I'm Thinking Of Vanessa Bryant Now More Than Ever

I’m Thinking Of Those Grieving Families Now More Than Ever

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I don’t know what it’s like to be Vanessa Bryant right now. I don’t know what it’s like to grieve over the tragic loss of both my life partner and my beloved daughter. I don’t know what it’s like to plan a funeral for two loved ones at once. And I don’t know what it’s like being surrounded by a world who feels like my loss is also their own, too.

I don’t know because these losses are not mine. I’ve never lost my spouse and my child all in one breath. I don’t know because I am not her. I don’t carry those unique relationships only she can have with her husband Kobe and daughter Gianna. But there is one thing I do know, one thing I do carry with me day after day, and that is the persistence of immense grief.

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I’ve been reluctant to put my feelings into words. My brain refuses to accept that both Kobe and Gigi are gone. I can’t process both at the same time. It’s like I’m trying to process Kobe being gone but my body refuses to accept my Gigi will never come back to me. It feels wrong. Why should I be able to wake up another day when my baby girl isn’t being able to have that opportunity?! I’m so mad. She had so much life to live. Then I realize I need to be strong and be here for my 3 daughters. Mad I’m not with Kobe and Gigi but thankful I’m here with Natalia, Bianka and Capri. I know what I’m feeling is normal. It’s part of the grieving process. I just wanted to share in case there’s anyone out there that’s experienced a loss like this. God I wish they were here and this nightmare would be over. Praying for all of the victims of this horrible tragedy. Please continue to pray for all.

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You see, my daughter died on a Sunday, too.

It was unexpected, and her absence completely undid my entire world. Even three years later, there’s not a Sunday that passes me by where I go without thinking about that morning — the first day where I truly realized what it actually meant to “have a bad day.”

At first, I couldn’t get on social media without seeing her obituary or GoFundMe shared from friends and family. There wasn’t an hour that came and went without someone texting, messaging, or trying to call me. But after the funeral, things changed. Almost in an instant, really.

I'm Thinking Of Those 5 Grieving Families Now More Than Ever: Memorial for crash vitims
The family of John Altobelli, son JJ Altobelli, his fiance Carly Konigsfeld and daughter Lexi Altobelli, speak during a memorial service honoring their father John, his wife, Keri, and their daughter Alyssa at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on February 10, 2020 in Anaheim, California.
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Even if you know in your heart of hearts that everybody around you will “move on” while you’re grieving, it’s so much more painful when you’re the one who’s standing still while the earth beneath you keeps on spinning.

Now that it’s been a few weeks since the Bryant family, the Altobelli family, The Mauser family, the Chester family, and the Zobayan family all lost a huge chunk of their hearts, I’m thinking of them now more than ever, maybe because I, too, have been there. The news articles may fade, the tributes may turn into a slow trickle compared to what was in those early days, but these five families are remembered.

No matter how much we hate it and pray for fate to prevent it or even change it, tragedy happens. And it’s only until then that you suddenly begin to hear the world telling the bereaved that they just “can’t imagine” such a heavy grief. It happened when my daughter died, and it’s happening even more so with the extensive number of losses the world has seen throughout these past few weeks. Maybe you, like me in past years, have spoken these words too.

This is the phrase I like to refer to as the “default response” to grief. It’s a filler sentence we innocently speak in hopes of helping to validate a grieving person’s pain. The thing is, though, it’s not true. Not really. It’s not that we can’t imagine another’s loss. It’s not that we can’t imagine what life is like for these families during this time. It’s that we don’t want to.

I'm Thinking Of Those 5 Grieving Families Now More Than Ever: Memorial for Kobe Bryant and Gianna
A makeshift memorial for Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna outside the Staples Center on February 1, 2020 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, CA
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We don’t feel comfortable doing so. Maybe without even realizing it, we block ourselves off from feeling a small portion of someone else’s immense pain.

But if we want to see more support for the bereaved beyond those fresh few days, this is one thing we need to socially change. Because when someone loses someone they love, one of the only things we can do for them is to imagine their pain, to pick it up off the ground and carry a portion of their deep grief underneath our wing.

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My girls and I want to thank the millions of people who’ve shown support and love during this horrific time. Thank you for all the prayers. We definitely need them. We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe — the amazing father of our children; and my beautiful, sweet Gianna — a loving, thoughtful, and wonderful daughter, and amazing sister to Natalia, Bianka, and Capri. We are also devastated for the families who lost their loved ones on Sunday, and we share in their grief intimately. There aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now. I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved. We were so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives. I wish they were here with us forever. They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon. I’m not sure what our lives hold beyond today, and it’s impossible to imagine life without them. But we wake up each day, trying to keep pushing because Kobe, and our baby girl, Gigi, are shining on us to light the way. Our love for them is endless — and that’s to say, immeasurable. I just wish I could hug them, kiss them and bless them. Have them here with us, forever. Thank you for sharing your joy, your grief and your support with us. We ask that you grant us the respect and privacy we will need to navigate this new reality. To honor our Team Mamba family, the Mamba Sports Foundation has set up the MambaOnThree Fund to help support the other families affected by this tragedy. To donate, please go to MambaOnThree.org. To further Kobe and Gianna’s legacy in youth sports, please visit MambaSportsFoundation.org. Thank you so much for lifting us up in your prayers, and for loving Kobe, Gigi, Natalia, Bianka, Capri and me. #Mamba #Mambacita #GirlsDad #DaddysGirls #Family ❤️

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There is nothing on this earth that makes the bereaved feel more isolated than to hear that nobody out there can fathom their circumstance. After all, if there’s not a single soul who can picture this life they are living — their current reality — how are they supposed to feel supported in this new world which they feel like they’re barely surviving?

A grieving mother, wife, daughter, husband, son, and grandparent do not feel like their life, however shocking and tragic it may be in the moment, is so “unimaginable” while they are living it day after day, week after week, and year after year.

That’s what this unfathomable grief is — lifelong. If we want to look it in the eye, then we have to see it for what it truly is… something that sticks with a person beyond the funeral. If we are to truly be someone who wants to support the bereaved, we need to remember that our empathy means just as much, if not more, in the latter days, too.

I'm Thinking Of Those 5 Grieving Families Now More Than Ever: Memorial of Kobe Bryant and Gianna
A mural honoring Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna in Los Angeles, CA Icon Sportswire/Getty

We don’t know what it’s like to be a family member of someone who lost their life on January 26th, and we wouldn’t dare pretend that we do.

But we can imagine.

We can imagine a small fraction of their deep hurt.

We can imagine that this isn’t a grief that will vanish after the funeral.

We can imagine numerous nights filled with tear-stained pillows.

We can imagine the hurtful “firsts” that will come and go without their loved ones this year.

Out of so many things we cannot do, one of the only things we can do is to imagine.