Even celebs need space to grieve – we must respect that

DR MAX PEMBERTON: Even celebs need space to grieve – we must respect that

  • Friends star Matthew Perry, who played Chandler Bing, died aged 54 
  • READ MORE:  The Mind Doctor MAX PEMBERTON reveals seeing the ‘ghosts’ of those you’ve lost is just proof of the power of love

When I was a teenager, I loved watching Friends and my favourite Friend by far was Chandler Bing, the neurotic yet lovable character brought to life by Matthew Perry.

As I grew up, left home and went to university, the sitcom remained a staple in my life, as it was for many.

So, the death of Perry just over a week ago came as a shock to me and millions of others who felt they knew him.

Tragically, the 54-year-old was found dead in his hot tub after a decades-long battle with drug and alcohol addiction.

The exact cause of death has yet to be given — the Los Angeles Police Department has said its investigation is ‘ongoing’ — but the actor is reported to have been ‘in a good place’ in his final weeks.

Matthew Perry, 54, who played Chandler Bing in Friends was found dead in his hot tub after a decades-long battle with drug and alcohol addiction

At times like this it’s natural to look to others to be lightning rods for our sadness or grief and, inevitably, people waited for the remaining cast members in Friends to pay a fitting tribute that would encapsulate all our feelings.

This took longer than fans expected. And, as time passed without a comment or social media post from Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow and David Schwimmer, I noticed more and more online comments criticising them for not speaking out.

I felt the opposite. I was pleased that, instead of saying something anodyne or platitudinous just because the public demanded it, they kept their silence.

For a decade — a lifetime in Hollywood — the six stars of Friends worked together on ten seasons of the show that propelled them from unknowns to household names worldwide.

In a groundbreaking move for their industry, they famously banded together to negotiate equal pay — eventually totalling a million dollars each per episode.

But theirs wasn’t just a professional friendship. Key to the show’s success was its original pitch to capture that stage of life when, as a young person starting to navigate adulthood, ‘your friends are your family’.

And off-screen, it seemed the cast found a similar sense of comfort in each other.

Looking back on the global phenomenon the sitcom became, Lisa Kudrow said: ‘Fame doesn’t cure whatever is going on inside of you, however you feel about yourself. The lucky thing was that the six of us had each other to go through it.’

In the days after Perry’s death, it appears Kudrow, Aniston, Cox, LeBlanc and Schwimmer were so upset by the news, so overwhelmed, so incapacitated by their grief, that they struggled to articulate how they felt.

Dr Max was pleased that, instead of saying something anodyne or platitudinous just because the public demanded it, the cast of Friends initially kept their silence about Perry’s untimely death

It reminded me of the criticism the Royal Family received for not behaving in the way the public wanted after the death of Princess Diana.

Years later, hearing from William and Harry about what it was really like for them and the utterly shattering grief they experienced, while so many were moaning because they hadn’t seen any members of the Royal Family, made me think hard. 

No, the Royals weren’t much in evidence in the immediate aftermath, but perhaps that was because they were at home trying to console two bereaved young boys.

In the midst of grief, the public aren’t foremost in the minds of public figures who are hurting. Nor should they be. Let those who really knew and loved Perry grieve in their own way.

The Friends cast did, eventually, put out a shared statement, in which they said: ‘We were more than just cast mates. We are a family. There is so much to say, but right now we’re going to take a moment to grieve and process this unfathomable loss.’

Later, they gathered to bid a final farewell to Perry at his funeral, held in Los Angeles on Friday. Aniston, Cox, Kudrow and Schwimmer arrived together, and were later seen outside the cemetery in sombre conversation with LeBlanc.

As LeBlanc said: ‘There’s only five people in the world who know exactly what being on Friends was like, other than me.’ Now, that number is four.

As Perry’s co-workers, collaborators and — as they have said — true friends, their grief is personal and all their own. They don’t owe us anything.


With everything the NHS has to worry about right now — crippling staffing crisis, escalating waiting times, budget deficits, poor care and a cataclysmic drop in public confidence — I was surprised that, last week, it felt the need to issue guidance on sexting.

Yes, rather than address the plight of patients who can’t get a GP appointment or tackle queues of ambulances outside A&E, the NHS thought it more important to focus on social media used by doctors and dentists. 

Are NHS bosses utterly deaf to the cacophony of real concerns raised by patients and staff?

The guidance, published by NHS training body Higher Education England (HEE), urges junior medics and dentists to stay off dating apps while at work, in case they match with patients or colleagues and thereby damage their reputations.

It advises against sending sexual messages or images — or, if they do, to keep their faces out of them!

I can’t believe HEE is involving itself in its staff’s love lives to this extent. Messaging unsolicited pictures of yourself is inappropriate whoever you are.

I’d venture to suggest the kind of person who would do this won’t be put off by ‘guidance’ telling them not to. Doctors aren’t daft. 

We’re well aware if you open a dating app while at work there’s a chance you might see patients or colleagues on it, and that’s something we’d take into account before swiping right!

‘Superwoman’ Nicola Horlick has spoken about her husband’s death from prostate cancer last year, and wishes the UK was better at diagnosing it. 

It’s the most commonly diagnosed form of the disease here and more men die from it than women do of breast cancer. 

More than double the money goes to breast cancer research compared with prostate cancer, but that’s only part of the problem. 

When I worked on a urology ward, I was shocked by how many men diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer had put off seeing a doctor. 

It’s down to fear of treatment — and possibly being left impotent — which becomes a kind of denial. 

The sense of loss women can feel when diagnosed with breast cancer or if they have a mastectomy is well known, with psychotherapy specifically for this available. 

Men aren’t afforded the same sensitivity with prostate treatment that might affect their sense of masculinity. 

When things like impotence are discussed, it’s just cold statistics, never the reality of what sex after treatment is like. 

Why are men expected to get on with it? We criticise men for not talking about their feelings but don’t offer them a chance to do so.

I think part of tackling men’s reluctance to come forward earlier lies in talking honestly about their fears — and providing proper emotional support.



Pause, look up and wonder at the Cosmos at Broughton Sanctuary, on the outskirts of Yorkshire Dales National Park

After a cosy dinner around the campfire, marvel at the night sky through powerful stargazing equipment and enjoy an educational sky tour with an astronomer at Broughton Sanctuary, on the outskirts of Yorkshire Dales National Park. 

It’s the perfect opportunity to pause, look up and wonder at the cosmos. Until March 2024, £36pp, avalonwellbeing.com/classes/. 

Most appointments at GP surgeries now do not involve a doctor, according to latest figures.

Campaign group Silver Voices said: ‘What people want is to see a family doctor who can look at their overall situation, but instead we see people diverted at every turn.’

It’s hard not to disagree. Cutting corners to cut costs.

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