Before I start my mourning process, following the loss of Kobe Bryant, here are a few explanations.
When I first started coaching, I read the following:
“How do you help an athlete who loses a loved one a few hours or days before an Olympic final?”
Then one day, in a study, I read that journaling about your pain for 20 minutes, 4 consecutive days could help.
So, this is what I am going to do here, today and for the next few days. I don’t know if this will help you in any way. I just promise to be authentic in my journaling about Kobe on Day 1, 2, 3 and 4, and to tell you what I feel and don’t feel on Day 5.
Kobe, man, I am in so much pain right now. My eyelid muscles are clinching so hard to hold off the tears, I don’t know if there’s an english word for that. I feel so much for your wife Vanessa and your other daughters. I can’t even imagine what they’re feeling. This is so sad. My dad past away last year but at least he was 80. Our relationship was disconnected but at least during those 80 years, I could try everything I could think of in order to fix our relationship. I could be bluntly honest, I could be silent. I could be anything I wanted. But man, your daughters and your wife, they won’t have that. They won’t have the possibility to talk to you anymore. Honestly, I feel like there’s something wrong about dying at your age in an accident. Man, I am so teary, I can’t see my computer screen. I feel like there’s something glorious about dying at 80, 90 or a 100 when you’re ready to. But man, dying at your age is just illegal. That shouldn’t happen. That shouldn’t happen to you. That shouldn’t happen to us. You and I were both born in 1978 and I always felt like you and I were connected in different ways like basketball, languages and storytelling. But brother, you died yesterday. My wife told me about your passing. She sent me a few texts, and when I looked at my notifications, I could only see her last text: it was the crying emoji. So, I checked her messages and saw some japanese characters that she doesn’t usually write (and that I couldn’t read), but then I recognized the character for death “死”. So, I reread the message and realized that the word she doesn’t usually write and that I couldn’t read was your name: Kobe Bryant. My heart feels clamped ever since. I just took a walk outside. There is a temple near my place. The weather is really cold today in Tokyo and everybody was walking with their head down, red eyes and puffy cheeks. It was probably the cold but me, I was thinking that everybody was sad because you left. I am wondering why I feel so much pain right now. Because like me, you were born in 1978? Because you were a great basketball player? Why? I don’t cry for everybody that passes away. Why do I cry so hard for you? Maybe it’s the “overnight factor” that makes it very painful. The fact that you were alive on Saturday and away on Sunday. I remember crying as hard for Tupac in 1996 and my brother in law in 2006. You three both died as abruptly. I thought of a rhyme for you an hour ago. Listen to this: “Yes, sometimes, the Lakers were in 8th place. But right now, I am sure you’re in The Good Place”. Man, Kobe, I am so sad. They say that everything happens for a reason. Every time I face adversity, I tell myself that “Facing this adversity is amazing because…”. If I do this with you and try to spin your loss in a positive way, I could tell that “It’s great that you left because now all the critics and nay-sayers and haters will give your name the glory it deserves”. However, I cannot find any way to spin Gianna’s loss positively. Wait, maybe there is, maybe her sister and her mother are going to be inspired in a heroic way. But really, I don’t know if I want to be positive now. I feel hurt and so, it feels like I only want to cry everything I have. When my wife cries, I always tell her “Your stock of tears is limited. Cry all you need. Once you don’t have any more tears to cry, you’ll feel lighter”. Maybe that’s all it is. I just need to cry all the tears you deserve and come back tomorrow to express for 20 more minutes how much you meant to me.
Good morning Kobe. I am really happy I can talk to you or about you today again. It feels like I couldn’t wait for this. Maybe that’s what I should have done first this morning. Instead, I’ve watched videos of others talking about you and tweets of others talking about you for hours. They say that after the passing of a loved one, you go through several phases. I don’t remember them but it feels like I’ve experienced them all yesterday. Sometimes it feels like I can find 1% of inner-peace inside of me. Sometimes it feels like I am able to rationalize that celebrating my wife is the most important thing for me. Other times, I just collapse and cry and think that when I have a son, I will name him Kobe. This morning, I bought your book “The Mamba Mentality” and noticed that in the best-sellers list for books, in general, not just basketball books, there are 3 books about you in the top 11. This is amazing how much people love you. Everybody probably reacted the same way as me. Felt so crushed by your departure that we bought your book in order to stay connected to you. This morning, I’ve read something very comforting about you on social media. It said: “If you want to see Kobe again, he’s right here. He is in Kevin Booker’s fade away, he is in Kyrie Irving’s footwork…etc”. Last night was particularly painful because I shared my feeling with my wife and realized that even if I journal all I want about you, speaking and using my voice to mention your name is completely different. My wife and I ate outside and she started listening to me and I realized that I couldn’t say the word “dead”. I started talking and when I said “when Kobe d….”, my voice stopped and the tears started falling on my cheeks. If I ever have to advise an athlete who loses someone, I will advise that you need to write but you also need to speak. Yesterday, I also wanted to make a collage with pictures of you, Kobe. I wanted to watch all your games for a week. So today, I am practicing saying “Kobe is dead”, “Kobe Bryant just died in a helicopter crash”. I slowly become able to say the words without collapsing. You are dead, brother. But I want to thank you. Last night, I realized that when someone dies, you can focus on your pain, or you can focus on celebrating the person who left. Of course, it’s probably unhuman to ignore such pain. But celebrating you, chanting “Kobe! Kobe! Kobe! Kobe!” and saying “Thank you Kobe” makes me feel a lot better. So, I would advise this: journal + speak + celebrate. Breathing slowly and deeply is also very important. So, journal + speak + celebrate + breathe. I also realize that when I want to deal with such unsurmountable plain, an infinity of thoughts race through my mind, like “How should I deal with this?” or “How can I feel better?” or “How do your wife and your daughters feel now?”. You see, these are all very complicated questions that exacerbate the pain. And so, I realized that when the pain hits like that, it’s important to be kind with myself, patient and calm, and forget all these questions, and just all allow myself the time to grieve slowly and peacefully. One day, a former coach of mine told me that when you are a professional athlete, being injured is a part of the game. There’s no need to dramatize over it. You have to deal with it in the best possible way. Today, it feels like when you are a human being, losing people you love is a part of the game. You just got to be good at dealing with it. So, I am asking you, Kobe. What does that mean to be good at dealing with the loss of you, Kobe Bryant? How can I be good at this? Do I even want to be good at this? Yes, I do. Being good at this doesn’t mean you are not important. being good at this means that my health and the lives of my loved ones and having a glorious impact on other people living on Earth is more important. Thank you, Kobe.
Where do I start? Yesterday went better than Monday as I almost didn’t cry. Until I saw my wife at 8 pm. I saw how beautiful she is and how am I lucky to be with her, and this made me realize that you and Vanessa won’t have this anymore and this made me cry so hard. Crying that hard is really painful. Mourning is really painful. It’s not just emotional pain. This is truly physical. I can definitely feel the muscles or tissues in my chest or in the head or in my back a lot more tense than usual. My wife is not as connected as I am to this event but she lets me cry all I need. At first, I just wanted to sit down and meditate and let my body ease down and calm down from all the crying and suffering. But I realized that on Day 2, I was definitely not at peace with this event. Sure I didn’t expect to but I was kinda relieved to feel less pain on that Day. But I guess this will take more time. Today was another day where my first thought, opening my eyes, was you, Kobe. I could see some progress as I could focus for 1h35 straight on my work. Yesterday, my focus was interrupted every 10 minutes. This morning, like yesterday, I spent 2 or 3 hours on YouTube and social media to hear about you. It was very comforting to hear people giving jokes about you. Someone said that right now, you’re probably in Heaven watching down on us and thinking, “What a bunch of pussies. You’re all crying instead of doing the work!” ah ah ah. This morning, I talked with a friend. We talked about you and what you represent for us, what the silver lining is. This talk felt really good. This was a friend I had not spoke to in a year and a half. We talked about your family too. One of the things that saddens me is that your youngest daughter, Capri, will grow up and probably have zero memory of you. My friend added, “She will probably call someone else Dad”. This made me really sad to imagine that. Sad for her and sad for you. Today, for the first day, I feel like I don’t know what to write. This morning, I scheduled a call with my younger sister. 15 years ago, she lost her then-boyfriend and therefore my then-brother in law. He had been suffering of cancer for 4 years, I think, and things were not getting better. One summer, him and I got into a little argument. Two months later, for his latest medical check-up, the doctors said that the tumor’s size was stable. So, we felt reassured in some way. But then one day, my mother called me and said, “He’s dead”. And this made me so sad as well because we lost him overnight and also because my last interaction with him was a stupid fight. And so today, this morning, I thought about how my sister and I recovered successfully from this tragedy. I remember that first of all, I had a tattoo in his honor. This helped me. Then I started going Mamba Mentality before you made it public. Every time a challenge or a decision was in front of me, I would look at a star, at a cloud and tell myself, “What would Cedric (his name) want me to do?”. Every time I was in front of a beautiful girl, same thing, I would look up at a star or a cloud, and ask myself, “What would Cedric love me doing right now?”. And so, in a way, I started living for him. I started achieving for him. the tattoo I made in his honor is on my left shoulder and says “Until I Die” with an actual “eye” instead of “I”. People rarely ask me about it. First of all, French people don’t really understand it. Second of all, Japanese people hide their tattoos. But I always imagined people about the meaning of “Until I Die”. I always imagined them thinking that considering I am a male, I am an achiever, “Until I Die” simply means that until I die, I will go all-in, mamba mentality, do whatever it takes to get what I want. Something really basic like that. But in reality, the full message I wanted to be tattooed was “Until I Die…Nothing But Love”. I guess the purpose I wanted to achieve most after his departure was “to be a good person and give nothing but love, until I die” rather than “Until I die, I am going to sacrifice on sleep and achieve all my dreams” even though that’s what I became instead. This is how I deal with this loss. I don’t know exactly how my sister did. But I know she succeeded. My goal is not only to heal thanks to her but also to be able one day to alleviate the suffering of people affected by this kind of tragedy, Kobe. Rest in peace, brother. These 20 minutes of journaling are too short, I feel. Thank you for everything. I can’t wait to be able to write about the greatness of your impact and what we will all become thanks to you. Love you brother from 1978.
Good morning Kobe. I am really happy I can talk to you today. It feels really good. Yesterday, I decided to start a new habit. Say “I love you” to someone every day. To a friend, a family member. Yesterday, I said it to a friend who was in college with me. I also said it to my mother. I also feel like I am at this stage where I want to use the energy your departure gave me and do something grand with it. It also feels like I have less and less words to express. Did I say everything I needed to say about you? Maybe today. However, it feels like I will want to say “Good morning Kobe” every day for quite some time. It also feels like I am at the point of my grieving where I want to be positive, where I want to see the silver lining in your loss. On Day 1 or 2, being positive was impossible for me. Now, it feels like I can see the light. Yesterday, I saw your 60 point game against Utah and your 81 point game versus Toronto. Man, you could really play. Yesterday, a friend told me, “If Kobe could talk to us right now, he’d probably tell us ‘Go score 82!’. Yesterday, I signed the petition so that you become the next NBA logo. I don’t know what to say any more now. Maybe just saying that I love you, that you impacted me is enough. I am wondering if there is one bit of genius, one glorious idea that I haven’t applied yet and that your energy should make me want to materialize. I am wondering. I think about this coaching. I think about how much I put into it. I think about the kind of athletes I want to focus on. I think about the NBA. I also think about all the people I want to help. I know you’d want me to go hard right now but when I listen to my body, I still feel like I want to calm down and relax. It’s not easy mourning someone else, bro. But now, I feel like I am better at saying “Kobe, you died”. I am better at talking about you to someone else. I am feeling more positive energy when I say, “Kobe, thank you”. Could I cry more? Yeah, big time. If I focus on your loss, tears are on. But if I focus on your energy, I feel I can go on strong. Can you imagine that there are probably thousands of people like me who are thinking about creating something big in your honor or inspired by you? This is amazing when you think about it. Sure, we’re all sad but man, Kob’, this place is going to be such a better place now, thanks to you. This is an amazing present. Thousands of mini-Kobes are going to start their days thinking, “We gotta continue this”, just like Lebron did. Just like I am thinking. Just like my friend told me. I am sure your Vanessa, your Natalia, your Bianka and your Capri will find the energy, one day, not only to make your name shine, but also make our planet shine even more. I am sure they will. Just like Gianna, they must have infused in your energy for so long, they must be so ready to shine. Love you Kobe.
On this day, I am supposed to tell you how efficient or not was this journaling.
I think it was efficient because I haven’t cried since Day 3.
It was efficient because this morning, I was able to focus on my work for 5 hours. Yesterday, on Day 4, I could only focus for 90 minutes and the day before that, on Day 3, I could not focus for more than 10 minutes at a time.
It was efficient because this morning, when I woke up, Kobe was not my first thought. Sure, it was my 2nd thought…but it was not my first.
It was efficient because this morning, I was able to only watch 1 hour of YouTube videos, instead of 3.
It was efficient because I am now able to say “Kobe died” in english, french or japanese, without feeling my throat or my stomach tense.
Of course, the goal here is not to forget Kobe or to move on as quickly as possible. The goal is only to be able to function normally.
This process here feels like an antibiotic treatment after recovering from the flu. You feel better and therefore you feel like stopping the treatment. But you shouldn’t.
I do feel like I’d want this journaling to go further. When you journal about the loss of someone, you journal about the pain on Day 1, about the good memories on Day 3 and probably the future and other things on Day 6. I would want to know what I’d feel like journaling about on Day 10 or 20.
There is a thought that keeps coming back to me. What is the piece of genius that I could express thanks to Kobe? What is the dream Kobe would like me to achieve?
I would want to continue journaling this way and figure this out.