The tragedy of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter, two of her teammates, three of their parents, and the pilot on Sunday has brought on a tide of collective mourning.
Whenever a tragedy on this scale strikes, especially one involving a famous and beloved public figure, the outpouring of grief can feel overwhelming.
There are those who criticize the grief — You didn’t know those people, why are you sad? What about XYZ tragedy that happened? Were you crying then?
The “whataboutism” and the “you-don’t-have-a-right-to-feel-what-you-feel-ism” is a common refrain. I don’t judge those who are devastated, nor do I judge those who aren’t. What I find more useful in a situation like this is to try to understand why people are so affected.
Myself included. I never paid any special amount of attention to Kobe Bryant while he was alive, but once I heard about his death, I was stunned. When I heard that his 13 year old daughter was also on board, I cried. When I heard two other children had died, and two more had been orphaned, I had to stop following the coverage.
For me, these deaths were not only a trigger of past personal losses, but they really activated my fear of losing any more people I love. I have no (conscious) fear of my own demise. But I actively fear having to say goodbye to anyone I love.
And I believe that’s what our collective mourning is really about — love.
We may not have personally loved anyone who died in that tragic crash. But we do love — deeply, or we wish to. And to love anyone deeply is an act of vulnerability.
Love can feel completely terrifying. Because there is no love without loss. Just as there is no life without death.
But at the same time, love is what makes life worth living. The more love you have in your life, and the more deeply you experience that love, the more joy and fulfillment you have. And importantly — the more strength.
I learned through personal experience losing my father 22 years ago that the love we shared survives death. I know that in order to love as deeply as we all desire to, we must use love’s power to heal our fears, our grief, and to strengthen our resilience.
Love is that powerful. It’s that important. And it’s the only thing that can conquer death.
If you’re feeling fearful, or sad, or disconnected – love more. Yourself, your community, your partner, your family and friends. Seek it out and cultivate it. Love is the answer.