In the year following the death of Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna Bryant, Vanessa Bryant has drawn strength from the everlasting power of their love and from the family he built with her as she continues to navigate her grief.
The 41-year-old NBA legend and the 13-year-old girl were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif. on Jan. 26, 2020 along with seven other people. In addition to Vanessa, Kobe and Gianna were also survived by the couple's daughters Natalia, 18, Bianka, 4, and Capri, now 20 months old.
"I guess the best way to describe it is that Kobe and Gigi motivate me to keep going," Vanessa, 38, told People in a cover interview published on Wednesday, March 3. "They inspire me to try harder and be better every day. Their love is unconditional and they motivate me in so many different ways."
She continued, "There are days when I feel like I can't deal with everything that is on my plate, and I ask myself what my husband would say to me or how Gigi would look at me in a certain manner and be proud of me. I want to make Kobe, Gigi, Natalia, Bianka and Capri proud."
Vanessa also paid tribute to friends and family who have helped her and her girls following last year's tragedy: "That includes 'aunties" and 'uncles,'" she noted, "who have stepped in to be there for us and get us through holidays, special milestones and birthdays.
While her "pain is unimaginable," life goes on for the devoted mom and her three girls. "Lying in bed crying isn't going to change the fact that my family will never be the same again," she said. "But getting out of bed and pushing forward is going to make the day better for my girls and for me."
Some days, the pain is too overwhelming. Vanessa told People, "I can't say that I'm strong every day. I can't say that there aren't days when I feel like I can't survive to the next. My girls help me smile through the pain. They give me strength."
During the interview, Vanessa reminisced about Kobe as a father. "The more I watched Kobe help me raise and interact with our girls, the more I fell in love with him," she recalled. "He was the most incredible dad. He had a heart full of love."
And she is carrying on Kobe's legacy, running his multimedia company Granity Studios and his charity the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation, renamed last year to pay tribute to Gianna. The organization aims to help underserved athletes and young women in sports.
Since Kobe and Gianna's deaths, Vanessa has opened up about her grief on social media and paid tribute to her late husband and daughter many times.
"Let me be real," Vanessa wrote on her Instagram Story on Jan. 15, five days before the first anniversary of the crash. "Grief is a messed up cluster of emotions. One day you're in the moment laughing and the next day you don't feel like being alive."
She continued, "I want to say this for people struggling with grief and heartbreaking loss. Find your reason to live. I know it's hard. I look at my daughters and I try to push through that feeling for them. Death is guaranteed but living the rest of the day isn't. Find your reason."