On Thursday, actress Lauren London posted a heartfelt tribute to her love and late-partner, slain rapper Nipsey Hussle.
“Forever,” she captioned it beneath a black and white photo of the couple in a side-by-side hug.
It’s been two weeks since Hussle’s funeral. But while life may be going on for the general public, the process of grief and healing is only just beginning for London, and others who lost their loved ones to gun violence.
Women like Nicole Paultre Bell feel London’s pain. In 2006, she was preparing for a wedding only to end up planning a funeral.
The story of her fiancé Sean Bell, who died in a hail of 50 bullets fired by New York Police Department officers as he left his bachelor party, is an all-too common cautionary tale. When you’re Black in America, your greatest dreams can easily become nightmares.
So when news hit that the rapper, entrepreneur and community leader was gunned down in the parking lot of the store he owned, Nicole Paultre Bell’s trauma felt fresh.
“I’m replaying now everything that I went through the day I got the call and found out that Sean had been killed on my wedding day,” Paultre Bell tells theGrio.
“Immediately it was just like, ‘oh my God, how is she going to pull through? How are the kids going to pull through? I don’t even know these people but I can feel them?”
Although she would eventually remarry, Nicole still took Sean’s last name and would never complete the symbolic act of walking down the aisle.
Paultre Bell was sitting on the couch with her 16-year-old daughter, who was only 4-years-old when her father was killed. The teen is also a Nipsey Hussle fan.
“We had to embrace each other,” she says. “As I hugged my daughter, I heard a big sigh, you know. And I know what that sigh is. That sigh is ‘Oh, you know, mommy’s sad, I feel sad… Daddy.”
For Shenee Johnson, her fiancé would never meet their child. Johnson was only two months pregnant in 2003 when the love of her life, Shonnon Kittrell Day, was gunned down while driving a friend to work.
“I waited so long to finally meet another man and now they’re telling me on the phone that he’s dead…”
“I waited so long to finally meet another man and now they’re telling me on the phone that he’s dead and I’m only two months pregnant,” she says.
Despite being encouraged by one woman to consider aborting her baby, Johnson stood firm.
“I was devastated. I didn’t know what to do. But the one thing I knew that I was going to keep this life inside of me. I didn’t think of the hows, whens, and wheres. I really didn’t. I just wanted my son..
Johnson’s painful loss would cruelly end up being mere preparation for more pain to come.
Her son Kedrick Morrow, born 11 years after her son with Shon, would be gunned down right before his graduation.
“Hearing what happened and seeing what happened to Nipsey and his family, I immediately started thinking about his children, Lauren and his parents. It just sent shock waves. They[‘re] all triggers.”
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When Nipsey Hussle was murdered, they grieved for Lauren London. ? These women lost their former fiancés to gun violence and want to share a message of encouragement with her and the Black community. Next week on theGrio’s YouTube channel @natashasalford talks living through loss with @nicolepbell and Shenee Johnson. #StopGunViolence #TMC #TheMarathonContinuesWithUs ?❤️
How To Keep Going
Nicole Paultre Bell and Shenee Johnson clasped hands, holding back fresh tears, as they sat in theGrio‘s offices reflecting on their losses.
They shared words of advice to London as they processed their feelings.
“I would encourage Lauren London, and his mom and family to keep them themselves surrounded by the people that are going to lift them higher because that’s how you make it,” says Johnson, who is also a volunteer for Moms Demand Action and the Everytown For Gun Safety Network.
“I would also like for people to also know, even when it’s not in the headlines and when it’s not so popular, we keep going,” she continued.
“The pain doesn’t ever leave, you just learn how to live with it,” says Paultre Bell, who also became an activist after her fiance’s murder.
“The pain doesn’t ever leave, you just learn how to live with it.”
“We find other ways to channel our strength and that may be through speaking. And that may be through forging alliances with other women who have been through it.”
“Sometimes an idle mind is a devil’s playground. So remaining busy, but keeping healthy. If you’re feeling sad and you’re down, you’ve got to reach out. If it’s not a therapist then you have to reach out to someone who has been through what you’ve been through,” she explains.
“There is no one answer. You know. This is what you do to get over your grief. You have to do several things. And [Lauren] needs the world to support her right now. Strength is showing up. Just one day at a time. One day at a time.”
Watch our full interview with Nicole Paultre Bell and Shenee Johnson above.