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Lea Michele Remembers Cory Monteith on The Ellen DeGeneres Show: “He Was the Greatest Man”

Lea Michele appears on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" on Dec. 12, 2013
During an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on Dec. 12, Glee's Lea Michele opened up about the tragic death of boyfriend Cory Monteith and called him "the greatest man."

Pushing past the pain. Lea Michele is trying to be strong following the tragic July 13 death of Glee costar and off-screen boyfriend Cory Monteith. The 27-year-old actress and singer appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on Thursday, Dec. 12, and opened up about how she's coping five months later and how her Glee family has helped her move forward. Listen to her touching Glee tribute to the late star.

"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."

Related: PHOTOS: Lea Michele and Cory Monteith's romance

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."

Related: PHOTOS: Stars we've lost in 2013

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."

Related: PHOTOS: Glee's best guest stars

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 The Ellen DeGeneres Show, 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."

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