The actress says her mother taught her how to cope during tough times

By Aili Nahas
Updated April 28, 2016 01:20 PM
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Credit: Christian Witkin

Growing up, Vanessa Hudgens was “inseparable” from her mother Gina, so it’s no surprise that the actress, 27, learned from her some powerful lessons when it comes to coping with grief.

“She’s so strong through the hardest of times,” says Vanessa, whose beloved father Greg died of cancer in January. “But she has this lightheartedness and this light that just beams out of her very being and it’s so special. Life is about perspective. The way you choose to see your life is the way your life is going to become.”

For exclusive photos and more from Vanessa Hudgens and her mother Gina, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

Still, when it comes to adjusting to life after her father’s passing, Hudgens admits, “There are highs and there are lows. It sucks, but death happens. It never makes it easier but it happens to all of us. It’s just something we have to get through until we all meet again in heaven.”

Most importantly, Vanessa has a wise role model for support and guidance.

“My mom looks out through such beautiful eyes,” she says. “I’ve learned to follow her lead.”