Naya Rivera's Family Honors Her 1 Year After Death: 'No Words to Describe What We're Going Through'
"I know if we could go back, we'd hug a little bit harder," said Naya Rivera's younger sister Nickayla
Naya Rivera's family is remembering the star one year after her death.
The Glee actress tragically drowned on July 8, 2020, at age 33. Her body was found in the waters of Lake Piru, 60 miles north of Los Angeles, five days after going missing during an afternoon excursion in a rented pontoon boat with her son Josey, who was 4½ years old at the time.
Naya's younger sister Nickayla told Good Morning America this week about grieving her in the year since: "Taking that one day at a time and living it to the fullest, loving each other to the fullest, and not regretting anything. Because I know if we could go back, we'd hug a little bit harder."
Little brother Mychal added in a statement, "One year without you, one year closer to when we will meet you again. Your endless energy lives on. May you continue to rest so graciously, Naya."
Additionally, Naya's mom Yolanda Previtire described in the Thursday segment how she still feels her daughter's presence in her life. "I feel Naya's energy constantly telling me, 'Mom, be happy. Don't cry. I'm okay. Go get Josey. Have fun.' And I feel that it's coming from her," said Yolanda.
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Yolanda added, "I would like my daughter Naya's legacy to be one that teaches people to love, to care. If something is not right, try to fix it or speak up. And to just live life. God has given you one life. You are your own person. Love who you are, 'cause you don't get another life."
Naya's father George Rivera told PEOPLE last month that the actress was "looking forward to so many things" in her future, adding that she was "in a good place, and she saw a way forward." He said, "She loved being a mother and you could see the maturity and satisfaction that Josey (her now-5½-year-old son she shared with ex-husband Ryan Dorsey) brought. It was a good time for her."
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George (who has been divorced from Yolanda since 1996 when Naya was 9) said that in one of their last conversations about two weeks before her death, they were planning a trip to Nashville together. George hoped to help reinvigorate her singing career.
"She was really looking forward to starting to record music again. Our relationship was really bonded around music," he explained. "She was a pretty good writer and wrote a lot of poetry, but she didn't play any instruments, so we'd been looking for collaborators and we found this young group who she liked and who were good songwriters."
"I never cared if she was an actress," he admitted. "I'm a music guy, a former musician and frustrated disc jockey. I always wanted her to sing, record and, more importantly, write music. I was so happy about that upcoming trip, and so was she."
Yolanda told GMA that Naya's "work ethic was impeccable, and she just dived into it," recalling how the star "had this cool swag about her." Growing up, the proud mom remembered, Naya would always be "in the backyard on her swing, just swinging back and forth and just singing, hitting high notes."
Sharing that the family has sought therapy to cope with Naya's sudden death, Yolanda said of her grieving process: "Sometimes we're afraid of the sorrow being so heavy that we're afraid for our own self, 'cause this is hard. There are no words to describe what we're going through. All we know is we have each other."