Hard but Healing
There is a significant amount of time from my adolescent years that I really don’t remember. I never thought that was weird or strange because how many people can actually remember what it was like to be six years old?
I was talking to my mother the other day and she told me how much I loved my great grandmother. My mother told me how every night my great grandmother would say “now Janay you aren’t sleeping with me tonight”, and every night I would end up sleeping with my great grandmother who I called “Great” since birth. I used to sleep with my great grandmother on a twin size bed, or on the floor. I didn’t mind sleeping on the floor as long as I could sleep with Great. As a child I remember feeling safe and loved whenever I was with Great. Honestly as a child I never wanted to be with anyone other than Great because she was my rock my support system and I felt true unconditional love from her as a child. Great and I shared a love and a connection that I didn’t share with anyone else.
Please keep in mind that I wasn’t the easiest child to love. I remember one of my earliest memories with Great was us at my aunt’s house in the kitchen. Great and I spent the whole day together and she clearly got on my nerves that day. I remember saying “I don’t like her” out loud about my Great. I remember after the words left my mouth I looked at my great grandmother like “and what I said what I said”. Without a blink or bat of her eyes Great responded “I don’t like you either”. My great grandmother looked at me with the same “now what I said what I said look that I gave her”. I remember being a rude child looking at my great grandmother in disbelief. I know other family members or people in general would have yelled at me, spanked me, or worst for being so disrespectful but she didn’t.
It was like without raising her voice or hitting me Great made me feel bad for my actions and my words. I was a smart mouth child who didn’t really care how her words affected anyone, but I learned that day the power of my words. Great didn’t make me apologize to her for being disrespectful, but I felt awful for disrespecting my great grandmother. I felt like I disrespected the only person who actually cared, but Great moved on with her life and I moved on right along with her. I’m sure that I slept in the bed with Great that night. Letting Great out of my sight wasn’t something that I was willing to do. I still wish she was her with me today, but she died in 1998 I was 7.
I still remember the day Great died January 10 1998 vividly like it just happened yesterday. The day before was my brother’s birthday and we had a big family party. All the family on both sides was there to celebrate my brother’s birthday because Great wouldn’t have it any other way. There has been turmoil between the paternal side, and the maternal side of my family, but everyone loved Great. My whole life no one has ever said anything negative about Great to me. She’s the only person that I have ever met that everyone loved.
After my brother’s birthday Great said that she wasn’t going home with me like she always did, and she refused to let me go home with her. I had to go back to my parent’s house alone and I had to sleep alone. I cried and cried, but Great didn’t budge. “Take Janay home” she said to my parents. The next morning I woke up and I felt strange. I felt a feeling that I never felt in my life and I still can’t describe it, but I knew something was wrong. My soul told me something wasn’t right with Great. Something told me I should have cried and fought harder to stay with Great. I felt like Great had her night to herself, and I needed to be back with her. Just as I had that thought my father received a phone call. I don’t remember which family member called him but someone called him and told him Great was in the hospital.
Once my father relayed the message that Great was in the hospital I broke. I knew I would never see Great again even before anyone told me. I just cried I couldn’t do anything but cry. My mother came in the room and told me not to cry. She told me that everything was going to be ok Great just was at the hospital and we were going to see her. My mother tried to comfort be but she couldn’t comfort me because I knew the truth Great was gone. Even before we could get dressed to leave the house someone called back and relayed the message to my father that Great was dead. She had a heart attack at her house earlier that day she was rushed to the hospital and she died at the hospital.
I just remember my father crying, my mother crying and I remember crying to the point that I couldn’t be comforted. I was 7 and I knew my life was never going to be the same. I knew the love I received and valued from Great I wouldn’t get anymore. I knew that I would have to get used to sleeping alone. At 7 innocent Janay died right alone with my great grandmother.
Great always took me to church, bible study and other religious places when I was a child. I was brought up to have such a strong faith in God, but when Great died my faith died. I remember Great brought me angels and I had angels all over my room. Black angels with black features angels that resembled me, and my family. I broke all of them once I found out Great was dead. I couldn’t believe in angels or God anymore, because God took the only person that loved me unconditionally. God took the only person that made me feel safe, and loved. She had a heart attack in a bathroom and died in a hospital bed. How could a person so genuine die like that? How could God let that happen? God couldn’t love me because he knew how much I needed Great. God knew Great was the only person who loved me and accepted me and he just took her, and she just left.
The day of Great’s funeral I still remember like it was yesterday. I remember sitting in the front row and seeing the casket. I remember wanting her to get up, and she never did. She never got up and I broke. I tried to give God a second chance to right his wrong and he never did. Some people tried to comfort me by telling me that Great was now an angel looking down on me watching me. Some told me Great went home to be with the Lord. Honestly all of that sounded dumb to me. I wasn’t comforted by the thought of my support system, the love of my life floating around in Heaven watching me. I needed her here with me every night. I didn’t need her in the sky. I didn’t need her in the ground I needed her in my life protecting me, loving me and accepting me. I eventually forgave God, and asked for his forgiveness for how I reacted, but I never grieved my great grandmother. How could I? How do you continue to live after your heart dies?
After Great died so did my family. Within 3 years all family celebrations the way they were when Great was alive ended. There was disagreements over money, disagreements over life insurance so many disagreements. Nothing was the same for me.
Great understood me and accepted me for who I was as a person. My parents never did. I lived with my parents and my brother and my sister. I was different from my brother and my sister I didn’t fit into my immediate family. Cousins that I used to enjoy seeing often I never really saw them again much until I became grown. I was empty and I was alone. I was an outsider in my own family, and the outside world was no different. No one understood me how Great understood me.
Recently I have opened up about being sexual molested a few times as a child and throughout my teenage years. I realized why I never liked sex, and why I get so offended when I feel like people are trying to sexualize me. I realized why I could never fully give myself to any man. One guy I dated told me that I was a good girlfriend in every way, but sexually. He told me that he felt uneasy asking me about sex because he knew I didn’t want to have sex. He said he would mention it and wait 2-3 business days for me to response.
I remember dating a guy, and telling him that I would not have sex with him because I was allergic to latex and needed a special brand of condoms. He went out and bought the box of sheep or goat condoms and I took the box and hid it so that when it was time for penetration I could refuse because there was no condom. He looked all over for those condoms, but I already threw them in the dumpster and watched the city carry them away.
I write all the time and openly talk about the domestic violence experience that I had with my son’s father. What I have never shared was one day 2 years ago I had an open conversation with him. He told me that sex was a real issue in our relationship. He basically said he could probably count on one hand how many times we were sexually intimate. He then looked me in the face and said “you had issues long before you met me”. I didn’t say anything back after he told me that even before he came into my life I was already broken I already had issues. I couldn’t say anything back to him because he was right. He was right I did have issues and I was broken the day I met him. I never sought help for my brokenness. I didn’t even realize how deeply I was hurting when I met him.
I told the story about the sexual abuse, and the feeling like I was never accepted because recently I saw a meme that said “what you crave in a relationship is what you lacked as a child”. I realized after Great died I craved acceptance. I craved unconditional love. I craved protection.
I always felt safe invincible almost sleeping next to my great grandmother as a child. Being touched as a child I felt unsafe to say the least, but I also felt like if Great was alive I would have never been touched. I felt like if Great was alive I wouldn’t have grown up to be this broken adult. I know for a fact that I would have been wherever Great was, and I would have been protected and loved. I know that half of the extreme punishments I received as a child or teenage I would never have received if Great was alive. I know that I would never have been kicked out of my parents’ house at 17. I know that if Great was alive I would never have to chase after men seeking love and acceptance because Great would love me. Great would have shown me so much love that I wouldn’t accept half of what I have accepted in relationships.
“If you could go back in time and say anything you wanted to say to little 8 year old Janay what you say to her” my therapist asked me for like the millionth time. Every time my therapist asked me that question my answer was always the same “I don’t know”. It was the truth because I didn’t know what I would say to myself. I also felt like time doesn’t move backward it moves forward and I would never get the chance to speak to little Janay.
However now I realize if I could say anything to little Janay I would tell her to grieve. I would tell her that life doesn’t get any easier. On the positive side I would tell little Janay to never let anyone silence her. I would tell little Janay to speak her truth no matter who she offends.
I share my story with the world, and some people are offended by what I say or what I write. Some people feel like I am too graphic or I should write down how I feel and buried it. However while sharing my story so many people (all races and genders) have reached out to me and asked me where I found my courage to tell my story. So many people tell me their personal story and thank me for giving them the strength to open up about their pain. I realized Great may have left me physically, but she never left me. She is the reason I can share my story. She is the reason I can be so open and use my words to help so many. She never left me.