By Hillary Busis
Updated October 09, 2013 at 02:50 PM EDT

For the first time since Cory Monteith’s untimely death in July, the fallen actor’s on- and off-screen girlfriend Lea Michele has addressed her loss in an interview with TV Week Australia.

“I feel like, for me personally, I’ve lost two people: Cory and Finn,” Michele told the magazine. But even though Monteith’s death was devastating, Michele added that she never really considered quitting the show: “Everyone is asking, ‘Is it hard to do this? Is it hard to be back at work?’ But the truth is, it’s no harder at work than it is in life — so we might as well all be together as a family supporting each other to get through this together.”

That support came early and often, as when the show held a private memorial for Monteith on set: “We had a beautiful memorial for Cory in the auditorium and some of the cast members sang and people spoke about him,” Michele remembered. “It only felt right that we would do the same thing for Finn, so I felt it was very therapeutic.” She describes the show’s on-screen tribute — which airs on Fox this Thursday — as “perfect,” though Michele hasn’t watched the episode itself: “I haven’t seen it yet, but we did it because it was something we all needed to do together.”

Michele’s costars Matthew Morrison and Jane Lynch, as well as Glee creator Ryan Murphy, joined her for the interview — and clearly, they’ve been impressed by the strength and leadership she showed in the weeks following Monteith’s passing.

“She had one of the first songs we filmed for the [tribute] episode, and she did it so beautifully. And after, she said something like, ‘It can’t be harder for anyone else than it was for me,'” Morrison told TV Week. “So, we knew we had to show up because our leader stepped forward and kind of gave permission to all of us to do it. I don’t think we could have done it without her.”