So this social media topic I can't help but continue. After finishing my entry on Sunday morning, I would soon learn that Kobe Bryant and his daughter, and many others died in a devastating helicopter accident. My older son, Matthew, would inform me. He found out from a very popular social media site, TikTok. Social media. It will always be there whether we like it or not – social media – I said in my last entry.
In those moments that I found out about this horrible event, my mind flashed to, “Who really was Kobe Bryant? Did he have a family? Were there others on this helicopter with him?” I do not really follow sports or Hollywood for that matter, at least not as much as others, so I began to Google information. After reading more about him, and that he was married with four children, my sadness grew. And hearing that his daughter, Gianna, was on that fateful flight, made me sick. They were on their way to her basketball game. He was being a father. A parent. And he was with her, holding her in those final moments.
So why are we so drawn to this story? Because even though most of us cannot relate to being famous and having lots of money, most of us can relate with something that the Bryant family is and was. Kobe admitted to making terrible mistakes in his life and sought redemption with his faith and publicly apologizing to his fans and to all involved. We all have let ourselves down, and let loved ones down knowing we could do better. We are all human and have made bad choices, and have faced our own struggles. His wife standing by his side through the years. Many of us have loved someone so deeply that we forgive and continue, and choose to love. He worked hard at what he did, and with that, had many looking up to him and wanting to follow in his footsteps. A lot of us do our very best in our jobs, careers and roles, and hope to inspire. And many can relate with being in an interracial relationship, one that perhaps family members do not approve of, as Kobe relayed about his own marriage with Vanessa. Or even just being in an interracial marriage or relationship and the challenges, even today, that go with that. And then being a parent, a dad. He motivated and supported his daughters to go after something bigger, and to be their best. Something that we all want for our children. He was on his way to coach a Sunday afternoon basketball game. Something again, many of us can relate with on our busy, jammed packed weekends. And then I learned that his wife, Vanessa, had suffered from an ectopic pregnancy, a miscarriage as they said in an article I read, back in 2003. Pregnancy loss. And now she was suffering an unimaginable loss of her husband and daughter. I have thought about her, even though I will never know or meet her – my heart just aches for her. The humanness and rawness of what she is experiencing outweighs who she is – a famous basketball player's wife. She is a wife and a mother. She is a human being that is experiencing incredible suffering. She has described what she is going through as being “numb”, and that she cannot finish a sentence without crying. There was a widowed mother that reached out to her, that wanted to connect in some way to help her in her very dark days. But this mother in the very beginning admitted that she did not lose a child as well. When we lose, we are hurting very much so. But others around, are trying to connect in some way. To say, “I love you, I am here.” And sometimes, “I don't know what it feels like, but I am sorry.” Or, “I have experienced something similar.” I wondered after I read this mother's letter, who is the mother of four children as well, if the letter helped Mrs. Bryant? Or if it didn't? For Kobe's wife also lost a child at the same time. And the way that their husbands died was very different.
I remember in the days after Emily died, seeking, okay obsessively searching for a mother with two living children who lost a baby in their second trimester. Wanting to find this person would provide me with connection and also answers. Or at least this was my hope. I was not given a reason for our loss at 16 weeks, and so I was on a mission to find out “why”? Though the “why” may never really be answered I have found. I help facilitate our monthly baby loss group, as well as attend other groups. And even in there, if the bereaved mothers were given a reason in some way for the death of their babies, the “why” never completely rid them of questions and uncertainty. “Why did this happen? If I had maybe gone to the doctor's sooner, maybe it wouldn't have. If I had pushed them for further testing, they may be here. If I had trusted my gut that something wasn't right, I could have prevented this. If I had done this or that… maybe my baby would be here.” I wouldn't be surprised if Vanessa replays the same questions right now of what – if anything – she could have done differently. Our sense of control is gone. And that makes us feel vulnerable, helpless. Powerless. Out-of-control. It's horrible.
I am in no way saying that that Vanessa Bryant's pain is like losing a baby. Besides, she has already experienced that pain as it was disclosed. But she is going to experience, and is experiencing the grief and loss stages and will continue to the rest of her life. It is a part of her now. Shock, this did not happen, it can't be happening. Bargaining – what can I do to change this? Can I change it? Anger, why did this happen? Why? Depression, feelings of great despair. Acceptance of this being your life now. As hard and unbearable as it can seems at times. Mothers that go through baby loss, experience this all as well.
I remember too – wanting to be strong for Matthew and Ryan. As Vanessa Bryant said. That she is still a mother to her three daughters here, and that she has to be strong. There will be days where she just wants to lie in bed and cry. And she probably will do that. But she will also have to get out of the bed, and put a smile on her face to take care of her children that are here. There is also the part that you want to be 150% “present” in every moment after loss. To not take it for granted for even a second. She will probably experience that. You really do stop and take it all in – even more. And then the times where she finds herself laughing and feeling a little good, but feeling guilty for this feeling. I shouldn't be happy, I just experienced a huge loss. Also, others will say, “Well, at least it wasn't worse.” I had this said to me at different times. And yes, it is stating the obvious. Did it help in those moments? For me, it did not. For it minimized the pain and suffering that I was going through.
I felt a great amount of prayers and support in my first days of losing Emily and even, Michael. But slowly that all went away. And sadly, Mrs. Bryant will probably feel that too. Granted, her loss has been felt worldwide. With Instagram, her followers have increased greatly, including Fixer Upper, Joanna Gaines, herself. That must feel good on some level – that so many care. I remember when I read that Vanessa Bryant's Instagram picture changed to Kobe and Gianna, I wanted to see. I wanted to see her post and read it. To see and hear about her pain. Before our baby losses, I'm not sure I would have done that. Wanted to get so close to someone else's unbearable pain. I do not know her, but I wanted to make sure that she was okay, though she never will be. At least not anytime soon. Seeing “hearts” being given to her Instagram post about her tragic loss must have comforted her to some level. And seeing how many people wanted to follow her. Most humans do not like to see suffering, and want to do whatever they can do to support someone.
With pregnancy loss, you probably will not get that support. It becomes a big secret that many do not want to bring up for the fear of saying the wrong thing, or fear of contributing to more pain. Plus their life was so short lived. Only the mother truly knew her baby. They were inside of her. She already has a story of who they are, and the dreams she had for her child. But I am sure some will hold back on saying something to Vanessa, scared that they may not say the right thing. Though again, nothing will make her feel okay. Nothing. But to say, “I am so sorry,” and letting her speak and just listening is a start. Hopes and dreams crumbled in those moment as well. Kobe had started writing a children's book with an author, and was helping other children athletes at his academy. And his own daughter, GiGi, had hopes and dreams of playing in the WNBA someday. And how quickly all of that was taken away in the blink of an eye.
But eventually, others will move on as I said. Just as they did after losing Emily and Michael. Granted, Vanessa's loss was very different. I like to think of Martin Luther King, Jr, and his impact on the civil rights movement. Kobe's and his daughter's impact will be felt by many forever. But eventually, she will have that raw pain. It will always be there. And she may not have the incredible support that she has right now. But that rawness, extreme hurt, it'll be there. It'll never go away entirely. I always said that I would never “move on” but that I would move forward, one day at a time, one moment at a time.
The shock of it all that Vanessa must replay everyday, and negotiating and bargaining for just one more moment with them. One more date with her husband. One more smile and hug from her daughter. We, as mothers with baby loss, bargain in our heads with it “not being real”. Can I just have one more try to do this all different? Maybe if I had done this or that, my baby would be here. And would wake up to thinking that this all was a nightmare. Can't I just hit “rewind” and do this again? This can't be real.
When things like this happen – loss – suddenly, at times – it makes us step back from life and realize what it's all about – love and relationships. Somebody can have all the money in the world, but most desire that – love. Want that – love. Crave that – love. And when it is taken away so suddenly, heartbreaking is an understatement and does not do it justice.
Sharing stories to help others not feel alone can help. I have realized recently that nobody will ever know and truly understand my pain of losing two babies, and not getting a “rainbow” baby. Just as nobody will every understand the full magnitude of what Vanessa Bryant is going through. But we can try. And social media can connect many of us that might have otherwise felt alone. It will never take away your pain, but it helps to not feel alone. That you are suffering. A way that social media has started to come around. In connecting with many issues besides loss, such as mental health that also goes along with loss. Social media can help with connecting. It – support with social media – was barely there when I experienced the loss of Emily. Or at least it was more “secret”. I find that it is moving forward, and that is good. But we still have a long way to go. And again, you have to figure out if it is helping you. Is hearing about others losses hurting you more? Or is it reassuring? Or are others comments sensitive and loving when we are in pain? Again, is it helping?
If it's time to unplug, then do that. If it's healing and comforting to go onto social media, then trust that. Social media can connect us. It can unite us, especially across the miles, with people we might not even know. You just have to figure out if it helps, or if it doesn't. And then make the choice to act in ways that will help you get to a better place. And only you know what will help in getting there. Pause. Breathe. Reflect. And then decide what you need to do.
**I wrote this blog entry the week after Kobe Bryant's and others tragic accident. I wanted a little time to reflect before posting, hence having it posted on February 10th. God bless all those involved.