Grief is personal. And grief also is shared.
This past weekend, was filled with grief — both personal and shared.
The world grieved the deaths of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, 41, and his daughter, Gianna, 13.
The father and daughter died, along with seven others, when the helicopter they were in crashed on the way to a basketball tournament Sunday morning.
Family and friends in Jefferson County are grieving after a father and son, Brian and Kaden Johnson of Jefferson, were killed in a crash with a semi tanker outside of Cambridge while they were driving home from a junior varsity basketball game in McFarland Friday night.
But the thing about grief — the difficult, painful, beautiful thing about grief — is that the personal gets easier when it’s shared. So here we are: The world is sharing stories about Kobe and families in Jefferson County are sharing stories about the Johnsons.
While all of this has been going on — as we’re reminded to hold those we love closely, to tell them, for God sakes tell them you love them — I’ve been thinking about my own grief, my own attempts to share it.
I know for those grieving tonight, tomorrow, next week, next year, condolences feel empty. How can anyone possibly understand the specific pain I feel right now?
But as I go through my life attempting to confront and grapple with grief for my father, who died in 2017, the only thing, the only thing that helps is sharing the grief.
I’ve written about him before. I’ve written about how basketball helped my family get through his untimely death. So it’s maybe too similar that both tragedies last weekend involved basketball.
Basketball, sports in general, has a funny way of feeling both massive and insignificant. But it also has a way of carrying us through when the cold brutality of loss rears its head. It gains meaning that wasn’t there before.
It’s Brett Favre on Monday Night Football; it’s NBA teams around the league taking 24-second violations to honor Bryant; it’s the Loyola Ramblers making a Cinderella run to the Final Four.
It was the Jefferson and Fort Atkinson basketball teams playing Monday night. The Lakers and Clippers playing Tuesday night.
Those moments help us with the grief. Our love of sports and our love of those we’ve lost become infused, because we can share them.
We’ll always have proof that Kobe Bryant scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors on Jan. 22, 2006. We’ll always have proof that we loved and were loved by those we’ve lost — the grief is the proof.
When my dad died, a girl I grew up with, whose own father died when we were in the second grade, sent me a note. It arrived just a few days after the funeral, and it was the first time I felt like someone else knew what I was feeling, that I could overcome the pain.
“You’ll miss him every day; you’ll think of him every day,” she wrote.
So, for the Bryant family, the NBA community, the Johnsons and their greater Jefferson family, missing them and thinking of them will never go away.
Don’t avoid it; relish it. Relish the profoundness of love and share it with those around you.