George Rivera, 64, reflected on his grandson Josey’s strength during a conversation with Entertainment Tonight, which saw him also praise his daughter Nickayla and Naya’s ex-husband Ryan Dorsey for the “really great job” they are doing raising the five year old.
“Nickayla and Ryan are doing a really great job,” he told the outlet, adding that it’s a “tough situation, especially because he was there”.
“It’s not like you’re talking about a ghost that’s floating around, right? He’s got memories as well, but boy is he coming around, right?” he added. “Really strong kid.”
As for how the family handles moments when Josey wants to talk about his late mother, George said they navigate the difficult conversations by speaking to his grandson just like you would to any other young child.
“We handle him and we talk to him just like he’s a five-year-old going on six,” he said. “It’s no different but when he wants to talk about his mother, we talk about his mother, in conversation. He’s growing up and handling it really well.”
The Glee star, who was 33 when she died, had rented a boat with Josey at Lake Piru in California when she accidentally drowned in July 2020.
When the boat was not returned on time, staff went looking for the vessel, eventually finding Josey, who was four at the time, asleep onboard.
Naya’s body was eventually recovered five days later, on 13 July, with Josey telling investigators at the time that he remembers his mother helping him back onto the boat before disappearing under the water.
Reflecting on his daughter’s last actions to protect her son, George told the outlet that they were in line with how Naya treated life, “when things are hard, you keep pushing”.
The actress’s father previously opened up about the day Naya died during a conversation with People earlier this month, during which he revealed that he and his daughter had FaceTimed shortly before her death.
According to George, Naya would “always bounce stuff off me,” with the 64-year-old recalling how she had called him during the boating trip to discuss her plans to swim with Josey in the lake.
At the time, George said he warned his daughter against going into the lake, as the boat did not have an anchor and he worried that it would drift away while the pair were swimming.
“I could see that the wind was blowing and my stomach was just cringing,” he recalled. “I kept telling her: ‘Don’t get out of the boat! Don’t get out of the boat! It will drift away when you’re in the water.’”
Describing the moment as “heartbreaking,” Naya’s father told People that the call cut out after about three minutes, at which point he said he was left with this “bad feeling that was just killing me”.
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