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Grief, sudden loss, and Kobe Bryant: Reflections from a grief expert

Grief, joy, loss, life, death: these are all part of our everyday lives. Yet death and loss are much more difficult to process and talk about than joy. Many are reeling over the news of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna tragically passing away along with seven others in a helicopter crash. The sudden loss of these people has left their families prematurely grieving spouses, mothers, fathers, and siblings whom they thought would be by their side for years to come. Unexpected grief affects people every single day, but when someone of such fame dies suddenly, it casts light on what many of us live in ignorance of. Life is fleeting and we wake up each day unaware of whether it will be our last, no matter our age, health, or wealth. Death is undeniably universal, yet we behave as though it is not.

It can be more difficult to cope with a sudden loss.

“In both sudden death and anticipated death, there is pain. However, while the grief is not greater in sudden death, the capacity to cope is diminished. Grievers are shocked and stunned by the sudden loss of their loved one. The loss is so disruptive that recovery almost always is complicated. This is because the adaptive capacities are so severely assaulted and the ability to cope is so critically injured that functioning is seriously impaired,” says Dr. Therese Rando in a Legacy.com article.

Everyone grieves differently. It is important to have patience with yourself. There is no right way to grieve.

When we experience sudden loss, it may feel like time stands still. The affect can ripple out to close family members, friends and even the deceased’s surrounding community. This was the case when Holy Cross rower, Grace Rett, tragically passed in a car crash two weeks ago. These unanticipated losses can be jarring at many levels and can be a trigger for those who have endured similar experiences. For those facing unanticipated grief, a few things may help:

Understand that all grief is unique.

Everyone grieves differently. It is important to have patience with yourself. Especially when dealing with sudden loss, emotions can be delayed. You are left feeling numb – everything seems unreal. You may have had a normal morning with your loved one, and suddenly, a day later, they’re gone. You don’t expect it. You never would. Give yourself time to heal.

Surround yourself with people who get it.

People who understand the visceral grief that comes with unexpected loss don’t have unrealistic expectations of you. They won’t demand you to grieve their way. Instead, they will let you go through the process on your terms. This is important. If you don’t have those people in your life, you can feel like you’re not grieving appropriately. But you are, as there is no right way to grieve.

Attend a support group.

After a sudden loss, people will find themselves not ready to join a support group. It’s hard to believe the reality of what has happened. It doesn’t seem real yet, so our emotions can be delayed. We may find that months or even years after the loss, our emotions resurface or surface unexpectedly. It is never too late to address these feelings. Finding a support group can give you a supportive and safe environment to express your emotions. HopeHealth offers grief support groups to the community, regardless of the type of loss.

If the sudden and tragic loss of a beloved celebrity does anything, let it remind us to be kind, patient and gentle with those grieving such difficult losses. Let it also remind us to savor each breath and love our people out loud, fiercely and abundantly.


This post was written by Deanna Upchurch, HopeHealth’s director of clinical outreach services. 

If you’re coping with a loss, we’re here for you. Call us at (888) 528-9077 or email us at Information@HopeHealthCo.org.

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