Kobe Bryant's Family Friend Gives Update on His Wife Vanessa After Death of NBA Legend Alongside Daughter Gianna

Vanessa Bryant is doing her best to be strong for her daughters after the sudden and tragic death of husband Kobe Bryant and 13-year-old daughter Gianna Sunday in a helicopter crash outside of Los Angeles that killed nine people. A family friend talking to PEOPLE Tuesday said that, as expected, Vanessa and daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and 7-month-old Capri, are still reeling from the news.

"It's an extremely difficult and devastating time for Vanessa and the whole family," the family friend said.

Another source close to the Bryant family explained that Vanessa is "devastated."

"She can hardly keep it together," they said. "She can't finish a sentence without crying. But she is working very hard to pull it together for the other girls. She now has to be the strong one."

"Of course, you can never be prepared for this," they continued. "Despite their ups and downs, [Vanessa and Kobe] were soulmates. She thought of him as her partner for life."

Looking at a long road of healing ahead, Vanessa "is surrounded by people who love her and love Kobe. She has a good support system. She is relying on her faith. She is not alone. But she will be grieving this for a very long time," the source added to PEOPLE.

Meeting when they were just 22 and 18, Kobe and Vanessa were known as a loving couple and parents. In November 2019, the former Los Angeles Lakers player dedicated a tribute to his wife on Instagram to commemorate their first meeting.

"On this day 20 years ago I met my best friend, my Queen [Vanessa] I decided to take her on a date to Disneyland tonight to celebrate old school style (pre 4princesses) I love you my mamacita per sempre," he wrote alongside photos of the couple then and in the current day.

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Kobe is also being remembered as a dedicated dad, telling Maria Shriver soon before his death, "Being a father is the thing I am most proud of in this world; it's my greatest accomplishment. I've learned so much, but perhaps the most profound thing has been the fierce, unconditional love you have for your children when you become a parent. I'm blessed to have had that experience four times now and there's nothing more powerful in this world."

Photo credit: Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Baby2Baby