‘It’s OK to cry’: Nonprofit extension supports men who lost loved ones to violence

CHARLOTTE — Channel 9 has been recognizing the work a local nonprofit, Mothers of Murdered Offspring (MOM-O) has been doing to help families who lost loved ones to violence. Wednesday marks 30 years since the organization started its mission.

Channel 9′s Erica Bryant sat down with a group of men who lost their loved ones. They opened up to her about how a new extension of MOM-O gives them their own space and unique support.

The men all shared a powerful bond -- their loved ones were taken from them.

“He was 34 years old. Just a good-hearted and loving person,” Newton Williams said.

“The thing that I cherish the most is that he was an excellent father,” Kenneth Stevenson said.

“Just a great, great, great son,” Charles Billings said. “Everybody loved Jamaa.”

Williams, Stevenson, and Billings were joined by Timothy Henderson and Michael Smith -- all five of whom lost their sons.

“He was wanting to get into logistics, to run his own business,” Henderson said.

“He’s probably about the coolest dude I’ve ever met. Never got ruffled,” Smith said. “Sam’s favorite saying was ‘just chill, just chill.’”

Mario Fourney lost his nephew, and Markel Limbacker lost his two brothers.

“He was a kid with a beautiful smile. Beautiful soul,” Fourney said.

“My first brother was Derek. He was a dancer and very funny,” Limbacker said. “My second brother was James, also funny and so smart.”

It is a fraternity they did not want to join.

“If you go into what we go into, you grieve, and you will cry, no matter how strong you are,” Billings said. “This will break you down.”

They found a lifeline in MOM-O Men, a new extension of Mothers of Murdered Offspring that gives men their own space and unique support. It’s a resource they’ve used to lift them up.

“For many years, I’ve grieved but I couldn’t grieve,” Limbacker said. “So for many years I’ve held it in, like they said -- being a man, you’re supposed to not show certain emotions, do not react in certain ways.”

“To see another man cry -- because it brings something out of you. I’m not sure exactly what it is -- but it’s OK to cry because we do feel,” Williams said.

“This is a breath of fresh air for me for the first time since I lost my son,” Smith said. “I feel like it’s OK to say that I’m not OK.”

“A group like this definitely helps when you get to the point where you can talk about it, and you know that you’re not OK,” Stevenson said. “You’ve come a long way, a long way.”

The group meets once a month with sessions facilitated by a licensed counselor, and the MOM-O staff works to make sure assistance is available 24/7.

“They do a wellness check; they make sure you’re OK,” Stevenson said.

“We’re here for each other -- so it’s long overdue, but I thank God it’s here,” Limbacker said.

MOMO-MEN meets at 6:30 p.m. every third Monday of the month for men or boys who want to connect with the group.

Call or text THE MOMO-LINE 980-777-6860.

>> To learn more about MOM-O and donate to support its work, click here.

(WATCH BELOW: Local support group for mothers of murder victims works to help keep children’s legacy alive)