A Grief Support Blog

This blog will allow you the opportunity to acquire both support and guidance after experiencing a significant loss.

Tribute to Grief Recovery Method Founder John W. James

tribute to john w james founder grief recovery method

“When you die, what matters most is your relationship with your family and that you were a person of your word.” This was John W James. 






He drew his last breath on August 10, 2021, at the age of 77 after a three month struggle with liver cancer caused by exposure to Agent Orange. John died peacefully in his sleep with his wife sleeping beside him and his children in the next room of his Sisters, Oregon home. 


john and jess james


John would have turned 47 years sober on August 18. He credits his sobriety with teaching him the importance of service, and he lived his life that way. John founded The Grief Recovery Method more than 40 years ago, and was known worldwide for his work and teachings in Grief Recovery.  John co-authored The Grief Recovery Handbook with Frank Cherry and Russell Friedman. Various other books he co-authored with Russell, Dr. Leslie Landon Matthews and his son, Cole James. These books have been translated into more than 40 languages. The Grief Recovery Handbook and The Grief Recovery Method Programs can be found on every continent except Antarctica. They have given hundreds of thousands of people the tools they need to heal their grieving hearts. His mission statement was: help the largest amount of grievers in the shortest amount of time. 


john james teaching grief recovery method

john w james and russell friedman grm

grief recovery method books by john w james

John was raised in Danville, IL by his mother and father Edith and Ralph James and had two brothers Bruce and Dennis. John played sports throughout his youth, and as an adult he tried out for the Chicago White Sox. Baseball was a love which would continue throughout his life. 


john w james as a young boy


He had a profound love for our country, serving as a US Marine and Combat Veteran during the Vietnam War. Military honors include the National Defense Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, RVN Campaign Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, and the M-14 Rifle Sharpshooter Badge.


john w james as us marine corps vietnam war veteran


Upon returning home from Vietnam, John was deeply wounded by the reception he received in this country. With a brief stop in Montana and two years of college under his belt, he moved to Culver City, Ca and started living a life of sobriety. Shortly afterwards he met Marcy Marks and they were married. Their first child Allison was born in 1975. John and Marcy were thrilled when she became pregnant again two years later, but their joy turned into devastation when their son died as a newborn. The couple ended up getting divorced not long after. During the next eight months, John went everywhere, talked to everyone, and read everything that he could get his hands on to help ease the pain of losing his son. This was the point where he discovered there was little or no help available to deal with the grief. That was the real despair. That painful experience led to the creation of The Grief Recovery Method.


john w james and allison james


By 1980, John was living a life based on trusting his intuition, so when he first laid eyes on Jess Walton he knew she was the one. During their courtship he wanted to make sure Jess was aware how important his daughter was to him so their first date was a trip to the circus with Allison. She passed. Next he took her to a big league baseball game. She passed. Their third date they went to a party because he wanted to see if she was clingy. The moment they walked through the door Jess left his side to talk to her friends - John had met his mate. The free-spirited hippie and the conservative Marine married soon after and their son Cole was born in 1981. 


john james jess james cole james


Later, John passed along his love of baseball to Cole and coached him from Little League through the Grant High School baseball program in North Hollywood, Ca. The whole family attended every one of Cole’s games.


cole james little league baseball


John was a family man, and with him the more the merrier. So when his nephew Bradley and Bradley’s wife Christine talked about leaving Iowa John invited them to come to California and move in with him and Jess. With John and Jess, Allison and Cole and Brad and Christine all under the same roof, their huge family dinners together every night was the highlight of his day. 


john w james family picture california


john w james and jess james


In 2011 John, Jess, Cole and his wife Ashley moved to Sisters, Oregon. They eventually found a ranch with a beautiful log home and stables. John loved that house and the rescue horses and rescue dogs who shared the property. In the mornings John became a regular at Sisters Coffee House sitting at a table with a group of friends, all wearing a cowboy hat where they would  jokingly “solve all the world's problems”. “Cowboy Coffee” soon became a tourist attraction and John wore that signature dark blue cowboy hat everywhere he went.


john w james with rescued horse sisters oregon


In May 2021, after many happy years in Sisters, a visit to the doctor ended this idyllic life. The diagnosis was terminal with very little time left. The first thing John and Jess did was drive to Idaho to say goodbye to Cole, Ashley and the grandkids who lovingly referred to him as G-pa. While visiting them he was able to watch his two eldest grandsons play Little League baseball and watch his son Cole coach them. The torch had been passed.


john james with wife jess and son cole and ashley james


Upon returning to Sisters, he told Allison he would love to have her wedding in the backyard while he was still able to give her away.  The week after the wedding his big bonus was to be able to watch his new grandson James play on his Little League team.


john james and daughter allison james-henry at her wedding sisters oregon


John is survived by his bride of 40 years Jess Walton James, his daughter Allison Henry and her husband Wade; son Cole and his wife Ashley; grandchildren Wyatt, Bridger, Willa and Beau James and James Henry. He is also survived by Marcy Marks, his former wife and mother of his daughter Allison; nephew Bradley James, his wife Christine and their daughter Sophia; and his cousins in Alabama: Candy and Mike Baldwin, her daughters Shannon, her husband Mike Wilson, and Jami and her husband Rick Lightcap.  


john james with his wife jess son cole and daughter allison

John has spent his entire life helping others, And most especially taking care of his family. In the end, his greatest gift to them and all grievers, is the Grief  Recovery Method, the company he founded, and which his son Cole runs to this day, with contributions from Ashley and Allison. That gift will guide all of us through the daily heartbreak of living without him.


We love you.

We miss you.

Goodbye, John


A small memorial is being planned for Sisters, Or and a larger one in Los Angeles within the next year. Information will be posted on Johns’ families personal Facebook pages. 


In lieu of flowers please send donations to The Grief Recovery Research Support Fund https://flashes.givetokent.org/campaign/2019-cph-grief-recovery-research-fund/c226029


Thank you. RIP.

I had the privilege of meeting John and Jess at our 2018 Conference in Manhattan Beach.  The love between them was palpable.  It is nearly a year since John's passing... I am certain he is lighting up the world on the other side with his vibrant, charismatic and huge heart! I remain humbled and eternally grateful for John teaching me how to heal from loss. My single regret in having been led to John's Method is that I didn't have a mentor introduce me to GRM 30 years ago. There are no words for my ongoing joy in witnessing my clients' transformation from surviving to thriving. God bless you John. Thank you for your courage and legacy for the world. Thank you for the privilege of learning from my mentors at GRM: Jocelyn, Ed, Sandi, Laura, Susan.  Special thanks to my ongoing client support teacher: Ms. Lois Hall for always being present when I have a client issue close to my heart to discuss. I do know that I have taken on work that sometimes breaks my heart. And when it does, I have tools to heal myself as I continue to offer this amazing and healing gift to clients. My heartfelt blessings to Jess, Cole, Allison and families.
With so much gratitude...
I love you, John James.
I will miss not seeing you again.
Goodbye John.

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