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Credit: Jill Johnson/JPI (2)

“That was so hard.”

Few Salemites have struggled with the weight of Abigail’s death quite like Days of Our Lives‘ Chad. Well, that’s what we thought, until we learned that Jennifer’s strength and bravery was, partially, at least, a front as she struggled with the lure of pills to dull her pain. It’s a battle she’s been losing and now it’s taken an even more heartbreaking turn with the appearance of her dead daughter.

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Is she seeing Abigail’s spirit or just hallucinating from her pill popping? Does it matter? Jennifer herself doesn’t seem to know. All she knows is that she’s been living in hell since Abigail died and her pain is real, either way. And so is, it turns out, Cady McClain’s.

When the actress sat down to talk about Abigail’s death on a recent episode of Soap Opera Digest‘s podcast, she opened up about filming Jennifer’s scenes saying goodbye to her daughter and the heartache that went hand-in-hand with it.

“That scene, it just touched me,” McClain explained. “That beautiful girl being so brutally murdered, it just knocked me out. So the first time I tried to do the take, I couldn’t remember a single line. It just went out of my head, which rarely happens. I’m usually pretty good on that.”

In the fast-paced world of daytime — especially Days of Our Lives — that could be a disaster, but this material was so heavy, everyone understood exactly where McClain was coming from. Executive producer Albert Alarr stepped in to give her a pep talk and say, “‘Hey, it’s OK, you’ve got this. Trust the material and just go for it.’”

On John and Marlena's couch, Jennifer leans into Chad's shoulder. They both cry

And that’s what she did, comparing filming an emotionally charged scene to riding a wave. “That’s the best way I can describe it,” she mused. “It’s like being a surfer on a board. You can’t think, you just have to go.”

But sadly, it’s a wave she knew how to ride already as the sadness was far too fresh and familiar.

“A lot of people don’t know this,” McClain admitted, “and it’s odd to talk about, but my best friend died this year of ovarian cancer. And she had it for two years and I was shooting all of that.”

That loss was still a fresh wound for McClain, who was called in to pick the role of Jennifer back up again after Melissa Reeves had just filmed a couple months earlier. Being thrown straight into such heavy scenes right off the bat is never easy, but all that pain and tragedy came together to make it work in the most achingly beautiful way.

“I’m not a method actor,” the actress clarified. “I don’t replace one scenario for another. I am not crying over my dead friend when I do that scene. It’s just that I have a lot of understanding about loss.”

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It’s clear that that understanding didn’t end with those scenes in the morgue but have carried over to every moment of Jennifer’s being since then. And we have a feeling they’ll continue as a part of Jen for a long time to come.

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Feeling like a bit of catch up as the year starts winding down? Check out our who’s who photo gallery of Days of Our Lives to refresh your memory.