On Sunday, many of us were watching the news or scrolling through social media when we found out that basketball legend Kobe Bryant tragically died in a helicopter accident with his 13-year-old daughter and seven other individuals. Time and time again, when a major celebrity dies, the world mourns. Maybe we didn’t know Kobe personally, but he impacted our lives, and many of us are sad to see him go before his time.

The biggest feeling most of us have is empathy. We feel sorry for his surviving children and his wife. We feel sad that his life was over so soon and that his daughter’s is over even sooner. We aren’t personal friends with Kobe, but we are sad, and that is okay.

We’ve all probably mourned a celebrity at one point in our lives. The most tragic for me were Michael Jackson, Prince, Chester Bennington, and Carrier Fisher. Their deaths were sudden and shocking. I felt so much hurt by Prince’s death that the day he died, I rushed to my tattoo artist and immortalized the “Purple Rain” singer’s symbol on my arm forever. I remember quite a bit of people doing the same when David Bowie died.

If you haven’t ever mourned a celebrity and don’t quite understand why people do, then this column is for you. Actually, this column was triggered by a Facebook friend stating that it was “shameful” that we cared “more about Kobe dying than soldiers dying overseas.” I’m not even sure what one has to do with the other and it’s really not a fair comparison. For some, the American Solider is their idol, for others, it’s Kobe Bryant, and there is no limit on who you are allowed to care about or who you are allowed to mourn. The fact is, Kobe had a huge impact on many people. He inspired little kids to find a love for basketball and to be the best they can be.

I remember as a kid when we’d play basketball and it was pretty common to yell “Kobe” as you tried to make a jump shot – essentially trying to find the power of the great basketball player and hoping that power guides the ball into the net.

Celebrities often have a huge impact on us, especially as kids. We look up to them and they inspire us in our actions. As a kid, I’ll never forget the “Be Like Mike” ads inspiring kids to work hard and play hard. Certainly, as a child, I did want to be like Mike – despite being a short girl who wasn’t very good at basketball.

My generation grew up with television and the internet. What we saw and heard as kids probably impacted us in a big way. If we wanted to see our favorite celebrities, all we had to do was search. Growing up, I watched hours and hours of Green Day music videos and interviews. To me, it felt as if I knew the band, and I certainly knew everything there was to know about them. I’ve said this in columns before, but without Green Day, I wouldn’t be who I am today. They had an impact on my personality, my clothing choices, and my music tastes – which still defines me today. Sure, I don’t know them personally, but I care deeply about them, and when they die, I will mourn them.

I think the point is, you don’t have to personally know someone to feel hurt by their death. If a person has impacted you in any way, it’s easy to understand why you would feel sad when they die. I mentioned empathy earlier.

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. I consider myself an empath. I am constantly saddened by the hurt of others and work to do my best to understand what is going on with them. Kobe Bryant didn’t have a huge impact on me; I was more of a Michael Jordan fan growing up, but I felt sad reading the news because I knew his family would be hurting. His three children just lost their dad and sister. His wife just lost her husband and child. Thousands of fans just lost their idol. This is empathy, and it would do the world good to practice it. Just because you don’t care about a celebrity death, doesn’t mean no one else should.