Someone Else’s Tragedy



Everyone is mourning the loss of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna as well as the seven other people that lost their lives last weekend. But, I’ve found parents of small children are having an especially hard time processing this loss. I’ve spent the better part of the last 24 hours in tears as I imagine the unspeakable grief Vanessa and her girls are facing. I’m trying to understand why I’m having such an intense reaction for someone else’s tragedy.

I imagine it was just a normal day in their house. I’m sure they ran around all morning warming bottles, making breakfast, and packing for basketball. Scolding, laughing, directing, loving. And in an instant, it’s over.  They say having a child is like having a piece of you walking around outside your body. But if a piece of us fell off or died, we would adapt. We’d go to physical therapy and we would cope. But, there is no ‘coping’ when you lose your child.   Yesterday I heard myself growing impatient at my son as he shrieked in the car after school. Then I thought, “What Vanessa wouldn’t give to hear her daughter’s annoying little habit again. To glance over at her husband as they exchange knowing looks, something that will become an inside joke over a glass of wine later.”

We often muse of the years when we’ve retired and our marriage reaches it second act. We’ll have all the time in the world to spend real, quality time together. The hustle and bustle of balancing work and children will have quieted. After twenty years of sharing her husband with the world, Vanessa was finally getting her second act.  No more missing her husband as he traveled for 41 away games. No more intense daily workouts to maintain his physical stamina.  He finally had time to pursue a deeper passion: his growing family.

To say the rug was ripped out from underneath them is a gross understatement. Every little milestone will cut like a fresh wound. When she takes her little girls for their first day of preschool or watching them graduate high school. Perhaps worst of all will be the giant gaping holes of their wedding days and the experience of doing it without her partner.

My mind is grappling with how awkward it feels to grieve for a tragedy that isn’t mine. I think we’re all dealing with the unspoken fear of losing all we’ve come to hold so dear.  The fears that keep us awake at night but we brush off and think that will probably never happen to us. But it did happen to Vanessa and her girls and we’re watching it unfold under intense media scrutiny.

I’m searching to find some kind of lesson in all of this as well as comprehend my own reactions to someone else’s tragedy.  Perhaps it’s a reminder that trivial things like forgetting to close the garage door or leaving the milk out do not need to become big things.  When our kids are testing our patience, we have to remember to be grateful we have kids to test.  And always be aware that someone out there is praying for what we take for granted.