Dear Vanessa Bryant,
I’m so sorry for your loss. To lose your husband is a devastating loss, but to lose your precious daughter also…it seems unbearable.
I was 43 when my husband and the father of our three children was killed in a tragic snowmobile accident. One moment we were saying “I love you” and enjoying the day…the next he was gone. The shock was so palpable that it was as though I had fallen into the icy cold of the glacier’s deep crevasse.
I don’t pretend to know what you’re feeling or experiencing, Vanessa. I’m praying for you and your children and all of those around you. And I hope my words will give you some comfort in your sudden grief.
Every morning is a reminder…for a time.
In the first few weeks that you awaken, you will experience losing your husband and daughter again and again. You will open your eyes and for a few brief seconds, you will have forgotten. Then the dawning will fall on you and your heart will break anew. I spent so many mornings crumpled by the sadness of again coming face to face with my husband’s death almost as if it were the first time. This “twilight grief” will go away. I don’t know how long it will be, but by God’s grace…you will not hurt as much as you do now.
You’ll long for your husband.
No marriage is perfect, but you and your husband chose marriage continuously. Through all the ups and downs, you hung in there and bravely chose commitment every.single.day. Death took that away from you. You didn’t want to stop being a wife, a lover, a best friend, a companion. It was ripped from you suddenly and you’re left longing. Longing for his smell…his touch…his voice. Aching to make love again. To feel his body against yours. You will ache for him.
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Loss will deliver compassion for others.
Losing my husband suddenly and the shock of grief that came with it taught me to never judge how someone grieves. After Mike’s death, I had family members who went off the deep end of alcohol abuse and negative choices after losing their spouses. And I got it. I understood that they were doing WHATEVER it took to soothe their pain. It’s very hard to judge another’s grief after sudden loss. It hurts so much.
Do whatever you need to do to feel better…with boundaries.
Listening to the loudest rock music soothed my angry spirit for awhile. Weeping as I watched episodes of “A Wedding Story” helped at other times. Shopping, redecorating, taking classes, reading voraciously…they all had their place in my grief journey. For a time. Support groups didn’t help me, but that’s just me. I felt propelled to move from the “camp of death” and to pursue life. My children needed that from me.
I learned just “to be.” To be present with myself. Be present with my grief. Be present with God as He lovingly carried my children and me through such deep loss. Listen to your spirit and do what soothes you. Avoid the “shoulds” right now. Avoid the people who all of a sudden want to become your friend to support you. You don’t have the energy for new friendships. Just be with those who have loved you before this day.
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Talk about them.
You will need to talk about them a lot. Cling to friends who are willing to hear the same stories again and again…until you’re ready to stop telling them. My daughter shared a memory of her father with a friend who told her, “You’ve told me that before.” I gently pulled the friend aside and told her that she’s really the only one my daughter was talking to about her dad. Your children may need to tell the same stories more than once. It’s part of saying goodbye.
The pain will subside…I promise.
Kobe and Gigi’s absence will lurk in every word, every song, every thought….every single day. You will cry in the strangest places. I sobbed while buying new tires, while watching my kids play, while waiting for coffee. You will cry a lot. And that’s from someone who didn’t cry much before.
While you won’t hurt as much as you do now, you may find as I did that there’s comfort in the hurting. Somehow the grief seems to draw us nearer to our loved ones. And the day you realize that your cloud of grief is somehow lifting may bring another kind of grief. You realize that as much as you want to stop hurting, the sadness continues to bond you to your husband and daughter. And you’re afraid to move away by getting better. But get better you must.
Your loss will never be over.
You will grieve the loss of future anniversaries. You will grieve his absence at your children’s weddings and the birth of their children. You will grieve at small times that Kobe and Gigi would’ve been there and big times that their absence is glaring. You will grieve throughout the rest of your life, but the pain will subside. That’s God’s grace to us.
Grow deeper with God.
And, finally, if you’re a woman of faith, you already know the goodness and grace of our loving God who is walking through the valley of the shadow of death with you. You already know the peace that passes understanding, because you know there is no reason on earth that you have this much peace with so much loss. And for that, I’m very grateful for you. It is only by God’s grace and mercy that the human spirit can survive such loss.
You have had unimaginable loss, and you will feel like you will never survive it. You will wonder how you can make it through one more day. You will stare into a future void of Kobe and Gigi… and you will shudder.
But you will get better. You will always miss them, but you won’t always hurt like you do now. You will always long for your husband, but you won’t always ache.
You will get better, because get better you must.
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