I hurt for his three girls because they no longer have the giant in their lives—the one who would show them what being loved by a man looks and feels like. He won’t be there to take them to basketball games, father-daughter dances or greet their boyfriends on a first date. He was a dad who loved and protected his daughters. Anyone who messed with one of his girls would pay a hefty price because she was, after all, the daughter of a legend and a very ominous looking dad.
I’ve worked with a number of girls who have lost their fathers, and I have a sense of what Kobe’s daughters will go through in the next ten years. They will experience tremendous grief but no more so than any other daughter. To them, Kobe wasn’t a famous legend, he was just dad. Over the next years, they will feel tremendous pain. They may cry and scream or swallow their grief and keep on with life. Friends will hover and say, “How are you doing? Are you alright?” I ask these questions to girls in my office who are grieving, but they really are rhetorical. Of course, they’re not doing well. They’re alive, but not feeling right in any sense of the word. But we ask these questions because we don’t know what else to do. Loved ones and friends will want to take their pain, but unfortunately, they can’t.
The next couple of years will be filled with intense pain. They have lost the man they were closest to, the father who would show them how to excel, the giant who would shower his love on them and teach them how to live a good life. They will lose his comfort and huge arms that held them when they were sad. The loss of their father in the present is hard but they have lost their futures with him. Even though they are young, they know this. Years are lost. And this will take years to get over.
But here’s the good news: they had a good dad. They had a lot more than hundreds of thousands of girls across the country. Yes, they will hurt, but they will also have the strength that he gave them. He rooted them with his love and showed them that loving and being loved by a man is a good thing. They could trust a man when he hugged and nurtured them. Because of their father, they learned to like men.
Kids learn different things from their fathers than they do their mothers. Fathers show girls what behaviors to expect from the boys and men. If a father swears and yells at his daughters, they will gravitate toward men who do the same. But if he treats them with respect, they won’t tolerate less from a boyfriend. I’m pretty sure Kobe taught his girls the latter.
Yes, the three daughters have lost a father they can never replace. But the imprint he made on their hearts will never leave. When they date their first boyfriends, he will be with them. When they play their first championship basketball games, his voice will be in their ears telling them what to do. As they study for exams, try new things or have spats with girlfriends, they will always think about how their dad would handle things. In his short time with them, Kobe taught them how to live a good life. His presence is rooted deeply in them.
The three girls will be OK. They will fare a lot better than girls who never had a father, than girls who had bad relationships with their dads or those who grew up with their mother’s boyfriends cycling through their homes.
As we are saddened by this great man’s death, let’s remember to think of his wife and daughters. Kobe and his daughter who died with him are fine. It is the loved ones left behind who hurt. Send them well wishes and condolences if you know them. Their pain will intensify when the shock of his death is over and friends go back to their lives and they are left alone. So in the months that follow, let us not forget to keep them in our thoughts and prayers.