones maybe or perhaps just the emotions of caring about someone else so ridiculously much more than you care about yourself), but in general, I don't cry much at fiction. I'm usually more thoughtful about it. I think on it and come close to crying, but don't weep. Glee's tribute episode had me crying at times. Finn's mother had me balling. I don't know if that's a mother thing or not. But I can tell you that the very thought of losing a child--of losing my child--is the worst kind of torture I can imagine. It makes me feel like I can't breathe. Like I have no control over anything and in the moment I consider it, I hate the world for even having the potential to take her from me. The place where a parent loses a child is a very, very dark place. Every news story I read about a parent's tragic loss makes me want to throw up and then hug my daughter in a way that would somehow shield her from the world forever. So yeah, there was that.

But the part I find myself musing on the most is the fact that it still feels unreal. While watching the episode, I kept finding myself convinced that it was a plot device, a ratings stunt, a "character building moment" for everyone else. That Finn was dead, but Cory wasn't. But at the same time, I really wasn't convinced because shows like Glee don't kill off characters like Finn. Finn was an endgame character. You could put him through a lot, but you couldn't kill him. Not unless you absolutely had to... which of course, they did. So it was this weird back and forth where it felt like dreamed-up fiction, but then I'd see the extreme grief on the faces of his castmates--the people who loved him terribly and miss him fiercely--and it would hit me. Yeah, he's gone. He's actually gone. And I'd look at his picture on the screen and try to see some sign that he knew this was coming. Because even though it's basically impossible, I want people to know if their time is short so they can live life to the fullest. But of course he didn't know. He didn't want to die. He didn't want to leave his loved ones behind. My heart breaks for Lea. And his family. It's not that I can't imagine, it's that I don't want to. My heart also breaks for the rest of us, because this whole thing is so tragic and sad and it really highlights all the things that make life both precious and terrifying.

Goodbye Cory. You are missed.

Photo credit: FOX