Community//

Prayers For Vanessa Bryant: Wife, Mother, and Now Widow

Super Bowl Sunday 2002 my husband did not wake up. He suffered a massive heart attack in his sleep. To this day, the hardest thing that I have had to do was tell two young boys that the man they idolized was no longer physically with us. Ironically, on the Sunday morning that I planned to write this article, sadly, another woman, wife of a sports icon, beyond any of her controls, had her life changed forever, too.

LOS ANGELES, CA. February 26, 2018: Kobe Bryant, Vanessa Laine Bryant & Children at the premiere for "A Wrinkle in Time" at the El Capitan Theatre.
© 2018 Paul Smith/Featureflash
LOS ANGELES, CA. February 26, 2018: Kobe Bryant, Vanessa Laine Bryant & Children at the premiere for "A Wrinkle in Time" at the El Capitan Theatre. © 2018 Paul Smith/Featureflash

Football, Basketball, Baseball Widow — a wife whose husband spends the majority of his free time totally absorbed in football, basketball, or baseball during the sport’s season.

I’ve heard this term often used over the years; however, I never thought it would take on a whole different meaning for me one day.

My husband died suddenly Super Bowl Sunday, 2002, and I became a bonafide Football, Basketball & Baseball Widow. He was such a sports fan that the logos for his three favorite teams, the New York Yankees, the Los Angeles Lakers, and the New York Jets are engraved on a plate at his gravesite.

While nearly 100 million fans viewed the 2019 Super Bowl, it has felt a bit different for my family and me in the years since 2002.

When I hear the term “football widow” used these days, I can only smirk. Those who use it are likely doing so while having their husbands in the next room, albeit with their hand glued to a remote.

I was much too young to become a widow when I did, so I thought. However, I soon discovered how common young widowhood was and learned that I was certainly not alone. Eventually, I reached out to others, and I am grateful for seven amazing women who were willing to share their personal stories of loss with me in my first Huffington Post article nearly five years ago. We will forever be connected, as I am to the many other women whose paths I have crossed over the years, because of this shared life-changing event.

Ironically, on the Sunday morning that I planned to write this article, sadly, another woman, wife of a sports icon, beyond any of her controls, had her life changed forever.

How surreal it was to learn of the tragic death of basketball legend, Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven other passengers.

LOS ANGELES, CA. February 26, 2018: Kobe Bryant, Vanessa Laine Bryant & Children at the premiere for “A Wrinkle in Time” at the El Capitan Theatre. © 2018 Paul Smith/Featureflash

My heart breaks for his entire family, and the families of the other passengers killed, but needless to say, my thoughts went immediately to his wife, Vanessa Bryant. Another unwilling member of this dreaded shared experience. Vanessa, I pray for you, my sister. I cry for you. I hurt for you. I mourn for you. Unlike you, I didn’t have the public spotlight on me, so therefore I can only imagine the added pressure you are under during this time.

With Super Bowl Sunday being only a week away, it’s hard to believe that it’s been 18 years for me. Sometimes it feels just like yesterday because not a day goes by without something or somebody triggering a reminder that he is no longer physically with us.

While he was no celebrity, like Kobe he was a superhero to his sons. His death was a blow to our entire family structure and there were moments I questioned why this had to happen to us, and wondered if we would make it through this intact.

However, eventually, I had to decide to either allow my loss to destroy, define, or drive me. I am so grateful that with the help of an amazing, supportive village and professional counseling, coupled with a hefty dose of resilience, I chose DRIVE!

Dad and his boys

In time, happiness and love also returned, proving that there can be love after loss if one is open to it. I now also serve as a source of healing for others as a grief support facilitator, demonstrating for them that loss does not have to equal lost.

But this was my personal journey. All of this happened for me according to my timing, no one else’s.

Everyone grieves differently and absolutely no one else has the right to alter or judge their choices. I pray that this woman, this wife, this mom, is afforded her privacy and is allowed to mourn according to her terms, for her husband and for her daughter.

I pray that people will be respectful and think before they speak, write, tweet or post a comment. Until you walk a day in her shoes or anyone else’s who may be grieving, please STFU! Unfortunately, so many spectators make it about themselves and not the bereaved, which led me to craft this list of recommended dos and don’ts.

In 2018, there were 11.41 million widowed women in the U.S. Self-proclaimed “sports widows”, while I understand the use of the term is in jest, this is not a real-life category that you want to be included in, no matter how much of a sports fan your hubby may be.

Enjoy life to the fullest and don’t sweat the small stuff. The biggest mistake that we make in life is believing that we have infinite time. In the grand scheme of things, a sports fan’s addiction to the TV during the upcoming Super Bowl or the NBA All-Star game really isn’t that bad. Trust me, it really isn’t. There are far worse things in life to be challenged by. Far worse.

In the comments section below, I encourage you to leave a few kind words for Vanessa. You never know… If not today possibly next week or next month. When the spotlight, media, and public attentiveness begins to fade, it’s kind words from those from afar, that may be exactly what brings a ray of sunshine into what will likely be many cloudy days to come.

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!
Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.