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SNL’s Cecily Strong Pens Heartbreaking Essay After Losing a Cousin to Cancer During Quarantine: It’s ‘Like Nothing I’d Ever Experienced’

Cecily Strong Grieves After Losing Friend Cancer During Quarantine
Cecily Strong. Olivier Douliery Pool/CNP/MEGA

Opening up. Saturday Night Live star Cecily Strong spoke from the heart about the pain of grieving while social distancing and the challenges of navigating a new relationship amid a pandemic.

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The 35-year-old comedian reflected on the loss of her cousin Owen, who was battling an aggressive form of brain cancer, in a personal essay for Vulture. Strong traced her family’s journey back to March 2018, when her cousin was diagnosed, but admitted that she didn’t know “how to tell this story” in a way that does Owen justice.

She remembered her “fearless” cousin’s demeanor the first time she saw him after receiving the news. “Owen has this quality of being the one who supports everyone around him, even while being the one who is undergoing vigorous treatments for glioblastoma,” she wrote. “He’s really special.”

Despite his outward strength, Owen lost his long battle and succumbed to the cancer in January. In the midst of her devastating loss, Strong also found herself falling in love with someone she met at a party the month before. Though at first their timing wasn’t “great,” they end up making a strong connection. They made their relationship official just two months after Owen’s death.

Cecily Strong Grieves After Losing Friend Cancer During Quarantine
Cecily Strong at The American Museum of Natural History Gala on November 15, 2018 in New York City, NameFace LLC/Shutterstock

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“At first I thought it was so difficult to meet someone right as I was losing someone I loved so much. I knew he’d have to be patient with me,” Strong wrote. “He’d have to let me grieve. It would be easier not to even try during that process. But grieving for Owen was like nothing I’d ever experienced, and I promised Owen and myself to continue to let all that love be there along with the sadness.”

The Ghostbusters actress was just starting to see her new relationship as a “gift” when her world was rocked by another piece of devastating news. Shortly after they defined their relationship, her boyfriend tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

“What bad timing,” Strong said. “I’m in the middle of my two-week quarantine in my tiny apartment in New York. I’ve cried every day. I’m scared about Jack. I’m really scared. … I think it’s going to fall apart with Jack now. I’m upset with him for not understanding why I constantly need to know he’s okay. I’m upset with myself for needing to constantly know he’s okay. I’m upset with friends talking about missing their f–king birthdays.”

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Though she may not entirely know how to wrap her head around the story of Owen’s life — and his impact on hers — there are a few things Strong knows for certain.

“The world is upside down. I’m holding devastation and love in equal measures,” she concluded. “I had a cousin named Owen who had red hair as a little boy and he was a serious kid and he loved birds. He taught me about love during his life and he’s teaching me about love after. And I’m really lucky.”

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