It took about 24 hours for the news of Chester Bennington's death to really sink in... And when it did, it floored me.
Working in the news industry, and especially the showbiz industry, death and suicide has become all too regular to both write about and read about...but this felt different, this still feels different, and losing Chester is something I will never forget.
The Linkin Park front-man reportedly died by hanging, aged 41, leaving behind a wife and six children. And I truly believe he never would have realized how many people would be affected by his death.
It took a day for me to process what had just happened, and then all the questions started flooding in. Why? What was he going through? Did he relapse? Did something happen in his marriage? Was in he debt? Was it because he couldn't handle life without his good friend Chris Cornell? Or was he just tired of fighting?...
For anyone out there surprised at how deeply his death has affected friends, family members, work colleagues etc, you need to understand; we're not just mourning one of our favourite singers, we're mourning a piece of ourselves - the light at the end of the tunnel we tell ourselves is always there, seemed to completely go out when he took his own life.
When Linkin Park debuted into the charts back in 2000 with their album Hybrid Theory - a dark, agonizing, angry album, it went straight to number one.
Yes Chester was a good looking rock star with blonde gelled hair, a lip ring, a cheeky smile, an incredible voice and serious charisma - but it was his lyrics, his angst, his honesty, that millions of people all over the world related to.
The day the news broke I started re-listening to every single track Linkin Park ever made, and pretty much watched every single interview Chester had done to date. I couldn't stop crying.
I found myself walking down the street listening to his words, with tears streaming down my face, because suddenly his dark lyrics became all too real, and I remembered how much I used to rely on him.
I've had Linkin Park tracks, old and new, blaring through my ears non-stop since Friday, and the lyrics are all the more poignant now.
Nowadays people say speaking openly about mental health is much easier, but the suicide rate here in Ireland (let alone the rest of the world) is still sky high.
Talking about being depressed still isn't that normal, coming from a 27-year-old woman I can tell you that there definitely still is stigma about mental health, and a lot of people don't understand the difference between feeling down, having anxiety and actually having full blown depression.
There are still a lot of people struggling in silence - unfortunately men especially hide their torment, and hide it all too well.
In recent weeks Chester seemed to be in the best place he'd ever been in. In nearly every single interview promoting their new album One Last Light, Chester addressed his drug and alcohol addiction, his on-going battle with depression and how he was coping, all in between laughs and giggles with his band mates and sharing inspiring theories about achieving happiness.
He was still suffering, but it seemed that he had a hold over his problems, and he had made the decision to keep fighting rather than letting go.
Again, Chester was an inspiration to anyone struggling with depression, and he was proof you could keep going, have a successful career, a loving family - it really felt like he had it all.
"I came to a point in my life where I was like, 'I can either just give up and fucking die or I can fucking fight for what I want.' And I chose to fight for what I wanted," he said in, what would be, one of his last interviews.
He described the new album as "therapeutic", after breaking his ankle on the band's 2015 tour, he said it was one of the hardest times in his life, and admitted lyrics for their song Heavy was about so many bad things happening all at the same time.
Their new album was full of a total new sound, most fans accepted the new (more pop like) sound, because it showed the diversity of his talent and the band's as a whole, some critics accused Linkin Park of "conforming", but I truly love every track.
Hell fest was fun. Had a blast watching people mosh to In the End and then flip me off when we played Heavy. I blew them kisses?
— Chester Bennington (@ChesterBe) June 19, 2017
After I blew kisses to the guys flipping me off. They smiled and gave me heart hands back.
— Chester Bennington (@ChesterBe) June 19, 2017
And every step of the way Chester showed his love for their music, standing up to anyone who dissed the new record, but at the end of the day, he always loved the fans.
Their new music is different, but the words still cut you just as deep as all of the hits we loved before.
With lighter beats and happier melodies though, it seemed Chester had turned a leaf and the band were starting a new chapter together.
The world got to hear his first agonizing, angry and relatable lyrics back in 2000 with their debut single Crawling and 17 years later it seems Chester was still fighting the same demons he told us about back then.
So many people around the world have been sharing their heart break, a lot saying they had no idea his death was going to affect them so much, but here's why it does...
Not only was he one of the greatest lyricists, musicians, singers that ever lived, sometimes he felt like the only other person that understood.
He was there when you were crying in the corner on your own, he was there when your head was filled by dark thoughts. When no one else understood...Chester was there, because he told us all that he felt the same way.
I'm sure I'm not alone in saying when I was going through some of my toughest times in life, especially as a teenager, Linkin Park was bleeding through my ears. Keeping me together when it felt like I was barely hanging on. It was such a comfort to know I wasn't alone in how I was feeling.
As dark and sad as the lyrics were, they made millions feel like their agony was normal, he helped people to keep on fighting. His music and his words helped keep all the broken pieces together even if it was just for the length of a song, an album, a concert.
It felt like he held us all together, but in the end he couldn't fix himself.
His voice echos in my mind now, just like Chris Cornell's - two incredibly talented and loving people who just got it.
Countless nights I went to sleep listening to Crawling, Numb, In The End and Somewhere I Belong - it was an outlet for my own problems and many times; listening to Linkin Park was my salvation.
In my darkest moments Linkin Park was there, Chester's lyrics lingered, they will linger now forever more.
When I wanted to scream, Chester screamed for me. It was clear music was his therapy, and listening to his torment was therapy for me. Maybe that was selfish, it feels selfish now, but hearing his torment made our pain feel normal, that we were all going through the same thing.
"I don't know if anyone can relate, but I have a hard time, a hard time with life sometimes," Chester hauntingly said in one of his last interviews.
"No matter how I'm feeling, I always feel myself struggling with certain patterns of behaviour. I find myself like stuck in like the same thing at keeps repeating over and over again.
"And I'm just like how am I in this? And it's that moment where you're in it and then you can just separate yourself from that situation and you look at it and you see it for what it is and you're able to then do something about it; you've now broken out of that circle, that cycle," he added.
It seemed like Chester had a handle on his issues. He clearly laid out his patterns and addressed that he wanted to change them, that's supposed to be the key to healing.
The singer had always spoken about the thousands of fans who had written the band letters, saying he was helping them through battles with depression, self-harming, suicidal thoughts.
It seemed Chester's troubles all started when he was sexually abused by an older friend when he was a child. Something he was always open about.
The trauma of the assaults started him on a path of drug and alcohol addiction as a young teenager. Using addiction as a way to numb the pain, starting on a long, rough path of self-medication.
He fought his way through life, fought through a marriage break down, through addiction relapses, through a broken ankle, through a broken soul.
When Chester died, a part of all of us died.
That sad teenager who didn't want to go to school came back, the part of us that felt alone and down when everyone else seemed happy, resurfaced. Every hard day we fought through, every dark thought we pushed away, all seemed to return the day Chester died.
"I know that for me, when I'm inside myself, when I'm in my own head, it gets… This place right here [pointing to his head], this skull between my ears, that is a bad neighborhood, and I should not be in there alone," Chester said in one of his last interviews.
" This is a bad place for me to be by myself. And so when I'm in that, my whole life gets thrown off. If I'm in there, I don't say nice things to myself. There's another Chester in there that wants to take me down," he added.
Linkin Park released a statement, trying to verbalise their pain. And it just reinforced the fact that all of his pain actually helped others.
— LINKIN PARK (@linkinpark) July 24, 2017
The most heart breaking part: "We're trying to remind ourselves that the demons who took you away from us were always apart of the deal".
Because that's the truth, we all knew, we all listened, we all related. He joined people together, he saved lives, but no one could save his.
Since his death Linkin Park have changed their official symbol with a broken link, because without Chester a piece will always be missing, and it feels like a piece of ourselves will be missing, for a huge amount of fans.
He reportedly didn't leave a suicide note, but there really is no need for one - just listen to every single song he ever wrote, read the lyrics, hear the pain in his voice, the signs were there all along.
In Linkin Park's Leave Out All The Rest, Chester gut-wrenchingly sings:
"Help me leave behind some reasons to be missed. Don't resent me, when you're feeling empty, keep me in your memory...leave out all the rest."
Well Chester, there's more than a million reasons for you to be missed, we're all feeling empty now but I know in my heart you'll stay in our memory forever.
If you or someone you know is struggling, please call the International Suicide Prevention Hotline on 1800 902 826 or visit Pieta House.
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