James Johnson, Jr.
James Johnson, Jr.’s brother was killed when James was 11. Since then, he’s lost another brother, two sisters, his grandma, his stepfather, and his mother. He describes the pressures men face to “be strong” after losing someone they love. James regularly attends a grief support group and tries to use his experiences to help others, sharing what he’s learned.
I lost my oldest brother, when I was 11. So, that’s tough, even after all these years. At that time I had nowhere to go, no outlet. I never talked to anybody, I never spoke about it or anything like that. After all these years, I never attended anything, I never went anywhere for the grief until after my mom passed away.
Ever since she passed, I will only eat with her special... her spoon, knife and fork. That’s what I eat with every day. My mom, she had the Alzheimer’s and I was her caretaker. I lived with her, so I was her caretaker for the whole duration of the Alzheimer’s. It was really tough, when you're used to doing something day in and day out, and then they’re not there no more. Cuz a lot of days I wake up and I’m just angry. Not at god, not at the world, that mom is not here no more, and that’s what I used to do 24/7.
You have to go through it. You can’t hold it in. You have to feel it. And I think a lot of times we run from things.
But now, since I’m talking about it, it makes a big difference to talk about it, but, noticing it’s there, dealing with the pain, dealing with the suffering, dealing with the loss and still able to go on.
It’s really sad, and sometimes it can be lonely. But then it also can be rewarding. I believe that. You have to want that. Want to think about the good things. That’s what I like to try to concentrate on too. The good things that we shared, the last days. Not the bad times, but the good times. And even with the hard times, those was, it was fun too.
Some people try to be helpful, but they say the wrong thing. I think they don’t understand the pain, the sorrow, the loneliness.
We can allow that grief, that loneliness, that sadness to take us down to a place where we don’t want to go. I think it’s good for other people to know that, what I’m going through, or what I’ve been through, I’ll use myself as an example. I say “Well look, I’m doing it. So, if I can do it, you can do it, too.”
Just take it one day at a time, it will get better. But you have to fight for it, you have to go for it. Because we can stop, we can allow that grief, that loneliness, that sadness to take us down to a place where we don’t want to go. It can blindside us if there’s not help, if you don’t reach it, if you just stay in that spot. Well, I’m going to get even, or bitterness. Because bitterness will set in, and if you don’t do something about it, it can ruin you.
I think it’s good for other people to know that, what I’m going through, or what I’ve been through, what you’re now getting ready to go through, so I can speak from experience that, “Look at me. You can make it.”
When I'm going through it, I listen to music. I think about my mom. Gospel. My favorite band: Earth, Wind & Fire. Songs that my mom used to listen to, songs that my brother used to listen to, things like that. Instead of just being sad. If you put that on, you put those on, and it will put you in a better mood, it will . They say music is healing to the soul, it really is. Certain songs you listen to, or certain songs... You know, wow, that’s really, the music, the lyrics, it really is soothing to the soul, especially when you’re going through something. You know, it’s really good.