‘Today’: Maria Shriver Opens Up About Grief In Light of Kobe Bryant’s Death

As in the case of anyone dying suddenly in the prime of their lives, the death of Kobe Bryant shook so many of us to the core.

Maria Shriver
Maria Shriver | Corey Nickols/Contour for Pizza Hut

Today correspondent Maria Shriver opened up this week about her experience with grief and how Bryant’s death made her pause and take inventory of the grief in her own life and how she has helped her family navigate it.

Here is a look at Shriver’s thoughtful observations, and the recent losses that have informed her perspective.

Maria Shriver’s loss of her cousin last year

The 64-year-old journalist’s mother was Eunice Shriver, President John F. Kennedy’s sister. She and her family are well acquainted with loss and grief, starting with her uncle’s assassination, her uncle Robert’s killing in 1968, and the death of her cousin John Kennedy, Jr., in a plane crash in 1999, to name a few of the family’s tragic losses.

Last year, in August, Shriver’s cousin, Saoirse Kennedy Hill, died at the age of 22 after an accidental overdose.

Hill’s death left Shriver devastated. The mother of four writes an online newsletter, Sunday Paper, and has taken to it to write about life’s seasons and perspectives.”

Last year, she unburdened herself in the online publication after her young cousin’s sudden death.

“I sobbed for my cousin. I sobbed for all those who are suffering. I sobbed for my own grief, sadness, and fears. I thought I was done grieving the death of my mother, my father, my uncle, my marriage, and my old identity — all of which unfolded in rapid succession over the last 10 years — but turns out, I wasn’t.”

Shriver has experienced loss in other ways

The former first lady of California was evacuated last year along with thousands of other residents, during the wildfires that took place at that time. She has also been evacuated during wildfires in 2017.

She wrote in Sunday Paper last year of knowing right away, without hesitation, her priorities upon hearing that she would need to leave everything behind.

“My heart beat fast as I grabbed the notes and cards my kids had written to me, which luckily I keep in a bag next to my bed. I grabbed their school drawings off the wall and threw them in my car. …something from each of my parents. …some other family photos and a few other items from people I love.”

Shriver’s thoughts after Kobe Bryant’s death

The former NBC News correspondent and her family are, as she said in her Feb. 4 Sunday Paper, “a Lakers family.” She shared that her son, Christopher, in particular, “lived and breathed Kobe his entire life. His room is decorated in pictures of him, and he waited hours to get a ticket in the nosebleed section to his last game, during which he cried and cried.”

One can imagine, then, the shock and sadness Shriver and her family felt at the news of Bryant’s passing. The sad lesson from the NBA legend’s death is something Shriver shared in her newsletter saying, “As the Kobe story unfolded, it became more tragic by the minute. I felt my heart breaking for his family . . . One thing I’ve learned in my life is that trying to make sense out of a senseless tragedy is impossible.”

Maria Shriver with her four children

She related the death of Bryant, his young daughter and every person in the helicopter crash with them back to her cousin’s passing. The Jan. 26 tragedy brought back to Shriver the feelings from last year’s loss and the life lesson she has come to terms with.

“The truth is, there is no time like right now,” Shriver writes. “Call. Reach out. Make time. Listen. Be patient. Just sit. Our world is so fragile, as are our lives. Go out into yours with kindness, with love, and with gratitude. If you are readng this, you are one of the lucky ones. You are lucky because you are alive.”