You may have seen Adjua Styles, the Cuban and Panamanian beauty from Brooklyn, on rapper Styles P’s arm over the years. The couple told their story on “Black Love” and strengthened their marriage on “Marriage Bootcamp.” When we sat down with her, we did speak about her relationship but we also discussed her book “The Ethereal Hike: How To Discern The Privilege Of Loss Through The Power Of Love,” which she used to help cope and heal with the loss of her 20-year-old daughter Tai. We discussed the medium who communicated with her daughter and changed her life, how writing was therapeutic and even her thoughts on Vanessa Bryant’s pain.n See what Adjua had to say about all things healing below.
Why did you all decide to participate in “Marriage Bootcamp”? Some of the couples from past seasons have not been in real relationships, reality tv can be messy and you don’t want to make a mockery of a real relationship.
Our season, all the couples are real. I’ll just say that. For me, anything to strengthen my marriage, to keep it solid, keep us progressive, I’m all for. So I wasn’t going in with any expectations regarding other couples. For me, it was like what can I get out of it? What can I put into it to get out of it? Just something different. Just like a bucket list kind of thing. And I wanted to promote my book.
At this stage in my life, after losing my child, any experience is a good experience or something to do for me.
You said that you felt like the romance was gone in your relationship. What does that mean?
It means 25 year of monotonous behavior—well not 25. I would say the last 10 years. You just fall into an area of complacency. Thank God the sex was still good, vibrant and active. If that died, you would probably see a whole different dynamic between us. But that’s one of the things that kept us and our strong love for each other. There is passion even though there may not be every single day. But it’s still there.
It was more or less, less intimate time. Less conscious, deliberate intimate time. More of just we’ll take the time when we can. It was just making us more of a priority. That should never really die. The union should always be a focus in terms of how you go about your day to day, your gift-giving, thought process, consideration.
You mentioned your daughter. A lot of times when couples lose a child, that’s the end of the relationship…
Yes, I hear that all the time. We hear that so much it’s like, ‘Well, damn…’
How did you guys avoid that?
Honestly, that was never a thought. It was more like, What the hell are we going to do to make sure we support each other and get through this to heal. That was not even a whim. It was like, ‘Ok, so this is our situation, this has been put in our path. What can we do to not be broken from it. How can we use each other to strengthen and heal?’ We leaned on each other.
Talk to me a little about your book because I know that was a part of the healing process. When you started writing it, did you know you were going to release it?
The book is the Ethereal Hike. The title alone is very significant. And that came after. The book was written and then the title came. Initially, I would say I started writing journal entries. I felt so lost because Tai, my daughter, passed away from suicide at 20. I felt that I needed to physically write. That was the only way to communicate. So I started to do journal entries. I had so many of them. I would go back and read them and they seemed like I was really having conversations with her. I thought maybe I can do something with these. Maybe it can actually help someone else who’s going through this situation. Then I started to write. And in writing—I’m not an avid reader—but I would write from time to time when I was younger. And it was healing. I felt calm. I felt peace and I felt it was soothing just being able to express myself in that way. I just wanted to get it out.
I didn’t know that it could turn into a piece that I could actually publish until my husband read it. He was like, ‘This is amazing. Your writing is amazing.’ He’s published a book before so I trust him. I was ready to just peel back the layers, be honest, truthful, raw. It was more for myself than anyone else. If I can get to the next chapter of my life, so to speak—not that I’m closing the door on her. Because that never gets better, just changes with time. It’s more about understanding how I want to live with it rather than letting it live with me.
What do you say to people who have lost a child because that’s like the worst thing people can imagine.
Like Vanessa [Bryant]
I can’t even imagine that. I’ve been talking about her all the time. Because there are phases. For me, the phase that I’m in now, it’s so much better. It’s peaceful. The initial stage is very difficult. You can’t even articulate what you’re going through, let alone lean on anyone. You don’t even really know what’s going on. Your whole world is shaken up. Then for her to have her partner gone. It’s a double whammy. I think about her just trying to process. You process one, then the other. Then you still have the children you’re looking at, which are reminders. It’s a lot.
The only thing that I can say is now that I’m kind of out of the beginning phase is when you’re put in that situation, it’s a strength situation. I know when you’re thrust into something like that, it’s to bring out your strength. It’s to highlight the strength you have and may not know that you have and rise—like the phoenix. Really, it is.
It sounds cliché and it sounds cold but she will kind of get to a better place. And that better place is where the strength soars and where you get to see what you’re actually made of. But she will. She has no choice because she has three other daughters. But I would just say, Be honest with your feelings. Rely on God. And just be around people that genuinely are supportive. When I say supportive, I mean no judgement. A lot of people try to persuade you to do their thing. Like for me, it was, ‘You’ve got to talk to someone. Right now. You’ve got to get up and talk to someone next day.’
For me, it was like ‘I actually don’t want to do that.’ I don’t feel comfortable. I don’t know if they’ll understand me. I don’t know what their energy is like. It’s a lot of things to consider here. It’s very personal. So you’ve just got to go with what you feel. And allow yourself to sit with your feelings.
Did you ever go to therapy?
Well, what I did was—initially I did chat groups. I did online groups. I did a lot of research, intense research. Because I wanted to delve more into the psychological aspects and how it physically transforms you too. Just really understanding and dissecting the whole thing regarding the loss of a child, because it’s physically different.
What I did was, I went to a medium. And the medium pretty much changed my life. That experience was so personal and private and so life-changing. It was enough to keep me knowing that she is still here. She’s very much still here and I still have a job to do as a mother. So it kept me on the path. I mean, I have a son. But it was more or less to know that if her energy is still here and still thriving, I still have a job a parental role. I still have to be an upstanding model for her. Because if I don’t do that, her energy will suffer. The more that I live, the more that I thrive, the more that I try to juice life in the most positive way, I believe it only elevates her being and her spirit.
If it wasn’t for that experience—I literally use that spiritual experience for what I’m supposed to be doing and how I’m supposed to be. Because the things that were divulged—she would never know these things. So I knew it was coming from some place else. It was like from being broken to being put back together.
I know people who’ve lost children take particular interest in your book. Have you gotten any feedback?
I have gotten tremendous feedback from anybody who’s dealt with loss. They’re saying how it’s so soothing. It’s helpful just to have someone else who understands the pain, that understands that it’s not all great. Some days are horrible. Just being in the day to day, is difficult. Just allowing yourselves to be in a good space or bad space is okay. Respect that and appreciate that. A lot of times people are coming from a place of what you should do and how you should be versus, ‘It’s okay to be this way.’ We’re human. You can turn on the news and be depressed. So, to have someone think that all day everyday you’re in a positive, peaceful state of mind. That’s not practical. They embrace that and they understood that.
A lot of Black communities, we’ve been through so much trauma and we believe, ‘We have to keep going, we have to keep going.’ And that makes it worse.
Oh my God! Yes. All of that is in the book. The book has allowed me to tally up my trauma so to speak. And with that being said, it’s like you went through all this sh*t. So it’s like step back. Be a little bit more vulnerable, be a little bit more sensitive and understand that I don’t have to be super tough. I don’t have to act like these things didn’t happen. Understand that they did happen and maybe they are affecting you. I think the book is just so real and open. There’s so many things to pull from. If you’re open and honest or on a spiritual journey, you’ll be able to relate to it.
Getting back to your relationship…how did you all meet?
We met at Daddy’s House, which is Puffy’s studio. He was doing work and I was working/besties with Foxy Brown. He was doing work down the hall and one of the A&Rs were like ‘Styles is down the hall. He’s recording a mixtape.’ At the time, he had mixtapes circulating. And I was like, ‘Wow.’ Because they had a certain style when they came on the scene, very dynamic, very different, very fresh, very intriguing. For us, where I was from in Brooklyn, it was like, ‘Who is that?’ And the lyrics were so raw, so dope and it was connecting. So I was like, ‘I want to meet him.’ So the A&R introduced us. And that was it. Inseparable. 25 years this August.
During your interview on “The Breakfast Club,” Styles P said that he didn’t realize how much his infidelity hurt you. I feel like a lot of men feel that…why do you think that is?
I can’t tell you why but what I can say is you will know as the female if you feel like they’ve gotten it or not. I don’t know why they don’t get it. I just know my voice wasn’t working. What I was relying wasn’t working. I mean, he’s watched programs. He’s listened to podcasts and nothing was resonating. It’s really not getting into you how much it impacted me, how it really was a problem and how much it changed the fabric of our marriage initially. I couldn’t illustrate it to him no matter what I put in front of him.
We went to counseling. I guess that therapist—she wasn’t good enough. She couldn’t get to him or maybe he wasn’t open at that time. But Dr. Ish, his approach was totally different. He’s just no nonsense. I don’t want to say he has a street edge but it’s just urban. It’s just real and that’s relatable. I don’t how he was raised but he was so on task with it. And it was like the gates opened. Because I was like that’s all I wanted you to get.
How could you tell that he got it?
Well, his responses. And I could see like the lights went on. And then when he gets emotional—don’t let all the gangster stuff fool you. He’s very sensitive and very emotional. When anything affects him, if it affects him that much, he will shed a tear. So to know that I was in that much pain affected him.
Do you think the message was able to cut through because Dr. Ish is a man?
Yes, yes. That’s a good point. I definitely think it was because he was a man—but a certain type of man. I’ve had other male doctors. But they weren’t effective. But his style worked.
Even though he didn’t get the full extent of the hurt at the time, what was it that let you know that you could trust him going forward?
I knew I could stay with him because I knew the man, not the action. I had to be honest with my contribution. It has nothing to do with it being a woman’s fault but everything takes two. I was not communicating healthy, I was not communicating respectfully. And you cannot bruise a man’s ego and expect that it’s going to be great. He’s just not the one for that type of behavior. And of course, he didn’t know how to react. He didn’t know how to communicate. He didn’t know what really to do. He’s an artist so he still wanted to feel like the man that he is, so he did what was easy for him.
I think he understood that it’s more of a choice that becomes a pattern. And he doesn’t want to lose me. So I know for a fact that he knows I wasn’t going to be around for any other situation. So that alone was enough to put into consideration like, ‘Is it worth it?’
I understand him. I know how he’s wired. I know what triggers him. And part of the trigger was really just the dynamic of our bad times. And it was really bad. It was really despicable and disgusting like why are we even together. So, in his mind it was probably justifiable because we don’t even really respect each other.
I heard you say on during that same interview that this is you and Styles P.’s “third marriage”. Can you explain that concept?
We got that whole concept from Dr. Ish from “Marriage Bootcamp.” This is one of the things we learned. This is what I’m saying, which was amazing. That’s the benefit of a good counselor or therapist, they can change your perspective. What he basically said was our first marriage was our initial marriage. Our second marriage was when my husband cheated like ten years ago, changed the dynamic. Our third marriage is after our child has passed. The dynamic has changed. So, the way we were present at the time in our marriage, is no longer. The stage is totally different. Our age has changed. Our trauma has changed. Our emotions have changed. Our outlook on life has changed due to the trauma.
So we’re on our third marriage and let’s not focus on our last two, focus on this one here. Fresh outlook, fresh perspective and a clean slate. Which for me was so refreshing. It actually gives you the ability to want to do that when you consider that concept. Because for me, when you’re in it, you think you need a whole new relationship to get rid of the baggage or the bullshit. But that’s not the case. You can actually make a commitment or arrangement with your partner to accept what has happened and say, ‘This was past. We can clean the slate. This is the change I want and the change you want. Together, we can make the change.’ It was that simple .When you want to get to a better place as a couple, you do whatever you need to do. That’s why going there was so beneficial. It was so good for me. We’ll bring it up every now and then, ‘Uhh unn that’s first marriage sh*t.’ So it keeps us on task.
You can find Adjua’s book The Ethereal Hike on all platforms, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kindle. She and Styles, who are vegans also own and operate the health food store FarmacyForLife.com.