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Vanessa A Johnson

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When Death Comes a Knockin', Chapter One
by Vanessa A Johnson   

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Publisher:  Book Haven Publishing ISBN-10:  141162470X Type: 


Copyright:  November 29, 2004

Barnes &
Lulu Press
Book Haven Publishing
VeeJay Writes

This is the Introduction to my non-fiction book, "When Death Comes A Knockin'." This book is a self-help inspirational book about my experiences with loss and my journey through the grief process after the loss of my mother and son thirty-three days apart in 1994.

The Serenity Prayer

God, Grant me the serenity to

ACCEPT the things I cannot change,

the COURAGE to change the things I can,

and the WISDOM to know the difference.

(Author Unknown)


Chapter One


 Death! Just the mere thought or mention of this simple five-letter word, especially used in the context of the loss of human life, immediately invokes images of something cold, dark, spooky, and scary enough to cause the hairs on your neck to stand straight up!

Only after you have experienced the loss of someone close to will you be fully able to comprehend the emotional depths of loss. I am typically a warm and loving individual, not bleak and morbid by nature. Unfortunately, this is what death and loss can do to a person's spirit. The dreary bleakness is due to the circumstance of death, by no means is it a reflection on the legacy of our departed loved ones. We will go out of our way to not think about death in an attempt to avoid dealing with this horrific event.    

Prior to the loss of my mother and son in 1994, I avoided the topic of death like the plague. Unfortunately, death and I aren't strangers. We have met on numerous occasions. I feel we should be on a first name basis.

     Every second of every minute someone's father, mother, sister, brother, grandmother, grandfather, son, daughter, aunt, uncle, wife, husband, cousin, fiancé, friend, and/or significant other dies. The causes of these deaths range from terminal illness to accidental to malicious intent. Whatever the cause, the outcome is the same. A loved one is no longer among us, and it hurts like hell.

     If you have never experienced the loss of someone close to you, you may find yourself in a state of panic and shock; a state of grief, over-flooded with emotions and feelings that can make you truly feel like you are losing your mind.

     When we lose a loved one, oftentimes we ignore our feelings and emotions; submerge them within our psyche instead of admitting we have been dealt a terrible blow. Many people are afraid to admit they have a problem coping with many of life's problems including death, therefore they will not admit they need help because to do so may indicate a sign of weakness.

     Some people believe if they allow themselves to think about death, they may have to deal with all of the baggage that goes along with it. This baggage includes fear. Fear that we might be left alone to face the world and all of its problems. It is this fear that can force us to think about our own mortality or the mortality of our loved one.

This baggage also includes pain, but not the ordinary pain you feel from a cut or other physical injury to the human body.  I am talking about pain so excruciating emotionally it can’t be put into words. I am talking about a pain that doesn’t go away by simply taking a pill. It is a pain so intense you think it will last forever.

This baggage includes anger. Oftentimes we don’t know exactly whom we are angry with, therefore any and everyone around us may fall victim to this anger. Sometimes we turn that anger towards ourselves.  

There is nothing simple about death. Regardless of how many times we are faced with the loss of a loved one, many people never get used to dealing with death. Even if you have managed to overcome the loss of a loved one through death in the past, it is not to say that you will react the same way the next time you are faced with death.

     Death can be like the old saying, “The straw that breaks the camel’s back. When dealing with death, that one straw may cause the proverbial wind to be knocked out of us. To experience death is like being sucker punched. You don’t see it coming, and you are still stunned and shocked when it hits you.

     Even if the death is expected, and you think you have prepared yourself for when it finally happens, think again. There is no amount of preparation that can prepare you fully for the death of a loved one.

     It is only when you are hit with the reality that your loved one is no longer here, when you cannot see or touch them like you use to, when you cannot tell them you love them like you use to, when they cannot tell you they love you like they used to, is when their death may become too much for the mind to absorb.

     It is the dark cold bleak description that we have of death that is probably the main reason why so many of us shy away from talking about it. But, by not talking about death, does that prevent death from happening? For the life of me I wish it did. 

     Many people have revealed they have a fear that if they talk about death, it just might happen to someone close to them so they avoid the subject. Some people feel that if they do not talk about death, they will not have to deal with it. They are not going to look for trouble if trouble is not looking for them.

      Death is something we must all face at one time or another, as death has been occurring since the beginning of time and occurs in all families. But to say we must face death does not mean that we must accept it, become comfortable with it as a natural part of our lives.

     Death is a natural occurrence, in that it occurs daily and has been occurring since the sins of Adam and Eve. The idea of seeing someone who was once full of life in the lifeless state of death just does not register naturally in the mind.

     I have talked with many of my colleagues. Some of them have admitted that they could not remember ever losing someone in their immediate friend or family circle. I envy them but I also pray for them because they have no idea of what they are in for when they are faced with death and losing someone they love.    

     When death touches us that


close, how do we handle it? The


answers to this question are so


multi-faceted, and there is no one or


correct answer. The loss of a loved


one often times is that final straw


in life that can forever change your



     When I lost my mother and son, I searched for answers. I felt the need to connect with other people who had lost a loved one, to be comfort by them, a form of validation that we were not alone in our pain. That search led to me books. Although there were many published books that dealt with the subject of loss and grief, they did not comfort me.

     Much to my dismay, the information contained in those books was written from their professional point of view and not from personal experience. As such I felt the pain they described was different from my pain I was experiencing because I had lost my mother and my son.

     Dissatisfied with what was available in bookstores, I decided to journal my experience so others would know that they are not alone in their grief. What began as a seven-page essay in 1995 has evolved into this book you are now reading.

     It is my hope and prayer that by sharing my experiences with other I will help them in some way even if it is only in the knowledge that they are not alone after losing a loved one.

     I also pray that this book will serve as guide to those who are grieving, confirming that they may do so at their own pace through areas of shock, expressions of grief, and helps you to deal with questions, doubts, guilt and fears over the loss of a loved one. By facing overwhelming emotions of loss during grief people wonder if they will ever feel okay again, thus leaving them depressed, angry or even ashamed when their grief doesn’t disappear quickly or happen in neat, orderly stages.

     In this book the person grieving

 is shown how to take small steps

towards the recovery process. In the

end, this book will help the survivor

understand what they are going

through and serve as a How-to

guide so they can reach the final

stage of Acceptance in the grief

Death is not natural and no matter how many times we are confronted with death, it often sends many of us into a tumultuous whirlwind of emotions and feelings it is miraculous that many of us to do recover. Or do we really recover from the loss of a love one through death?

Professional Reviews

Emotional and Heart-Wrenching
Reviews For When Death Comes a Knockin’

Date Reviewed: July 31, 2004


RAW Rating: 4.5

Emotional and heart-wrenching

Just as one lives, one must also die. However, the impact of that death upon friends and family members can be a very stressful ordeal. It is often emotionally, physically, and mentally damaging to the mind, body, and soul, even crippling one from moving forward with his or her life. Vanessa A. Johnson, a newcomer to the literary scene, shares the story of how she survived and coped with the death of her mother, followed shortly by the death of her infant son.

Written in the form of a self-help book, WHEN DEATH COMES A KNOCKIN' is an informative look inside the grief process, that uses Ms. Johnson's experiences to educate, inspire, and encourage those who have gone through or are going through similar periods. In her book, the grief process is broken down into the following steps: Disbelief, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. The steps are pretty much self-explanatory, yet each of them are detailed with examples of things the author went through and how she finally made it to the last stage.

She not only includes resources dealing with death and grieving, but she also shares scriptures that were instrumental in tying together her strong faith and belief in God, working though the grieving process. Also included are things that helped her the most from family members, her support group, and others. Though as a whole, I really enjoyed this book, my favorite section dealt with how to help someone who is grieving. It is often that those offering condolences are left in a position of not knowing what to say, and this chapter clearly assists both the griever and those around him or her who want to provide comfort.

WHEN DEATH COMES A KNOCKIN' is a story that needs to be told, a lesson that needs to be taught, and an inspiration that needs to be shared with grievers and those around them. No one knows how they will react to the death of a loved one until it actually happens or until a period later when you're finally ready to deal with it. In reading WHEN DEATH COMES A KNOCKIN', I was able to let go of some of my own grief towards the loss of both my parents who died pretty close to each other -- deaths I'm not sure I've totally accepted. I've never been one to deal with death too well, but through reading Ms. Johnson's story, I feel I have the tools necessary to cope with and receive things a bit better and move on to the acceptance stage.

Reviewed by Tee C. Royal
of The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers

Personable, Friendly and Concise
When Death Comes a Knockin’
Vanessa Johnson
Christian-Non Fiction
I would haughtily recommend this book be included in any information given to bereaved families, whether the business is a hospital, nursing home, hospice or funeral home. A self-help book chronicling the true experiences of a person who has experienced so much grief is a comfort to others. Ms. Johnson tells her story in poignant detail and in doing so, I’m sure she’s realized the release is cathartic. Likewise it is not easy hearing about other’s trials but makes the reader more sensitive to a grieving person’s needs.
Ms. Johnson explains in excellent detail the stages of grief. Not too clinical or difficult to understand, When Death Comes a Knockin’ is personable, friendly and concise. Filled with strong biblical references in dealing with death, this book is helpful for family members as well as friends who are tasked with assisting the bereaved. As a funeral director, I would recommend sharing with staff and families alike.
Sharon Hudson
Funeral Director

Reviewed by:
Sharon Hudson
Review published:
October, 2004

A Good Self-Help Book.
When Death Comes A Knocking', Vanessa A. Johnson
4.5 Nods
Grief. Sorrow. Death. Not exactly choice topics of daily conversation; much less easy subjects to write about. In the book When Death Comes A Knockin' by Vanessa A. Johnson, the difficult subject of death is covered in an intimate way It gives the feel of listening to someone sharing their experience in a death recovery support group.
All the chapters of the book are connected with Biblical scriptures, and the verses coincide perfectly with the topic being covered. I was especially moved after reading chapters two and three, to the point that I wondered if the author had been stalking me for a few years!
At first, I wanted to make this book a "rush read"--skim through it so that I could write to the author and tell her what I thought of her first literary work. After only a day of reading it, I realized this book was not one to be rushed through, but rather, each chapter needed to be read and considered very carefully, similar to the thought process an expectant mother goes through when considering names shortly before the birth of her baby.
Another thing I realized in reading this book was that although it was written as a method of healing for the author, it was healing for me also; and forcing me to deal with grief that has been deep in my mind for many years. After reading When Death Comes A Knockin’ I felt cleansed in a sense, purged of grief which had cluttered and distorted my thinking for many years.
I felt purified, and ready to go on with my life, with a new acceptance of the fact that death is going to come "a knocking" on my door many more times before my own life is over.
This book is a must read for anyone struggling to cope with the death of a loved one. Vanessa Johnson's story will be a godsend to death/grief support groups as well. I would recommend this book to anyone who appreciates the value of a good self-help book.

Rowena Winfrey, Readincolor Reviewer

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Reader Reviews for "When Death Comes a Knockin', Chapter One"

Reviewed by Mocha Sistah 5/10/2004
Just wanted to comment you on your bravery at doing this subject. Sometimes we deal with issues in the "dark" but I find it enlightening to use the word to touch more lives and in the process heal your own soul. This is your prolific sister. Keep going and growing.

Pam Osbey
Author, Musings of a Mocha Sistah
Reviewed by OnepoetGem *the Poetic Rapper 2/10/2003
Venessa, I don't see any reason your book will not be published. Sure you are dealing with a touchy subject but it is one that most of us don't mind getting different points of view on. If you read my short story "Only Die Once," you probably saw that I dealt with this type dilemma at one point in my life. I too have had loved ones die and you're right, it is a hard thing to deal with, but we pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off and go on with life. To me this is how you honor the dead. My dilemma occured some years ago and now I don't have any problems with death at all, mine or anyone elses. At the nice old age of 53 I have learned to live every second, minute and hour of my life. It's not death that concerns me anymore, it's life I'm talking about. Learning to enjoy each second of my life. It is an art that is just about as hard to learn as getting use to death. I take on the challenge. Take care. GE

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