Cory Monteith: Lessons From Tragedy

One year ago today the world learned of the tragic death of Glee star Cory Monteith from a drug overdose. At 31 years old Monteith was a beacon of hope for the underdog playing the character Finn Hudson on the Fox musical.

CoryMonteith00My opinion of Glee has certainly faltered in this latest season but in the first three especially, real life lessons were taught through a menagerie of top 40 pop songs.

While it wasn’t just Monteith learning and growing through each season, he certainly stood out at the tent pole of the cast. He wasn’t perfect. Yeah, he was the star quarterback but he didn’t come with a six-pack and god-complex. If anything Finn Hudson was a great lesson in character development. He wasn’t the brightest bulb in the pack but he was a loveable goof that I miss seeing each week on the show.

Try as we might though, no one can be perfect. Monteith certainly wasn’t and that’s what made him human. Monteith had a troubled adolescence involving substance abuse from age 12; he left school at age 16. After an intervention by family and friends, he entered drug rehabilitation at age 19. In a 2011 interview with Parade magazine, he discussed his history of substance abuse as a teen, and in March 2013, he again sought treatment for addiction

In the light of his death, the trolls of the internet blasted Monteith as a loser and a junkie but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. He as a kind-hearted person who just happened to not be perfect. None of us are.

There’s a great moment in the pilot episode of the series where Finn is confronted by his jock friends after he’s left the Glee club but hasn’t fully regained their respect. They have locked Artie (Kevin McHale) in a portable toilet and are planning on flipping it. Finn releases Artie and is chastised by Puck (Mark Salling):

PUCK: “What the hell dude, I can’t believe your helping out this loser”

FINN: “Don’t you get it man? We’re all losers. Everyone in this school, no, everyone in this town.  Out of all the kids that graduate, maybe half will go to college, and then two will leave the state to do it. I’m not afraid of being called a loser because I can accept that’s what I am. But I am a freak for turning my back on something that actually made me happy for the first time in my sorry life.”

I think that, if anything, is an important lesson in life for everyone. No one is perfect. We all have our demons regardless of how well we hide them. I know for a fact that I am far from perfect. Rather than hiding from that truth I embrace it and use it every day to help make me stronger. Deep down we’re all losers. Love it. Embrace it. Ignore anyone that tells you otherwise.

Out of the hundreds of songs performed on the show, one stands out as my absolute favorite. A true loser anthem. Listen, enjoy, read on.

Monteith was trying his best to clean himself up but addiction is a powerful thing and as a celebrity I’m sure he was bombarded by pressure to be perfect at every turn. I’m sure along with that came temptation.

Every generation has lost an entertainer they cared about to drug and alcohol abuse. Judy Garland, Chris Farley, Marilyn Monroe,  Whitney Huston, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman to name a few. And with each comes an opportunity for parents to discuss drug and alcohol abuse with their kids.

Conversations about drugs and alcohol should start early and happen often. It may be a year later but with Glee still on the air and the constant reminder of the loss of Monteith and his character Finn still on viewers’ minds the opportunity for conversation is available.

As I’ve mentioned to hundreds of parents across the country in regards to internet safety and cyberbullying, conversation is key in developing and open dialogue with kids. Letting them know that an issue is on your radar is sometimes enough to get into their heads as they go about their day.

Set your expectations early when it comes to certain substances.  Encourage and educate your younger kids on the power of making healthy decisions.  Teach them how to make these choices and understanding what unhealthy and healthy decisions look like during their day. Talk to them about how they feel after getting a good night’s sleep or eating a healthy meal. Conversely, talk to them about how they feel when making poor choices as well.

Let your child made decisions for themselves. Maybe as an adult we can’t understand a peanut butter and fluff sandwich for lunch every day but that let your child make that choice for themselves. Allow them to choose their clothes for the day regardless of how good the outfit looks or if it fits with the forecasted weather.  This shows them they have the power to choose for themselves and that not all decisions are the greatest in retrospect.

As a child gets older, make sure you are being a positive role model. In the world today the old go to of “do as I say, not as I do” isn’t really going to fly. It never really did but it’s gotten harder to ingrain into a kid’s head. Telling your child not to smoke or drink really isn’t going to resonate if your downing a second cold one after a long day of work.

Take a good look at your own actions and make sure that your are being the best influence on your kids. Remember your actions speak louder than words.

Be sure to check in with the parents of the children your child are hanging out with. They also serve as role models for your kids. Talk regularly with them about their own expectations for their kids about tobacco, drugs and alcohol.

Entering middle and continuing to high school is a scary and pivotal time in a child’s life. It’s a time when they are discovering what their values are. It is here that conversations are important. Conversations, not lectures. Talk to your kids about what is going on in the world around them and ask them if they understand.

Build them up with positive reinforcement. Let them know that it’s okay to take their own path rather than following the trends. Encourage them to be themselves and make decisions based on what they like and not their friends. Teach them the value of true friendships rather than being a part of the in crowd.

Continue to encourage them to make healthy decisions for themselves. Get them involved in school and extracurricular activities. Look into things that you can do together as a family. Decreasing the amount of boredom in their lives will help eliminate the temptation for them to find other ways to alleviate it.

As always my advice and information comes from a place of experience as someone’s child as opposed to being someone’s parent. At the end of the day, you know your child the best and what they will respond to.

I encourage you to share your thoughts and tips in the comments section below.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

One thought on “Cory Monteith: Lessons From Tragedy

  1. Pingback: Viral Obituary Encourages All to Ask For Help | Breaking Down Digital Walls

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