Processing Kobe’s Passing …

kobeI understand many are struggling with the death of Kobe Bryant. Here is my take on it that I hope will help understand what/why we are feeling now.
I’ve written and discussed grief for a long time now.  It is a very unique emotion, almost impossible to fake.  Neurologically, we now understand better what is happening when we use descriptors like “shock” “heart broken” “saddened” “loss of words” and such like.  I wrote about 10 years ago about how grief can be quite a “gift” – which I know in the early stages of grief sounds not only incorrect but quite inconsiderate. I am aware of this.

In the emotion we call “grief” … it turns out it is less of an emotion (hormonal change) and more of a cognitive shift. In the state of grief, we ask ourselves, often subconsciously, questions we would never otherwise ask and more importantly, we tend to answer them, again more subconsciously than consciously, truthfully.
1st, what is the trigger? Well, it’s not just the idea of death as it is about the only timeless global truth as about 6 people die every second, we all know it. The 1st is the shock factor.  If Kobe was 90 years old or been sick for a while, it wouldn’t be as shocking.  This sends our neuropathways to a different place. Also he was relatively quite young. He was a star athlete and great health often is assumed with these folks.  This also sends the neuropathways to a different place not often frequented.  Just the day before, he was all over the news as LeBron James broke is scoring record on the all-time points list.  Add on the fact that he died playing a role almost all of us can relate to enviously – going with his daughter to her game. Our subconscious, in order to make sense of all of these variables, researches our memories with our parents/children and the troubling thought that “if it can end so quickly for a wealthy healthy person, it can happen to me” is brought out. Throw in that he leaves behind a wife and 3 other daughters one of whom is only a year old, again, sends all our pathways to infrequent places to understand/rationalize.
Death and Mortality have been the basis of the design of our brain and physiology- each creature has evolved to survive which is another way of saying, to avoid death.  When confronted with the absolute truth that it cannot be avoided, our brain processes other fundamental truths – which is the “gift” part. We ask questions like
1. Am I living the right way
2. Did I do the right things
3. Have I told/showed my loved ones that I love them
4. Where is my life going
5. What changes can I make to be better and make my life more “meaningful”
… and such like. These are really really good questions that we simply don’t ask enough and worse, don’t answer truthfully.
Grief, like all emotional/cognitive states is transient. It will pass. We will revert to our normal lives. This is why taking advantage of recognizing that our brain has this short window to “be without bias” and truthfully answer those questions is key.
I invite you to use today and for as long as Kobe’s death impacts you, to ask yourself your truth questions, to answer them truthfully, and to make changes to make your life more meaningful.
Grief is that gift that reminds us that life is a gift.  A very short-lived gift.

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