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Coping with the Grief and Loss of a Loved One

Updated on January 17, 2023
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Jo Anne has a degree in Community Mental Health and is the author of "How to Know God Better & Love Yourself More."

Keyanna's Prom Day

From Sorrow To Celebration

Grief is defined in Webster’s dictionary as deep sorrow; sadness, distress; and according to Board Certified Temperament Therapist Joel Silberman, as the root of forgiveness, and the key to healing and love when we grieve our losses and work through the issues in our lives.

The grief-forgiveness connection was a new concept to me when I recently heard it, but one that makes a lot of sense and hit very close to home as one grieving the loss of my 15 year old greatniece Keyanna Shanay Jones, who was killed on June 25, 2008 and would have been sweet 16 on February 12, 2009. I have experienced a heartbreaking pain beyond words through this loss, but I have also experienced the comfort of God in ways that make me smile and increase my joy; and I have become more purposeful and responsible in my living. Through my healing experience, I offer you a glimpse of God’s goodness and invite you to receive from His unlimited reservoir of sufficient grace and abundant love as we move from a place of sorrow to celebration.

Because of Keyanna’s age, our relationship, and the nature of her death, I didn’t handle her loss well. It was after 11:00 pm on a Wednesday night when I received the first call that she had been stabbed. My mind didn’t fully comprehend the information, but I went into prayer begging God to keep her safe and heal her body. When the second call came about a half hour later, my mind split between “No God, please no, she can’t be gone!” to “Help me God! I don’t know how to handle this one.” I felt so isolated and lost because I was home alone in the Bronx and she was in Queens, not that I could have been much support to the family anyway. As the family member who usually takes on the lead in these matters, however reluctantly, I was reduced to an emotional heap of resistance and denial. I didn’t want to face it nor accept it. I reached out to friends to pray me through the night and wept in bed all day Thursday.

My Princess Keyanna Plant

The Turning Point

I allowed God’s grace to shift me into autopilot throughout the next week, so that I could be of some use to my family, helping to make arrangements and be a stable and comforting presence. It was a challenge because it didn’t afford me the opportunity to feel or express my sorrow. My heart felt like a 500 lb gorilla was standing on it with hiking boots. When I returned to work, my eyes would overflow with tears when I saw teenagers on the train; and spontaneous crying spells at work would cause me to leave my desk or the break room. I hurt so bad I wanted to scream!

The turning point in my grieving process came about six weeks later when I started re-reading “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren. The following passage from Chapter 1, Day 2 – You Are Not An Accident, helped reconcile my mind and heart to the bigger picture and accept the loss from a Godly perspective:

“Because God made you for a reason, he also decided when you would be born and how long you would live. He planned the days of your life in advance, choosing the exact time of your birth and death. The Bible says, ‘You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your Book!’” (Psalm 139:16 LB)

Taking that passage to mind and heart allowed me to experience inner peace, believing that she had fulfilled her purpose for being here and had been called back home to the Father. God had lent her to us for a season to be treasured and nurtured, and her appointed time had come, as all of ours will one day. Whether or not we felt her life ended too soon, or maximized the time spent together, or demonstrated the love, support and appreciation she needed because we thought we’d have more time, doesn’t even matter at this point. If you feel you did right by her, then thank God and be at peace; if not, repent and do better with the loved ones in your life that are still here. My grandfather’s passing in 1977 when I was 16 years old taught me to say, “I love you,” and show appreciation to loved ones regularly because no one ever knows the day or hour when the opportunity will be lost forever.

I shifted my focused to being very thankful for the time that God allowed her presence on this earth and in my life; and from that moment on, God continually amazes me in the ways He is healing my grief. I began to smile again as I celebrated her life and felt the pain of loss lessen. One day, while on my way to work, I stopped to buy a beautiful plant that caught my eye. Co-workers admired the plant that I kept in my cubicle and kept telling me to name it, but that wasn’t my thing so I just shrugged it off. Until one Friday, I was smiling at the picture of Keyanna on my desk and turned around and looked at the plant, which also made me smile. In what became an “aha” moment, Spirit whispered Keyanna’s name in my ear and the plant became Princess Keyanna. I care for that plant with great joy and even my co-workers stop by to talk to her and water her when I am away.

Graduation Day

The Healing Process Continues

Later that evening at dance rehearsal, I was speaking to one of the young ladies in the group and was rendered speechless when she told me her name was Kianna (although spelled differently) and she was the same age and birth month as my niece. I was so blessed that God would add another presence to my life that would help me continue to celebrate my Keyanna and keep her spirit with me. I also continually recall some wonderful memories that are dear to me, for example, Keyanna used to live with me for a time and took her first baby steps in my living room while the rest of the family and I were gathered together on the floor watching the movie, "Parent Trap." Another time, I was reading from Matthew 6 and she leaned over in her mother’s arms and snatched the page right out of my bible. I also have the memory of her at 9 years old, getting baptized at my church on my birthday; and a signed agreement between us to do weekly chores in exchange for money toward her Junior High School graduation fees.

My Heartbeat

Healing Action Steps

Although, I still have my moments, like when her sixteenth birthday was approaching and I emotionally crashed on the day of, God wraps me in His love and shows me His hand of healing as He massages my heart through the hurt. For example, I had planned to spend time with my mother after work on Keyanna’s birthday. However, I experienced an emotional melt down and left the job early. While in the subway, a little boy about 2-years old stood up in his stroller and with the happiest grin and enthusiastic wave, looked me in my eyes and shouted hi! I was so blessed and felt so close to God in that moment as I smiled and waved back. Additionally, leaving the job early allowed me the opportunity to visit one of my spiritual moms, who makes me laugh and was able to give me a hard copy of a poem I wrote in 2002 that I wanted to use in my next book, but thought I had lost forever when my computer crashed. I spent the rest of that comforting evening with my mother, who treated me like it was my birthday.

In spite of this tragedy, I have made some choices and taken the following steps to heal and be a more responsible person:

  1. I have forgiven ALL things associated with her death and pray for everyone involved and affected by it.
  2. I have chosen to be thankful for the time she visited this earth and celebrate her life and spirit.
  3. I have chosen to speak blessing over the lives of all children I encounter as I go to and fro.
  4. I intentionally spend more time and communicate with my nearest and dearest, demonstrating love and support while they are still here.
  5. I am living my purpose, practicing to be more disciplined in taking steps to use my gifts in service for others.
  6. I am opened and receptive to God’s leading in my healing and development, as I acknowledge and grieve my life losses of any kind and degree.

The crushing pain in my heart has gone, and I am inspired by the life and spirit of Keyanna Shanay Jones, whose brief presence on this earth impacted my life for the better. I pray that all of you who have or will experience a painful loss learn to grieve productively and allow the grace of God to comfort you through the people, places, and things He has orchestrated for your customized healing.

Embrace LOVE

Embrace love, it is designed to cover a multitude of sins;
Release the anger in order to be productive, effective, and win.

God is love and He created us all
to love ourselves, each other, and Him.
It's time to make different choices
if we want to change our environment
and the hateful world we are living in.

Keyanna, who was just beginning to live,
is a crime victim of circumstance,
An innocent bystander caught-up in the poor choices of people,
Converging at the same location by chance.

If we loved ourselves and our neighbor,
This story could have ended in another way;
Instead of paying our respects to the memory of
This 15-year old angel before us today.

How do we deal with this tragedy,
Moving-up and forward, one day at a time?
Demonstrate increased love and compassion from within our hearts
And Godly thoughts from within our minds.

Stop reacting to negative behavior,
When we respond in love, life's problems can be solved.
Don't turn a blind eye to the chaos around you,
Show love and the courage to get involved.

My heart feels broken and compressed with pain
By the loss of this loved one from my life;
But I know God's love will heal me, and so I extend to you:
An invitation to receive, love, healing, and wholeness
through the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

Written by me in remembrance of my beloved great-niece
Ke Yanna Shanay Jones (February 12, 1993 – June 25, 2008)

Be blessed,

Jo Anne Meekins
Inspired 4 U Publications

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Jo Anne Meekins


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