On January 26, 2020 the world lost a shining star. He was a legend in the basketball arena, a present and loving father, and like so many great men, an evolving husband. The star was Kobe Bryant. At just 41 years of age his life was terminated by a deadly helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. Not only did Kobe’s demise largely hit an emotional turbulence button for many, but so did finding out that his 13- year-old daughter perished with him, as well as 7 other people on Kobe’s private chopper.
There’s no right time to say farewell to people we admire or love. And there’s even less ease with outliving children who die before they reach adulthood. The mind has a hard time understanding why life would be taken so soon and that type of confusion is what a lot of people are grappling with right now.
If I was to say I had the answers for how to live beyond grief I wonder if it would support people’s way of accepting that we don’t necessarily have a right to the time that we die. If you add onto the idea that death is not a consequence for aging or being ill, do you think we would lose the grip on feeling as deeply overwhelmed as we do?
Grief has a sudden and invasive way of surprising us. As with most things we don’t anticipate it does not have a linear course of action. Using our logical mind to comprehend things that don’t make sense isn’t logical, it’s painful. It’s difficult to conceptualize and for most, difficult to accept.
Acceptance is the 5th stage in grief. Sometimes, people go from denial to anger, to bargaining and then depression; the other 4 stages. Sometimes grief doesn’t occur in chronological order nor does everyone experience all 5 stages of it. Death is not the end-all-be-all to our psychology of grief. It’s also how we die and when we die that we mentally struggle with. Accepting that adolescent girls, their parents and their coaches could not be invincible is something a lot of people will never accept. But we must learn to live with death as an inescapable part of life. We must accept that life has a term date. Physical life is not everlasting. However, we can live with the stage of grief that helps us to cope on a higher level of functioning, and that’s by finding meaning in death- the 6th stage of grief. The meaning of death is discussed at length in “Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief” by author and speaker, David Kessler. I suggest reading more about it there.
Last year, in 2019 I lost 5 loved ones in 6 months. The year started on a high with my trip to South Africa, but shortly ensued with 1 grandfather’s passing in March, followed by the passing of one of my older sister’s in April, a short pause in between, but 3 more deaths by the end of summer—beginning with an aunt for whom I was the caretaker, to another grandfather’s death and finally, my own father, all within a span of 7 days. Your head never imagines your heart can survive such significant and multiple loss, but they do. It wasn’t that those losses didn’t impact me, but they did so in ways that have helped me to live with more awareness.
It didn’t begin with their deaths ironically enough. It began years ago when I decided I wanted to live with more intention and meaning in my life. That took many turns including being a distant caretaker to my parents and my aunt which involved a lot of traveling between the northeast, but it also included doing things that would make me live my life with less regrets. Once I decided that nothing was impossible, I visited my parents as often as I could. I advocated and visited with my aunt as frequently as I wanted and needed. I worked only on days of the week that would allow me to maintain and grow my business while also being present to all of them, so I didn’t miss too much time with either. And I talked about my experiences with people who cared about me, so I didn’t feel constant isolation. I even began listening to podcasts on how to get acquainted with death, which helped me tremendously. So, when I think of Kobe Bryant and his family recognizing too that they aren’t the only ones suffering, though the most public of them all, I am humbled by the many images we have in our minds of who we thought he was. At best, his presence taught those who met him that nothing is meant to be wasted—not time, not love, surely not one’s skill, and with that I say he prepared us all for how to live.
Regarding the multiple relatives I lost last year, I am honored I was a part of their life and journeys throughout this time while I am alive. They have filled my life with so many memories, laughter, character and meaning. Today I walk through this world with a full heart for having known them, loved them and been loved by them. I humbly take the torch and move forward with every great thing I’ve been entrusted now to do!
*This blog is about becoming free. It’s a reflection of introspective thoughts and experiences that have crossed miles of self-discovery. I created this blog to inspire others to live life with less self-criticism, judgment and openness to new experiences. May you find that you learn how to live a life by design and on your own terms!*