As Vanessa Bryant is still coping with the devastating loss of her husband, NBA legend Kobe Bryant, and 13-year-old daughter, Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, a little over a year after the horrific helicopter crash that claimed nine lives — she revealed it’s hard to hide her sadness from her three other daughters.
"My eyes and pain can't be filtered in person," she said. "They know mommy has hard days but when I see their faces when they realize that I've been crying, it makes me straighten up and push through for them. I counter it with making them smile about something,” Vanessa declared, adding that she is “always finding the light in darkness."
Vanessa admitted she and Kobe’s three remaining daughters, Natalia, 18, Bianka, 4, and Capri, 1, are what “motivates” her to keep going. "Helping my girls navigate through this heartache is important to me," the grieving widow said, noting that "making sure that they know that they are loved” and “supported” is her top priority.
Natalia, Kobe and Vanessa’s eldest daughter has been her mom’s greatest support system as she deals with the pain of losing her loved ones. Vanessa even calls Natalia her “right-hand woman,” adding that she is “extremely proud” of the teenager.
"On top of her own grief, she has balanced her senior year of high school, applying to colleges, nurturing her sisters, and just recently signing her own modeling contract with IMG," she gushed. "She is a wonderful big sister and an incredible daughter."
Vanessa has such admiration for her daughters, calling them “strong, resilient, respectful and kind” women and that “they’re people that I would aspire to be if I was growing up with them.”
The 38-year-old also opened up about how she is working through her grief, but admitted that some days are harder than others. "I can't say that I'm strong every day," she said. "I can't say that there aren't days when I feel like I can't survive to the next.
"This pain is unimaginable, [but] you just have to get up and push forward," she proclaimed. "Lying in bed crying isn't going to change the fact that my family will never be the same again. But getting out of bed and pushing forward is going to make the day better for my girls and for me. So that's what I do."
As OK! previously reported, on the morning of January 26, 2020, Kobe, his daughter and a group of friends — which included Sarah and Payton Chester, Christina Mauser, John Altobelli, his wife Keri Altobelli and their daughter, Alyssa — set out in a helicopter to attend a basketball game.
Piloted by Ara Zobayan, the helicopter ultimately crashed in Calabasas, Calif. Zobayan had 10 years experience flying in the area, but he climbed sharply before banking (swift change in direction) abruptly and plunged into the California hillside. There were no survivors.
Bryant first spoke with PEOPLE for the magazine's Women Changing the World issue.