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Mindy Kaling opens up about ‘anguish’ from losing her mom to pancreatic cancer

One of Kaling's latest projects, "Never Have I Ever," has served as a way for the actor to connect with people dealing with grief.

Mindy Kaling is opening up about her mother’s death — and how it played a role in prioritizing her mental health.

"The Office" actor revealed in an interview with Marie Claire that her perspective on wellness started to shift after her mother, Swati Chokalingam, died from pancreatic cancer in 2012.

Kaling, who described the grief as "anguish for two years," said that she was launching “The Mindy Project” and working 14-16-hour days when she decided to start seeing a therapist.

“I think you can get things done more if you’re able to talk to the right people about the things going on in your life,” Kaling explained. "I remember thinking, 'This is extremely helpful, but this would have even been helpful when I was younger, when I had issues'…Life is so hard."

She continued to say that it's important not to just "depend on friends and family" to get through hard times.

Kaling turned to her work, too, to help transform her grief into a powerful tool for others to connect with.

Mindy Kaling poses with her mom, Swati Chokalingam.
Mindy Kaling poses with her mom, Swati Chokalingam.Mindy Kaling via Facebook

In April 2020, the Netflix show "Never Have I Ever," which Kaling co-created, came out. The series takes viewers through the everyday life of Devi Vishwakumar, an Indian-American teen living in Los Angeles who recently lost her father. The show touches on how the 15-year-old deals with her relationship with her mom, a high school social life and with grief — something with which Kaling is familiar.

“Losing my mom and then wanting to talk about it in a way that is not as sad as the experience of going through it, but being able to be like, ‘If you went through anything like this, you could watch this and feel seen’ —I think that was the goal,” Kaling said of creating "Never Have I Ever."

In July 2021, Kaling appeared on TODAY with Hoda and Jenna and said that the show is loosely based on her own experiences as a teenager navigating high school.

"I created this show with my friend, Lang Fisher, and we were both nerds in high school, but we were ambitious and wanted to have boyfriends, and I felt like we really didn't get to see that side of nerds, especially Asian women," she explained. "We're usually depicted as demure, and I like (Vishwakumar) because she's feisty and smart and has an anger problem."

Season 3 of "Never Have I Ever" will premiere on Friday.