Austin Butler Copes With Losing Mom to Cancer
- Actor Austin Butler, 31, almost quit acting after he lost his mom to cancer in 2014.
- Struggling to find joy in the profession he had loved, Butler suffered from depression as he navigated the many stages of grief after his mom passed away.
- Grief is defined as the devastation that occurs when we lose someone.
- The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These labels help us frame and identify what we may be feeling.
- If you approach them with compassion, kindness, and eventual acceptance, you will come away from this period with a renewed sense of resilience and purpose.
Actor Austin Butler, 31, is no stranger to Hollywood, having been an actor since childhood and then garnering critical acclaim for portraying The King of Rock & Roll in “Elvis.” However, nearly a decade ago, the profession he knew and loved took on a new meaning when his mom Lori passed away from cancer and he almost quit acting.
"She sacrificed so much," he said earlier this year to NBC's "Today" host Willie Geist, describing how she supported him in his early years as an actor.Read More
Butler described himself as a shy kid but would do anything to make his mom laugh. His acting career began on Nickelodeon and Disney in the mid-2000s.
As he entered adulthood, his life and acting career took a turn when his mom passed away from cancer in September 2014. Butler's number one supporter was no longer by his side and his mom's absence weighed heavy on him emotionally.
He said he took time off from acting to grieve and slipped into a "deeper and deeper depression."
In a tweet, Butler wrote, "Lori Butler, my mom, my hero, and my best friend passed away this morning. Let's all celebrate her. I love you and will miss you every day Mom."
Though he did not share the kind of cancer his mom was diagnosed with, he said he "never experienced pain like that before." He then questioned his acting profession and wondered if he would be better off helping people in other ways.
"Should I be doing this, or should I give myself in some way that can help people who are dealing with cancer or something like that?" Butler recalled thinking.
His grieving lasted for several months, causing him to briefly lose interest in acting altogether. He admitted he had trouble "finding joy in it."
During production for the MTV series "Shannara Chronicles," he said he would "go home and cry every night.”
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After taking a few months off, Butler managed to get back into acting with "The Iceman Cometh," a Broadway production with co-star Denzel Washington. Working alongside the award-winning actor, Butler reconnected with his love for acting once again.
With a renewed sense of purpose, Butler also dedicated his craft to his mom, who inspired him most.
He got a small tattoo with the number 27 etched on his left wrist memorializing his mom's lucky number.
"There are so many things (where) I just go, 'I want to make her proud.' I want to let her live through me and the lessons that she taught me," Butler said.
How to Cope After Losing a Loved One to Cancer
Austin Butler's journey through the many stages of grief after losing his mom to cancer is something so many people can relate to. Those supporting loved ones bravely battling cancer also traverse an emotional road.
SurvivorNet wants you to know, everyone grieves differently.
Grief is defined as the devastation that occurs when we lose someone. Grieving comes in five stages, commonly referred to as the "five stages of grief."
The stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These labels help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. These stages can occur in any order.
As you find yourself experiencing some of these stages, remember that the emotions you are feeling are meaningful but also temporary. If you approach them with compassion, kindness, and eventual acceptance, you will come away from this period with a renewed sense of resilience and purpose.
Butler took a few months to go through the stages of grief, but he found renewed purpose in his craft.
WATCH: Managing the stages of grief.
"Grief comes in waves," says Dr. Scott Irwin, a psychiatrist, and Director of Supportive Care Services at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
"They're grieving the change in their life, the future they had imagined is now different."
Some days can be tougher than others, but Dr. Irwin says talk therapy can be helpful. It's important to reach out to your doctor, to a therapist, or to support groups in your community for the help you need.
Art Therapy as a Way to Heal
Acting is a form of artistry and Butler is quite talented at the artform. After all, he earned several accolades throughout his career, including an Oscar nomination for “Elvis.”
Art encompasses many forms, including acting, music, and painting. Engaging in a form of art is a healthy way to manage tough emotions such as after a cancer diagnosis or losing a loved one to the disease.
A study published in the European Journal of Cancer Care examined the effects of art therapy in cancer care. The study involved 587 cancer patients and revealed, "art therapy significantly reduced anxiety symptoms, depression symptoms, and fatigue."
It also "improved the quality of life of cancer patients."
WATCH: Two-time cancer survivor Bianca Muniz used her struggle to inspire her music.
Bianca Muniz survived both ovarian and breast cancer. She told SurvivorNet that music was an important outlet for her while battling cancer.
"This experience has had two different effects on my creativity and my music, so I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration from it," Muniz said.
"The side effects of treatment, of chemo, and surgery have definitely had a little bit of a negative effect on my voice. But then again, I love performing. I always feel happy after I’ve performed," Muniz continued.
@king.overman This gonna be one huge canvas ðŸ˜³ðŸ€ #chicagobulls #airjordan #bullsnation #nbaart #basketballart #ballislife #nba #nbaedits â™¬ Lovingcall – Official Sound Studio
And thyroid cancer survivor Kevin Overman also turned to art to help him cope with cancer.
"It was very calming. The process of painting was very helpful to me and working towards a goal. I felt like I was achieving something," Overman said.