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John Travolta Shares One of the Hardest Things About Losing Kelly Preston

"I've felt saturated with everyone else's pain," the actor said in a new interview.

In July 2020, John Travolta lost his wife of 28 years, Kelly Preston. The actor died at the age of 57 following a battle with breast cancer. Travolta released a statement at the time on Instagram to share the news, but now, he's opening up about what the process of grieving Preston has been like in the months since.

In a new interview with Esquire Spain, Travolta talked about how personal grief is and how important he believes it is to experience it in your own way without your feelings being clouded by others'. Sadly, grief is something Travolta and his family have much experience with. In 2009, Travolta and Preston's son, Jett, died at age 16 after suffering a seizure. The couple also have two other children, 21-year-old Ella and 10-year-old Ben.

Read on to see what Travolta said has been one of the hardest parts of losing Preston, and for more from another star who recently opened up about loss: Iconic Radio Host Delilah Opens Up About the Tragic Loss of Her 3 Sons.

Travolta describes grief as a "personal" journey that requires space.

John Travolta on the cover of "Esquire" Spain
Esquire Spain

"I learned that mourning someone, living in grief, is very personal. Grief is personal and finding your own path is what could lead to healing. It's different than someone else's journey," Travolta told Esquire Spain (via People). "The most important thing you can do to help people going through grief is allow them the space to live it and not complicate their journey with your own."

The 67-year-old actor then shared that he feels grieving with others can sometimes make things worse. "Imagine if you lose someone and you're very sad at the funeral, and another person comes up to you who is feeling even sadder and then doesn't leave space for you to feel your grief," he said. "It becomes two ships plummeting to the bottom together. That's my experience. Because, although it's nice to have company, sometimes it turns you into someone helping the other person instead of putting in the work of overcoming the sense of loss and grief."

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For Travolta, taking on other people's feelings has been one of the hardest parts of grieving Preston.

Kelly Preston and John Travolta outside of Spago restaurant in 1991
Bart Sherkow /

In the interview, Travolta explained that feeling "saturated" with other people's grief has been particularly difficult for him.

"You have no idea how many people have come up to me… and afterward I've felt saturated with everyone else's pain that I didn't know what to do," he said. "The first thing you should do while going through grief is go somewhere where you can truly mourn, with no interruptions. If I die tomorrow, the last thing I want to see is that everyone around is sunk."

For more on Hollywood couples like Travolta and Preston, check out 12 Beloved, Long-Term Celebrity Couples, Then and Now.

Travolta set boundaries for himself after Preston's death.

Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Fremaux, John Travolta, Kelly Preston, Ella Travolta, and Ben Travolta at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival
Featureflash Photo Agency /

Travolta confirmed Preston had died in an Instagram post on July 13, 2020. "It is with a very heavy heart that I inform you that my beautiful wife Kelly has lost her two-year battle with breast cancer. She fought a courageous fight with the love and support of so many," the Saturday Night Fever star wrote before thanking the staff at MD Anderson Cancer Center.

He went on to share that he was grateful for the outpouring of support, but would be distancing himself from social media. "I will be taking some time to be there for my children who have lost their mother, so forgive me in advance if you don't hear from us for a while," Travolta wrote.

And for happier moments from the Travoltas, check out John Travolta and His Daughter Channel Grease in Super Bowl Ad.

Travolta is keeping Preston's spirit alive through one of their favorite activities. 

John and Ella Travolta in their Scotts Lawn Super Bowl ad

In the interview with Esquire Spain, Travolta shared that one of the reasons he enjoyed doing a Super Bowl commercial with his daughter Ella so much was because they got to honor Preston through dancing together in the Scotts & Miracle-Gro ad.

"It worked on so many levels!" he said. "First, as a unique piece of entertainment that people enjoyed watching; second, it allowed me to introduce my daughter to the whole world on a huge stage, show her talent and beauty; and it also became a beautiful tribute to her mother. Kelly and I danced together. It was something very important to us."

In fact, in Travolta's first post back on Instagram after Preston's death, in August 2020, he shared a video of himself and Ella dancing. "My daughter @ella.travolta and I dancing in memory of momma," he wrote in the caption. "One of Kelly's favorite things, dancing with me."

Read about another child of a famous actor with See Kate Winslet's 20-Year-Old Daughter, Who's Taking Over Hollywood.

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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