Sudden Death: When You Don’t Get to Say Goodbye - Imagine NJ
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Perspectives on Grieving

Sudden Death: When You Don’t Get to Say Goodbye

Written by Connie Palmer, LCSW in memory of Kobe Bryant

My daughter and her boyfriend were at the Lakers game on Saturday night when Lebron beat Kobe’s record. They, like so many of us, felt shock from what happened the very next day. Kobe was a hero to my daughter and her boyfriend and to so many others.

Death under any circumstance can turn our lives upside down. A sudden death like this can be even more disorienting because we just don’t see it coming. You might have experienced this in your own life, where you were just celebrating and then were thrown into grief. This sharp contrast is shocking, and the deaths of Kobe Bryant, his daughter and their teammates, coaches and pilot confronted us about how fragile life really is.

We are rarely ready to say goodbye to those we love, but some deaths give us a window of time to say what needs to be said. Sudden deaths seem to rob us of that. At Imagine we often say that the person died, but the relationship continues. The outpouring of tributes and love for how Kobe impacted the lives of so many are proof of this. Our relationship with those who die changes, but it doesn’t have to end. You can still talk to the person who died. Tell them goodbye. Confess any regrets. Put into words what that person meant to you. Tell them how much you miss them. Talk to them every day if you want. The work of mourning expresses our grief while it also keeps us connected to the person who died.

Looking at death this way doesn’t take away the pain of the loss, but it can make us more aware of the importance of how we live and love each day.

The jumbotron and basketball court at a Lakers game

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