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How Chris Cornell's Widow Is Helping Their Kids Cope: 'It's Really Hard ... But Knowing Daddy Loved Them Keeps Them Strong'

 

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After her rock-star husband’s tragic death, Vicky Cornell opens up about losing the love of her life, his battle with addiction and how she’s staying strong for their kids. Subscribe now for the exclusive story – only in PEOPLE.

Grief is crushing. But for Vicky Cornell, there are two reasons she’s been able to keep it together since losing her husband, rocker Chris Cornell, last month.

“My focus is my children,” she tells PEOPLE of the couple’s daughter Toni, 12, and son Christopher, 11. The Soundgarden and Audioslave singer was also dad to daughter, Lily, 17, from his previous marriage. Says Vicky, “I’m trying to keep their little hearts as happy as I can and being there for them.”

Courtesy Vicky Cornell

Cornell, who was found dead in his Detroit hotel on room on May 18, struggled with addiction. His wife reveals in this week’s issue of PEOPLE that after years of sobriety, he’d recently relapsed and says that due to the prescription drugs in his system, he was not in his right mind state at the time of his death. It’s a point that she says is helping to keep her family strong.

“It’s really hard,” she admits. “But they know he never would have left them like that. Not in a million years. Knowing Daddy loved them — that’s what keeps them as strong as they are.”


For more on the Cornell family and how they’re coping, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.  

Courtesy Vicky Cornell

The loss has been particularly hard on daughter Toni, who her mom says inherited the rock star’s musical ear (Toni joined her dad onstage to perform last year). “They were attached at the hip,” she says. Adding to Vicky’s struggle to help her kids is that, “it’s all public,” she says. “Even though we stopped the social media, you can’t control it. They hear stuff.”

“This was a father that gave you all,” says Vicky of her husband of 13 years. Just days before he left for Detroit, the rock star had made plans to take their kids to Disney World. “They’d go roll down hills together and bike ride. In our neighborhood he was the 6’3” dad on a scooter, running around with his kids.”

Courtesy Vicky Cornell

Even in the early days, “he was completely present,” says Vicky. “He would literally come offstage sweating and I’d be like, ‘Here’ and hand over the baby. Other rockstar dads would have separate rooms from their kids. My son Chris slept in our room up until six months ago.”

As she struggles to come to terms with the loss of her husband, Vicky says she’s buoyed knowing Chris “loved his children and me more than anything in the world.”