The Gravity of Grief

My Guys

I’ve been unable to write for several weeks. As the frequency of my sad days and migraines increase, I must acknowledge today as one heck of a “Throwback Thursday.” Today, September 4, 2014 marks what would have been my 10th wedding anniversary.  Wow.  I wrote THIS on my anniversary in 2012 and THIS on my anniversary in 2013.  Today also marks 2 months since my Daddy left this earth. Oh, and did I mention that my son started kindergarten last week?

The world is swirling around me and I’m struggling to not fly off the edge. My Daddy and my husband have given me 20 years of memories together, but few photos.  The one above is one of my favorites, the day my Daddy graduated from the police academy.  The grief that I feel upon losing each of them is very deep and very different.  In the months preceding my dad’s terminal illness and death, I believe that I was actually coming to a place where my good days outnumbered my bad.  That’s not so true anymore.  I’ve found a way to get up and go through the motions (sometimes), but things are heavy and dark.  I remain eternally grateful for my family and friends.  There’s no telling where I’d be without them.  And even as those closest to my dad face their own grief on his recent passing, they undoubtedly worry about and check on me consistently.

Writing normally brings me comfort, but I’ve been unable to do so until about two days ago.  The words ran from my fingers to the keyboard and I felt a release of sorts.  Part of me has been afraid to  let the words flow. This morning I felt the pull to put something on the blog.

My Daddy and my husband are linked in a different way now.  My two guys are gone.  And as I grieve the death of my father, I am pulled back into the early stages of grieving my husband. If only we could learn and follow in the footsteps of amazing children like my son.


LittleTDJ Quote



Honoring My Daddy

After a tough battle with cancer, my daddy aka Daddy TDJ here on the blog, went home to be with the Lord. In my best moments, I smile and imagine that upon his transition, he was greeted by a host of family and friends, including my dear husband.

The services for my father, Thomas A. Dunn Jr., were held this past Saturday and I was compelled to write something.  Since then, several people has asked me to share my words, so I’ll post them below.


TADJ Final

“Good morning everyone,

My name is Taya Alissa Dunn Johnson, the only child of Renee and Thomas A. Dunn Jr.

Does anyone remember that commercial where the daughter and father were performing a cheerleading routine together?  How about the instagram photo that went viral a few months ago of a father doing his daughters hair?  Those images seemed to shock so many, but not me.  Those images reminded me of the best parts of my childhood.  The idea of the active, involved father was my normal.

My parents raised me in a household that was filled with love, respect, open communication and togetherness.

Riding a motorcycle with him at age 2?  Yup.

Braiding my hair before school?  Yup, my daddy.

Sitting in chairs half the size of his body to attend imaginary tea parties? Yup, my pops.

Family game night and chinese take out once a week? Yup, my family.

As close as I was to my mother, I was truly Daddy’s little girl, from birth until the day my daddy passed away.

Growing up as an only child allowed my mother, father and I to build an airtight bond that deepened through the years.

My father has always been at my side, for my highest victories and my lowest defeats.  He was the kind of man that provided for his family in word and deed.  He would help you in any way you needed, and definitely find a way give you a hard time about it later.

My father had the kind of personality that made you want to meet him, laugh with him, choke him, hug him, slap him, then laugh again while wondering when you would see him again. He had a way of making everyone feel like they were instant friends.  His voice, his smile and his laugh pulled you in and endeared him to you within seconds.  Every friend I ever brought home adopted my parents as their own.

When my parents divorced, I didn’t feel the same type of hurt that most children feel.  Not to say that I wasn’t hurt, but I knew that my world would be ok.  I was surrounded by love in a way that some people never experience.  My two families were much more like one huge family that included neighbors, friends, co-workers and strangers.  My parents experienced a brief period where there friendship was strained, but ultimately, love conquered all.

The death of my husband two years ago shook my family to its core, especially my close, immediate family. My father, my mother, my mother’s partner Katheryn and I were dazed and grief stricken.  The tragedy allowed the four of us to rely on one another in ways we never imagined.  And at the core, the love that my parents instilled in me from birth was present.   We worked to help one another heal and we worked together for my son Marcus.  Over the year and a half, my father was ill and recovered in our home.  And when I say “our home”, please understand that I’m referring to the house in which I live along with my mother, her partner Katheryn, and my son Marcus.  I watched my mother’s partner open her heart and our home to my father and I saw love.  I watched my mother care for my father during his dying days and I saw love.

I thank God for the 62 years that my father lived and I appreciate the father that he was to me.  From the moment of Marcus’ birth, I’ve been thankful for the grandfather that he was. Although I disappeared a little, watching the love that my father gave to his grandson showed me another side of him as a man.

Many have called me strong and I know that a great part of that comes from the great man who was my father.  Rest in peace Daddy. I love you now and forever.  I hope I continue to make you proud.”


Thomas A. Dunn Jr.

Sunrise – March 9, 1952

Sunset – July 4, 2014


Daydreaming of Him

Daydreaming, Aretha Franklin

“He’s the kind of guy that would say

Hey, baby let’s get away

Let’s go some place, huh

Where I don’t care

He’s the kind of guy that you give your everything

You trust your heart, share all of your love

Till death do you part”

I don’t sleep very much.  And by not much, I mean about 3-4 hours per night.  From time to time, I take the advice of my therapist and let prescription medication help so that I can give my body, my mind and my soul 8 hours of uninterrupted rest.  While most people are comfy and cozy in their beds, I’m sitting in my bedroom thinking.  Just thinking. And writing. And sometimes crying.  Less crying that I wrote about here, If You Think You’re Lonely Now, but there are still some nights that are worse than others. [Read more...]

Listen To Your Mother Baltimore – 4/26/14

FB Cover

Listen To Your Mother Baltimore is about 1 month away!
Have you purchased your ticket yet?????????
Are you still unsure just “what” Listen To Your Mother “is”?  It’s a national series of original, live readings by members of the community, shared on local stages in 32 cities.  I spoke during the 2013 Listen To Your Mother DC show and felt strongly about producing a show in Baltimore for 2014 (and beyond).  If you’d like to see my performance, click HERE.

The show is an opportunity for a group of individuals to share their unique perspectives on motherhood – the good, the bad and the ugly.  In an effort to empower the community, 25% of the ticket proceeds will be donated to the House of Ruth Maryland, an agency committed to helping victims of domestic violence.

Click HERE for all the details on the show! If you are anywhere in the vicinity, come on out and support our efforts.

I’d love to hug ya!!







My Little Guy Turns 5

fivecandlesThere is a tiny part of me that can’t actually believe that LittleTDJ turns 5 years old today.  I’ve been accepting and rejecting this for the last couple of weeks.  Five years old.  A milestone of a birthday.  His birthday makes me reflect upon a time when MrTDJ and I didn’t think that we could have children.  It makes me smile and giggle about the shocking day that my doctor and I learned of LittleTDJ.  In less than an hour, a routine doctor’s appointment to discuss my inability to conceive turned into me seeing the first heartbeat of our already 14 week old baby.


My eyes water and my nose tingles at the memory of my husband rubbing my pregnant belly while we tossed around names that were horrible compound words using our first and middle names. My pregnancy was an amazing time.  I felt like the most beautiful woman on the planet and my husband reminded me daily that indeed I was.  We had so many ideas, dreams, fears and plans for the little boy we would bring to this world.  Our precious boy roared to life on January 13, 2009 at 11:03am.  The lyrics to a Yolanda Adam song pop into my head, “You’re my little darling child, seeing you makes me smile, God Bless the day he sent my little angel to me.”

And an angel he is. Our son has shared his light, his love and his laugh with everyone he has encountered for the last five years and it has been amazing and enlightening.  As a part of his autism spectrum disorder, there was a time were MrTDJ and I were worried that LittleTDJ would never speak.  Even typing that sentence makes me howl with laughter.  When MrTDJ passed away, our son was barely verbal. Today?  I don’t know where he gets the energy to talk as much as he does.  He is special is so many ways that I can’t describe because typing through tears is tough.

There is a part of me that remain angry that my husband is not here, but I continue to work thorugh those emotions.  Our baby boy is growing and thriving because of God’s grace and mercy.  He is sustained in ways that I didn’t think possible.  I hope and pray that my husband is smiling upon the beautifully complex child that we created.  Rest well MrTDJ because our son surely, surely carries you in every fiber of his being. Happy birthday my little prince!





Who Wants To Take The Stage?

Hey blog family!  I hope and pray that you all have been well.  A few things have been marinating in my head, so I’ll be sure to share on the blog soon.  Remember a few months ago when I told y’all about the live production that I was bringing to Baltimore??  I’m happy to announce that the Listen To Your Mother Baltimore show that I’m co-producing officially has a date and venue!!!!

We will be taking the stage on Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 6pm at the Harry & Jeanette Weinburg Auditorium on the campus of Mercy High School.  Tickets will go on sale soon.  I wrote a few thoughts over on the show’s local city blog.  Click here to read it and get all the audition details. 



My Heart and “The Best Man Holiday”

best man holiday

If you haven’t seen the movie “The Best Man Holiday”, you’ll need to stop reading now because this post contains spoilers.  Big ones.  And if you haven’t seen it, why not????  You should fix that ASAP!  If you’re not familiar with this film or part 1, “The Best Man”, click here to read a plot synopsis with spoilers.   For a review of the film without an spoilers, check out what Luvvie wrote here.

I had a hard time putting my thoughts to words regarding the movie but a photo search for a LittleTDJ school project helped.   As my thoughts came together, I was struck with the underlying thought that I’m an anomaly.   Something different, abnormal, peculiar, or not easily classified.   Such an anomaly that even my closest friends have trouble understanding me.  Allow me to come back to that point, but I need to share a few memories and observations first. [Read more...]

All I Need Is One Mic


My husband was the spontaneous one in our duo.  I was the consummate event planner, detail monger, plan B and plan C girl; a hazard and benefit to having worked in meetings and events for most of my adult life.  When MrTDJ would present one of his impulsive ideas (let’s go the park and ride the swings, or let’s stay in our PJ’s and watch horror movies all day), I’d do my best to toss my planner hat to the wind and ride his wave of exuberance.  Most of the time, I was able to join him in fun without thinking of the what ifs.  But, I can admit that there were many times when I simply could not suspend the part of my brain that processed exactly how many hours until work or until LittleTDJ finished his nap, and I’d dim his huge smile by explaining that we really should be doing laundry/cleaning/yard work, etc.  Over the years, I worked hard to balance my need for over planning to MrTDJ’s need to live in the moment.  It’s a lesson that he taught me during his short life and I’m forever grateful that I received it. [Read more...]

Daring to Dream Big

Charlie Brown Doc

In the world of blogging, I’m considered an old dog. My first post was 9 years ago on November 8, 2006. Sounds and seems like forever ago. Why did I start? Umm, the question really should be why not? I’d somehow stumbled upon reading blogs and after reading one too many aloud to MrTDJ, he suggested I start one. Hmm, me thinks that was a “hushing” tactic but I took his advice anyway.  [Read more...]

The Night of Our First Fall


It’s late, almost 4am, and I’m watching LittleTDJ sleep and I love that he can enjoy peaceful sleep from time to time.  He’s had trouble sleeping at night since MrTDJ passed away.  At the time of his passing, our son was 3.5 years old and he had about 50 words in his vocabulary.  Most of his speech was echolalia, meaning that he immediately (and involuntarily) repeated words and phrases that were directed at him.  There are moments when I’m unsure whether LittleTDJ’s memory is a blessing or a curse.  He has incredibly clear memories of his father.  He didn’t have the words for the moments during his father’s life, but now he does.  Over the last 2 months, his curiosity and frustration regarding his father’s disappearance has been building.  Things reached a fever pitch the other night and I lost my composure.  We cried it out together.

He fell asleep and I fell apart.  

[Read more...]