I felt the tragic news of Kobe Bryant’s death like a kick in my gut.

Last Sunday afternoon, a client said to me, “My grief is much better this week. But my sons are struggling with the news of Kobe Bryant and his daughter’s deaths this morning.”

My own son, Vincent, said, “It really makes you think. He was only a year older than me, Mom.” His voice was soft and reflective.

Spontaneous gathering – a need for community

It’s interesting to me that there were no playoff games that Sunday and the STAPLES Center stood empty. As people were plunged into grief with news of the helicopter crash, they had a place to gather.

And gather they did.

People spontaneously came to be in community with one another. To unify in their shared shock and grief. To create a shrine.

Everyone was in Raw Grief after this tragic loss. There was no Grief Phobia.

We need connection and community when grieving. Ever wonder how you can help others while staying grounded?

Read this article: Stay Grounded While Helping Others

A little science behind the “kick in the gut” emotion

When we hear devastating news, a cascade of hormones floods the brain. The hormone adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) is released. The ACTH then sends a signal to the adrenal glands to release cortisone, a stress hormone.

Our bodies and brains go on “high alert” – the fight-or-flight reflex. Fear centers at the base of the brain, also known as the lizard brain, can become over-active. Fear and stress mixed together becomes a toxic brew bubbling inside us.

The anterior cingulate cortex helps regulate your emotions. Your emotions run wild if it’s not activated.

The good news is you can activate this area of the brain to get a handle on your runaway emotions.

What’s a healthy way to respond to tragic news?

First, when you hear tragic news that triggers your emotions – STOP! Stop whatever doing. Come to a screeching halt. Follow these steps to regain your inner peace.

  • Notice what’s happening in your body.
  • Concentrate on your breath. Inhale through your nose. Notice the temperature of the air as you bring it in.
  • Then breathe out. Notice the temperature of the air.
  • Now rest in the pause. Feel your body.
  • Repeat these steps eight more times.

Second, recognize your grief.

  • Feel it in your body.
  • Put your hand there and relate to it.

Now, reach out and connect with someone.

  • Call or text someone you cherish and say, “I love you.”

This last Monday, the day after Kobe’s death, I had so many calls and emails. People were reeling from their emotions and wanted grief therapy.

They were overwhelmed with fear and stress. Old grief wounds were re-opened with thoughts like:

If this tragedy can happen to someone who lived life to the fullest, what about the rest of us?

Yes, we never know what each day might bring. So, let’s intentionally determine where, to what, or to whom our love is flowing.

And let’s honor Kobe Bryant who, throughout his life, loved his family and the game of basketball.

Love all around, above, below, to the left and to the right, before you and behind you,