(WGHP) — For 36 years, it was just Sheila Banks and her son Jaishon.
“I was a teen mom, so we grew up together,” she said.
On June 26, 2019, two days before her birthday, Banks’ son was taken in a barrage of gun fire.
“Nothing was gonna change the fact that my only son, my only child, was gone,” she said.
The overwhelming grief took her mind to a dark place.
“I was thinking about ways to go with my son,” she said.
When she needed it most, strangers reached out to help. They were mothers who also had children taken by homicide.
Banks says they saved her life.
One of those women was Tonya Cuthbertson. Her son Ernest and her cousin Jeffrey Hampton were killed on E. Bragg Street in Greensboro on December 2, 2015.
“Nobody understood what I was feeling, and that’s the part that got me to get up off my tail and go find my sisters,” Cuthbertson said.
Mothers Standing Against Gun Violence is a sisterhood pushing for accountability and providing the mental health support both Banks and Cuthbertson desperately needed.
“I had to be confined for seven days, and it was my Heavenly Father who gave me my strength back,” Cuthbertson said.
“I’ve had suicidal feelings. I had homicidal feelings. You don’t know what it’s like until you’re in those shoes, so if you don’t get counseling, you don’t know from day to day how you’re gonna feel,” Banks said.
Banks and Cuthbertson received professional help.
Cuthbertson went on to receive her Peer Support certification.
The mothers are advocating for more mental health resources to help others heal, including spouses, children and siblings who need help coping after losing a loved one to homicide.
If you have lost a child to homicide or want to support mothers who have, contact Mother’s Standing Against Gun Violence at (678) 677-0603 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The group holds weekly walks on Wednesdays and meets on Thursdays.
The group also works with a therapist.
As a separate resource, The Kellin Foundation, based in Guilford County, recently started a free support group for families of homicide victims.
The group meets bi-weekly on Tuesdays from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
To join, call (336) 429-5600 or visit the Kellin Foundation website.