Even celebs need space to grieve – we must respect that
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WHeN I was a teenager, I loved watching Friends and my favourite Friend by far was Chandler Bing, the neurotic yet lovable character brought to life by Matthew Perry.
As I grew up, left home and went to university, the sitcom remained a staple in my life, as it was for many.
So, the death of Perry just over a week ago came as a shock to me and millions of others who felt they knew him.
Tragically, the 54-year-old was found dead in his hot tub after a decades-long battle with drug and alcohol addiction.
The exact cause of death has yet to be given — the Los Angeles Police Department has said its investigation is ‘ongoing’ — but the actor is reported to have been ‘in a good place’ in his final weeks.
At times like this it’s natural to look to others to be lightning rods for our sadness or grief and, inevitably, people waited for the remaining cast members in Friends to pay a fitting tribute that would encapsulate all our feelings.
This took longer than fans expected. And, as time passed without a comment or social media post from Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow and David Schwimmer, I noticed more and more online comments criticising them for not speaking out.
I felt the opposite. I was pleased that, instead of saying something anodyne or platitudinous just because the public demanded it, they kept their silence.
For a decade — a lifetime in Hollywood — the six stars of Friends worked together on ten seasons of the show that propelled them from unknowns to household names worldwide.
In a groundbreaking move for their industry, they famously banded together to negotiate equal pay — eventually totalling a million dollars each per episode.
BuTtheirs wasn’t just a professional friendship. Key to the show’s success was its original pitch to capture that stage of life when, as a young person starting to navigate adulthood, ‘your friends are your family’.
And off- screen, it seemed the cast found a similar sense of comfort in each other.
Looking back on the global phenomenon the sitcom became, Lisa Kudrow said: ‘Fame doesn’t cure whatever is going on inside of you, however you feel about yourself. The lucky thing was that the six of us had each other to go through it.’
In the days after Perry’s death, it appears Kudrow, Aniston, Cox, LeBlanc and Schwimmer were so upset by the news, so overwhelmed, so incapacitated by their grief, that they struggled to articulate how they felt.
It reminded me of the criticism the Royal Family received for not behaving in the way the public wanted after the death of Princess Diana.
Years later, hearing from
William and Harry about what it was really like for them and the utterly shattering grief they experienced, while so many were moaning because they hadn’t seen any members of the Royal Family, made me think hard. No, the Royals weren’t much in evidence in the immediate aftermath, but perhaps that was because they were at home trying to console two bereaved young boys.
In the midst of grief, the public aren’t foremost in the minds of public figures who are hurting. Nor should they be. Let those who really knew and loved Perry grieve in their own way.
The Friends cast did, eventually, put out a shared statement, in which they said: ‘We were more than just cast mates. We are a family. There is so much to say, but right now we’re going to take a moment to grieve and process this unfathomable loss.’
Later, they gathered to bid a final farewell to Perry at his funeral, held in Los Angeles on Friday. Aniston, Cox, Kudrow and Schwimmer arrived together, and were later seen outside the cemetery in sombre conversation with LeBlanc.
As LeBlanc said: ‘There’s only five people in the world who know exactly what being on Friends was like, other than me.’ Now, that number is four.
As Perry’s co - workers, collaborators and — as they have said — true friends, their grief is personal and all their own. They don’t owe us anything.