There are some moments in life you remember forever. Moments that change your outlook, or connect you forever, or ones that shake you to your core and leave you wondering when you’ll get back to some sense of normalcy. January 26, 2020, had one of those moments. On that tragic morning, Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crashed, ultimately leading to the devastating death of the Lakers’ star and his thirteen-year-old daughter Gianna. The crash also took the lives of Payton Chester, 13; Sarah Chester, 45; Alyssa Altobelli, 14; Keri Altobelli, 46; John Altobelli, 56; Christina Mauser, 38; and the helicopter’s pilot, Ara Zobayan, 50.
Having grown up in Los Angeles and been a Lakers fan my entire life, this was a celebrity passing I had trouble wrapping my head around. My dad was visiting me in New York and we had just sat down for brunch at Bubby’s in Tribeca when I received a text with the news. By the time I said the words to him, both our eyes immediately filled with tears. I had to cover the Grammys for work that night and as the red carpet started I remembered thinking ‘this is so wrong and does not make any sense.’ The world grieved the loss of the nine souls lost that day for weeks and once the headlines subsided I found myself, like many, thinking about Vanessa Bryant.
Vanessa Bryant recently opened up about her grief on Instagram, sharing a lengthy message via her Instagram stories. She inspired others struggling with grief to “find your reason” to keep going, attributing her daughters Natalia, Bianka, and Capri for keeping her going. Mama Mamba has also been open about how thankful she is for her friends and family during this difficult time.
On the eve of the first anniversary, Vanessa shared a letter on Instagram from Gianna’s best friend Aubrey with a heartfelt note for her loved ones. “I miss my baby girl and Kob-Kob so much, too, ♥️” wrote Bryant, “I will never understand why/how this tragedy could’ve happened to such beautiful, kind and amazing human beings. It still doesn’t seem real. Kob, we did it right. Gigi, you still make mommy proud. I love you!”
As the year anniversary of the accident came up, following months of a pandemic in which we’ve lost more than 418,000 lives to COVID-19 in the United States alone, it seemed like a time to think about grief and how people process that grief. Grief can be broken down into two types, acute and persistent. Acute lasts about a year and improves gradually, while in persistent grief, the symptoms and feelings last much longer. While navigating your grief, you may experience the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and ultimately acceptance. Though these emotions are intense, grief can also manifest physically (fatigue, insomnia, weight gain/loss, etc.), which is why it’s important to take care of your mental and physical health, however tedious and non-essential it may seem at the time.
To help combat some of these feelings, science has come up with a few suggestions over the years. At first, these may seem impossible, so consider asking a close friend or family member to help keep you accountable or join a group or class.
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Recognize the differences between grief and depression (normal grief should not call for antidepressants)
- Plan for grief triggers such as anniversaries, birthdays, or holidays
- Face your feelings
- Try to stay present
There is no timeline for grieving, and each case varies. In my experience, grief is something we feel in waves, some are smaller, and some completely wipe you out. It isn’t a one-stop-shop for everyone, but hopefully, these tips help make the day to day a bit easier as you heal and remind you that you’re never alone.