Mourning is one of those things that should be a judgment-free zone. It's a horrendous period to get through, everyone has a different way of attacking it and there really is no wrong way to do it.
For some the strategy involves chocolate or ice cream or really any food that tastes like feelings. Others may prefer a dark room, a cozy blanket and Tina Fey's best work, while the more fortunate among us might choose a vacation with our closest pals somewhere remote—like middle of the ocean remote—where cell service is spotty and the reminders of what we've lost is non-existent.
Frankly, it's a whatever works type of situation. And for someone who has had a year-and-a-half like Ariana Grande, well, she could declare she was chucking her whole career out the window and devoting herself to breeding micro pigs and alpacas and we'd be all, hey, you do you.
There's no denying the four-time Grammy nominee has had a no good, very bad 2018. No sooner had she learned to cope with the ever-present anxiety that had spiked after her concert was the target of a vicious May 2017 terrorist attack then she was forced to make an impossibly tough decision about the man she loved. By all accounts, she broke up with musician Mac Miller because their two-year romance had become destructive as she watched him unsuccessfully wage war with substance abuse. Still, she wished him well, writing in an Instagram post how she respected and adored him "endlessly" and how "unconditional love is not selfish. It is wanting the best for that person even if at the moment, it's not you."
Then she went on with living her best life, coming out with a critically acclaimed album and a new, suddenly serious romance that left her telling anyone who would listen that she was "the happiest I've ever been."
That is until the universe decided to rain on her parade. On Sept. 7 Miller died at the age of 26, the cause of death pending toxicology reports but widely considered to be the result of an apparent overdose. And once again the bottom fell out on Grande's world.
So she went to her safe space. Just last week, the 25-year-old revealed she had been unloading the pain of the last few months into an entirely new album, just two months after Sweetener was released. The "No Tears Left to Cry" singer "has been spending a lot of time in the studio working on new music," an insider reveals to E! News. "She feels this is her happy place and it distracts her from reality. She wants to pour her heart and soul into her music, and being in the studio really helps her deal with her emotions."
Indeed, as her Arianators expressed shock that she managed to create new music at a time like this, she explained that's precisely why she had to. "I'm the luckiest girl in the world to be able to do this s--t n express myself n heal this way....my lifeline tbh," she wrote to the fans quick to label her the industry's hardest working woman. "How u think I survived these 2/3 months."
The initial assumption was to credit Pete Davidson, her engagement to the Saturday Night Live comedian going a long way to dull the pain of losing Miller. And for awhile, even as she canceled planned appearances on SNL's premiere and at the 2018 Emmy Awards, she was able to shield herself from that harsh reality by focusing on the happiness of their union. "Ever since Mac passed, she has been avoiding the grieving process and has been trying to keep herself insanely busy," explains the insider. "Pete was a big distraction for her—which she enjoyed, but then reality sank in."
As in the reality that she couldn't continue mourning the utter finality of one relationship while charging full speed ahead with another. "She has been struggling emotionally and is not in a situation where she should plan a wedding," one source told E! News of her decision to call of their engagement and hand back her custom $100,000 ring. "She had to take a step back and just breathe for a minute. She's been completely overwhelmed and wants to slow down. She felt like she couldn't even see straight and was just way too stressed out and run down."
As supportive as Davidson, 24, had been in his fiancée's time of need, continuing to lavish her with praise and marvel at his good fortune, she knew she simply had to go it alone. "Ariana hasn't given herself enough time for the grieving and healing process, and feels like her emotions are out of control," the first insider explained. "She's been battling her feelings and knows that she needs to take time for herself right now."
Davidson dealt with the break up in his own way, canceling planned performances and, when that wasn't possible, relying on his standard self-deprecation to get him through. He spent a good portion of an Oct. 20 L.A. charity show joking about what a pain it will be to remove his Grande-inspired tattoos. The singer, meanwhile, returned to her first love.
Just days after their split was announced Oct. 14, the Broadway vet took to the stage, performing Wicked's "The Wizard and I" for tonight's NBC tribute special, A Very Wicked Halloween: Celebrating 15 Years on Broadway.
It almost didn't happen, she admitted to fans, the crush of the past few weeks proving almost too much for her to handle. But performing these songs beside the original cast of one of her all time favorite shows? She did what it took to get it done. "Can't believe I almost let my anxiety ruin this for me today!!" she shared in one Instagram story. "Not today satan! Not tomorrow or the next day either not no more u can suck my big green d--k. finna sing my heart out and be a big walking vessel of love bye."
Naturally, she slayed it.
"It's a moment that I'm going to get to watch her have, one that she's wanted for a long time, that I knew would happen," Kristin Chenoweth (i.e. the Broadway hit's original Glinda the Good Witch) told E! News of watching Grande fulfill her dream. So of course the pop star wasn't going to let her overwhelming pain and anxiety stop her from delivering anything but her best. "She's a complete professional," raved Chenoweth, "she takes her work very seriously."
Besides, this is what she does. This is the same girl who stared down a terrorist attack, returning to Manchester just 13 days after the lives of 22 fans were claimed at her concert and belting her heart out in a tribute that raised upwards of $23 million for the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund. "She said, you know, 'I've been thinking about this. I thought about what you said, and if I don't do this, these people died in vain, and I am not who I say I am, so I want to go back out on the road tomorrow," manager Scooter Braun shared on Van Lathan's The Red Pill Podcast, marveling at her drive to be there for her fans.
In comparison, channeling the raw emotions of lost love and overwhelming heartbreak into an album was practically child's play.
"Ariana has been burying herself in work since the split between her and Pete," says the insider. And as a result, she'll soon deliver a fifth disc to fans. Which means she'll have two albums to promote on her upcoming tour, kicking off in Albany next March. True to form, the pop star is looking forward to connecting with her most devoted of fans. "i'm antsy. can't sit still. i wanna tour now," she tweeted mere days after suggesting it'd be a long time before she was back on the road. "yesterday i jus wanted to sit home forever but today i wanna do shows and see u."
Before then, though, her nearest and dearest are hoping she'll take an extended, head-clearing sabbatical, something that lasts longer and is more restorative than your average Chanel shopping spree.
"Ariana's family and friends have urged her to take a break and really relax and take time for herself," reveals the insider. "Ariana wants to keep going, keep recording music and move on with her life, but understands that she needs to also deal with her emotions."
No matter what she decides, though, they're at the ready to dole out love and affirmations. Because, truly, considering the hand she was dealt, she's doing amazing, sweetie. "Everyone around her has been very supportive and attentive towards Ari. They are all checking in on her every day," the insider tells E! News. Her top confidantes continue to be mom Joan Grande and brother Frankie Grande, notes the insider, but "everyone has her back. They want wants best for her and to do what she feels is best for herself."