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Inside Gary Coleman's Tragic Life and Sudden Death

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Gary Coleman never had an easy road.

Adopted at just one day old and diagnosed with an atrophied kidney as a toddler, the 4’8″ Diff’rent Strokes star – who died at age 42 on May 28 after suffering a brain hemorrhage – constantly struggled to make peace with his faded fame, his failing health and his family pain, friends tell PEOPLE in this week s cover story.

“I’d been dreading [losing him] for years,” says Shavar Ross, who played Coleman s best friend Dudley on Diff’rent Strokes, one of many ex-costars whom Coleman cut off in the early ’90s as he sought to distance himself from his child stardom.

“With some former child stars, there’s a real psychological hurdle trying to stay relevant. And that happened to Gary,” adds Ross. “And he had those other things to deal with: his height, his health, being adopted. It caused a lot of frustration for him.”

PHOTOS: Gary Coleman’s Big Life

The actor’s 2007 marriage to Shannon Price, 24, brought its own problems.

“They both had pretty explosive personalities,” says Randy Kester, Coleman s Utah-based attorney. “There were incidences of domestic violence on both sides. They had plenty of verbal fights, which did escalate to physical confrontations.”

Gary Coleman’s Parents: We’ll Always Be Proud of Him

For more on this story, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday