I was the same age as Rachel Berry when I lost a friend and classmate for the first time. Within a year, I had said goodbye to a second. When I learned of Cory Monteith's death, I not only mourned the loss of him as a performer and a person, but I also mourned the loss of Finn Hudson. And though it seems silly to grieve for a fictional character, I didn't know Monteith, but I did know Finn. And I know the pain of losing a friend when they had barely begun their life.
When Glee returns this fall, Finn's death shouldn't be resolved in one episode or even one season. Death is not a story line or a plot point, to be dealt with and forgotten. But it is something many teens will experience in their lifetime and it's important Glee handle the issue with care. (Grief is alienating enough without the added pressure of a TV show telling you you're doing it wrong.)
I had been growing apart from my friend for a while, but when I learned of his death that didn't matter. Suddenly, I was 13 again, when we shared our first kiss in the park. I was 16 — when he used to stay on the phone with me all night, talking me down from one of my panic attacks. I was 18 — the last time I saw him — when I was a total bitch and completely disinterested in catching up.
When he died, nothing really changed, but it felt like everything did — and not in a YA coming-of-age way, where before I was a child, but now I was an adult. Like Clueless' Cher Horowitz, I always had the notion that there was no such thing as a "no," only a jumping off point to start negotiations. But with his death, I was confronted with the horrific realization that sometimes bad things just happen. No explanation, no reason. I was overwhelmed by actions I could never take back, apologies I could never give, and anger. So much anger at him, the world and myself. I felt selfish for grieving, as though I hadn't earned the right to be so affected. This situation only worsened after my second classmate — who I wasn't anywhere near as close to — passed, and my boyfriend at the time chided me for being "dramatic" when I dissolved into tears.
Everyone mourns in different ways and not everyone will understand. Grief can bring out the worst in people, but it can also bring people together. It's important Glee remember when dealing with Finn's death that it will not only have a profound effect on Rachel and those closest to him, but also on the new generation of New Directions and even those who barely knew or seemingly disliked him.
Glee has already dealt with milestones many teenagers undergo — virginity, coming out, graduation — all of which affected different characters in different ways. At times, the series has risen to the occasion for these rites of passage, but lately — more often than not — it faltered (one only has to remember last season's school shooting episode to understand what I mean). This is not the time for zeitgeist-y, clichéd pop songs or heavy-handed monologues. This is an opportunity for a show that loves to get on its soapbox to do some real good and provide comfort to those in need. Because in life, there is no dramatic build up, poetic moral lesson or cathartic big band number.
And more often than not, there's more power in the understated.