The death of Kobe Bryant and the eight others on that helicopter rocked the soul of Los Angeles, and the millions of other souls around the world. As I write this, a friend who lives in LA, tells me that the city is, “so sad right now.” On the other end of the spectrum, I heard from a few people this week that were irritated his death got so much news coverage. That the news media should, “spend more time on military deaths,” and, “Kobe is not any better of a person than anyone else.”
I believe that all of these points of view are valid.
But the question is: why do some deaths impact us more than others? Why do we grieve heavily for people we have never met?
One possible answer—especially seen in sports and music—is due to the connective tissue we form over time between us and them. Connective tissue is an emotional bond. A song, artist, or athlete or team can become something we belong to. They become part of our family. They are safe escapes for us when struggle occurs. Songs become words that speak what our souls want to say. Once that connectivity gets damaged or altered in any way, it is painful—sometimes physically, and most definitely, emotionally.
When our idols pass away, there is a part of us that can pass away, too.
For me, a piece of myself died when Chris Cornell (Soundgarden, Audioslave, Temple of the Dog) suicided a couple years ago. To this day, it is difficult to hear Chris’ voice in a song and knowing I will never see him perform again. Kobe’s passing particularly hurts for me because I lived in Los Angeles for 10 years when the Lakers completed a three-peat basketball championship run. For all the craziness of LA, Laker basketball was the refuge for the city; something everyone rallied around. Kobe was its leader.
As a father of two young boys, I certainly connected to the way Kobe spent his last years with his family and creating opportunities for women in sports. Part of the reason we started the Wyoming Center for Clinical Excellence was to create a space for a new wave of therapists who want to learn the profession in a different way; to become greater at what they do.
That is what I aspire to be: someone who gives back to their community, teaches the next generation to outperform the previous one, and creates opportunity for others to grow.
And most importantly to me, I want to spend the rest of my days building up and loving on my boys.
Thanks to Kobe, I will be in the Campbell County Recreation Center in Gillette, Wyoming a whole lot more shooting baskets with my boys in the coming days and weeks.
Brian Edwards, LMFT, CATC, is a co-founder of the Wyoming Center for Clinical Excellence in Gillette, Wyoming. Brian specializes in trauma, group counseling, marriage and family therapy and substance abuse and addiction therapy.