‘Just hold out’: Davidson County family uses grief to spread encouragement to others

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DAVIDSON COUNTY, N.C. — If you’ve driven through Davidson County in the past several months, you’ve probably noticed white signs lining the roads.

More than two hundred of them have been placed outside and they read, “Don’t Give up,” “You Matter” and “You’re Enough.” 

The story behind these words trace back to the Johnson family and their son Joshua. 

Joshua Johnson, 19, is described as being a person who loved to laugh, loved to help others and loved to be outside.

“It’s where he found his peace,” said Kevin Johnson, Joshua’s father. “He was a good kid. He tried hard. He was a pleaser.”

Though he carried a smile, was surrounded by a loving family and was the person who helped everyone he could, Joshua endured a serious battle with depression. 

His father recalled asking him once if he would ever do anything to hurt himself.

“He said, ‘no dad. I’d never do that to you guys.’ He was fighting something we don’t understand,” Johnson said.

On January 22, 2019 Joshua took his own life.

“I was the one who found him,” said Brittany Johnson, Joshua’s sister. “That made it extra hard because I was home. He didn’t come get more or anything. I was mad at myself because I could have gone in there…I was angry at him, wondering why.” 

His death left his family with questions about signs they might have missed, an unimaginable amount of grief and an empty seat at their kitchen table. 

“[It] has been like waves,” said Dawn, Joshua’s mother. “Some days, it’s just tickling your toes. And other days, it sneaks up behind you and pushes you down.” 

In the months that followed, they each found themselves grieving differently but all wanting to do something to honor Joshua’s memory. 

“You feel like you need to do something because you don’t want anybody, anybody to go through this,” Kevin said. 

The Johnsons’ neighbors started to create signs that had encouraging messages on them like “Don’t Give Up” and “You Matter.” Underneath these phrases is a hashtag that reads, “Don’t Lose Sight.” It comes from a tattoo Joshua had on his wrist. 

“It gave him focus of where his eye should be,” Kevin said. 

The community support for the signs and the Johnson’s missions has spread throughout Davidson County and in other parts of the Triad. Hundreds of signs line city streets and neighborhood yards. 

“We’re here for a purpose,” Dawn said about her family’s mission. “If this is our new purpose, then we need to reach as many people as we can. Even if it’s just a sign…don’t lose sight.”

The Johnson’s have also started a Facebook page called “Don’t Lose Sight,” where people can go and post encouraging messages and connect with others who are going through similar dark struggles. 

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