Kobe Bryant: Coping With the Death of a Legend

Tips for helping your child with grief and loss

Posted Jan 27, 2020

Keith Allison/Wikimedia Commons
Source: Keith Allison/Wikimedia Commons

On January 26, the World was in shock after the news that Kobe Bryant, retired player of the Los Angeles Lakers, was killed in a helicopter crash near Calabasas. Many people, including myself, could not believe the tragic news. It’s during a time like this that many people stop to reflect on life and the realization that at any moment it could be your last day to spend time with a loved one or family member.

According to an article published in the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles watched Bryant grow up and navigate challenges in life to become the man many knew outside of the world of NBA Basketball. “Regardless of the complicated feelings that remain over the sexual assault charge against him that was dropped after an out-of-court settlement, Bryant was undeniably the athlete who most represented this city over the last 30 years”, reported the LA Times. CNN reported that Bryant was one of nine killed in the helicopter crash. Heartfelt messages and condolences have been flooding social media since the news broke.

In the days and weeks to come, many youth and adults will be grieving the loss of Kobe Bryant. Although we will all experience death and grief at some point in our life, that doesn’t prevent us from experiencing the emotions that come into our lives when the loss hits. Grief is normal and there is no time limit on how long it takes for someone to recover from a loss. People often experience grief in waves with good and bad days. The American Psychological Association (APA), notes that “most people recover from loss on their own through the passage of time when they have social support and coping resources”. For children and adolescents, the help of parents and adults play a critical role in facilitating the grieving process.

Tips to Help Your Child Heal

Everyone copes differently with death and there is no “one size fits all” approach to grieving. Here are a few suggested strategies to promote healing for your child.

Allow them to express their feelings. People experience all kinds of emotions after the death of someone they know. These feelings may include sadness, anger, frustration and even exhaustion. It’s okay to have those feelings and to express them. Although it may be difficult to acknowledge, it is important to not keep those emotions inside.

Remember and celebrate Kobe’s life. It’s important to find a way to remember the person you are grieving and to celebrate their life. Help your child identify how they want to honor Kobe. This may involve wearing his jersey, posting one of his well-known quotes, or using art to remember his legacy.

Encourage self-care. After a loss, it is important to take care of yourself. Make sure that your child is eating a healthy meal, exercising and getting enough sleep. Given the emotional toll, grieving can have both psychological and physical effects on the body. Adequate self-care can help promote healing. 

Implement a social media break. Studies show that repeated exposure to traumatic events such as sudden death or accident can lead to emotional distress. Encourage your child to consume a healthy amount of news about the crash and recognize when it is time for your child to take a “social media break”. Too much exposure to viewing coverage could increase the likelihood of experiencing post-traumatic stress reactions.

Seek help and support. It is helpful to talk with your child about their emotional reactions to the devastating news. Give them a safe space to discuss their disappointment, anger, or sadness. Avoid telling them that their emotions are not valid. If you notice that your child is becoming significantly impacted and struggle for weeks, consider seeking help from a licensed mental health professional.

Copyright 2020 Erlanger A. Turner, Ph.D.


To find local mental health resources, visit the links below: Find a therapist (psychologytoday.com/therapists), National Alliance on Mental Illness (nami.org), National Institute of Mental Health (nimh.nih.gov/health), National Suicide Prevention Hotline (suicidepreventionlifeline.org).