Vanessa Bryant’s life changed forever on Sunday, Jan. 26 when her NBA legend husband Kobe Bryant and their daughter Gianna died in a helicopter crash, along with seven others. Vanessa, who has noticeably gone back-and-forth between having a public and private Instagram page, maintained an immediate silence following the incident – presumably to seek solace from social media, until the evening of Wednesday, Jan. 29 when she uploaded a heartfelt post memorializing her late husband of nearly 20 years and their 13-year-old daughter. The bereaved widow and mother has since posted several tributes honoring her lost loved ones, possibly utilizing the social media platform as a means of catharsis.
Memorializing on social media has been seen as a form of grieving in recent years as the platforms have become increasingly popular in allowing an empathetic shift to occur, which creates somewhat of a safe space to express grief. In a study from Vice on the psychological effects of grieving on social media, the aforementioned medium serves as an additional outlet for those seeking support in coping with a loss by “connecting people with a community of peers that also knew the person and with whom they can share memories. This connection, research suggests, could help reduce the anguish people often feel after a loss.”
Among Vanessa’s series of recent social media posts, she uploaded a photo of Kobe on Wednesday, along with a caption that said, “#mybestfriend #theBestdaddy Miss you so much. #handsome #sweet #funny #silly #lovinghusband ❤️Miss you saying, ‘Bonjourno principessa/reina’”
She also shared photos and video from a tribute Gianna’s school orchestrated in honor of the 13-year-old basketball prodigy. “My Gianna. God I miss you. I’ve been so lucky to have woken up to see your gorgeous face and amazing smile for 13 years. Wish it would’ve been until my last breath. Mommy loves you to the moon and back. Infinity plus 1. #2 #Mambacita #GigiBryan,” she wrote in one of the captions.
“Online memorials can constitute therapeutic environments by providing space for action, interaction, narrative work, meaning making and expressions and negotiations of continuing bonds with the deceased,” according to a 2015 study.
The study also suggests that social media profiles “enable digital representations of the deceased to be stored and preserved in various forms. Thus, the Internet could be interpreted as a type of digital heaven where our loved ones continue their existence.”
Reports suggest that expressing grief on social media is neither harmful, nor is it meaningless. In fact, it is extremely helpful for some. “Social media can act as a social buffer or catalyst for people’s pain and loneliness. It is a cry for warmth and sympathy in an otherwise superficial and narcissistic environment,” said Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a professor of business psychology at the University of London in a report from The Atlantic.
Vanessa may be taking to social media to share her grief with millions of others who are also mourning this loss, but she is also maintaining a certain level of privacy as she has disabled the comments on her posts.