Life after loss: Claflin Power Hour features expert on dealing with grief

Oct 01, 2019


Grief is a natural emotion that anyone can relate to, and it is a complicated process that can be challenging to anyone.

For some, it can tear their whole lives apart, while for others, it can make them stronger than they were. Gospel music artist Christal Brown Heyward said one reason she came out better after grief is her resounding faith as a Christian.

Heyward, who has served as the lead psalmist at St. John's Episcopal Chapel in downtown Charleston for the past eight years, will share her "A Time of Refreshing" Ministry with the Claflin community on Wednesday, Oct. 2, at 6 p.m. during the university's weekly Power Hour at the university’s Elmore Chapel.

"This ministry has helped me to walk alongside other people who are experiencing issues with grief. Grief is something we all go through, and so we offer support and perspective to show that there is life after loss," she said. The event, which is sponsored by the Claflin University Department of Mass Communications, will take place in the James and Dorothy Z. Elmore Chapel on Claflin's campus and is free and open to the public.

A native of John's Island, Heyward believes her Christian faith and gospel music were integral to her development throughout not only her childhood but also adulthood. "Being a Christian has allowed me to be able to handle the situations of life as they come."

Heyward also uses her music in her approach to healing. She brings a unique and comforting sound that resonates with many in such a way that it encourages people going through difficult times to heal. Five years ago, she established the A Time of Refreshing grief ministry to help people dealing with grief.

Her faith allowed her to deal with the inevitable ups and downs of life. Her experiences in the church have also enabled her to discover and develop her gift of singing the gospel.

As a youth, she developed an impeccable work ethic which, under the tutelage of God and his word, opened several doors for her. Heyward then found that her life's purpose was to help others overcome the problems in their lives, especially grief. She saw that the best way to help others was to use her musical gifts to help others heal.

While introducing one her well-known songs, "For Your Glory," Heyward noted she was extremely overcome with grief after the death of a loved one. She reached out for support and quickly realized there was very little to no support for those dealing with grief in the African American community.

Heyward realized that others were also dealing with this disenfranchised loss with very little help. She also realized there were no "big" or "small" losses, but instead everything we grieve should be respected and valued.

As she overcame her pain, she moved forward with a mission to help others. Her ministry and voice caught the attention of Arlecia Simmons, an assistant professor of mass communications at Claflin, who is also an ordained minister. Simmons recognized that with the recent passing of three of the university's professors, students, along with the many transitions taking place, members of the community are grieving in a variety of ways.

"Many of us has had to grieve losses on campus as well as within our own families. It was essential to provide a program that was beyond just a performance and instead ask the department to support an effort that would have a lasting impact on the community," Simmons said.

Heyward gladly accepted the opportunity to help Claflin and Orangeburg as a whole. "Not dealing with grief can affect students' schoolwork and relationships, and I want students and faculty to understand that."

Heyward hopes that with her visit to Claflin, people will leave knowing that grief and death are normal parts of life. She wants to spread the word that to overcome grief; there has to be hope towards healing and finding a way to live a healthy life.

Heyward invites adult women and teens who are dealing with grief and have questions or need guidance on moving forward to the Pain, Loss & Understanding Grief (P.L.U.G) Retreat taking place Oct. 18-19 on Kiawah Island. For more information on the upcoming retreat, contact Heyward at

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