By Nicole Eggenberger
Lea Michele is trying to be strong following the July 13 death of “Glee” costar and off-screen boyfriend Cory Monteith.
“It’s certainly been a pretty rough year,” Michele admitted to host Ellen DeGeneres. “But I’ve been surrounded by such great people, such great family.”
Monteith died at the age of 31 after overdosing on heroin and alcohol. In order to escape the spotlight and grieve in private, Michele’s “Glee” costar Kate Hudson offered to let her hide out at her home.
"She was so wonderful to basically give me her home to myself and my family," Michele said. "It was so helpful to just, basically, have a safe place to process, and just have a minute to just breathe before getting back to my house with just has a lot of memories and stuff. So being some place else to just have a moment was really nice."
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Michele said it was difficult coping with the loss of her love of more than a year in public. "It's just really hard," she explained. "There's so many different emotions and to kind of have people watching every step of the way. But to have that time at [Hudson's] home to just really be in private with this for a moment - before getting back to work and before going home - I'm just so thankful to her."
But Michele, whose debut solo album “Louder” hits stores in February — did get back to work one month after Monteith’s death to film season five of “Glee.”
“[“Glee” co-creator] Ryan Murphy, who is so amazing, he came to Kate’s house and he said, ‘What do you want to do? Whatever you want to do, we’ll do.’ I said, ‘I have to go back to work. We have to … they’re my family.”
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The actress did face some scrutiny from fans for returning to work too soon, but said that was the best way for her to cope. "What people also don't understand is that going to work is no harder than being at home and being in the house and opening up a closet and seeing a pair of shoes," Michele explained.
"There's this grief [that] goes with you everyday whatever you're doing. When there's great moments, hard moments. So I'd rather, for me, be at work with the people who I love that are going through [it.] It obviously has it's own triggers, but at the end of the day I feel so safe there. And like I said, they're my family."
Michele and DeGeneres also reminisced about Monteith’s famous December 2012 interview on “Ellen,” where he confirmed he and Michele were dating.
"It's one of my favorite memories," Michele told DeGeneres. "I remember when he came home that night, he kind of puffed out his chest and he was like, 'I talked about you on 'Ellen' today.' I was so happy. He's such a private person, and I literally lived every day of my life feeling like the luckiest girl in the whole world. I just thought he was the greatest man and so at that moment, that memory, it means so much to me."