Carolyn Williams has devoted more than a decade to helping other parents grieving the loss of a child, particularly those killed by gun violence. Williams’ own son, Chad, was killed in a shooting in 2007 when he was 21 years old.
Soon after her son’s death, she says she attended a support group meeting but didn’t feel like she was getting the help she needed. She often turned to her Bible, and one night in 2011, a sentence from Deuteronomy 1:6 popped out at her: “Ye have dwelt long enough at this mountain.”
Williams, a nurse, felt God was calling her to start a grief support group for mothers like her and had even written out a plan to get started, but she says she hadn’t acted. That night, after reaching out to a friend she had confided in, she was put in touch with a mother who was approaching the first anniversary of her child’s death, and Healing Hearts Grief Support Group was born.
“I stayed on the phone with her all night just listening to her,” says Williams, who now serves as the nonprofit’s executive director. “A lot of times that’s what mothers need—just to have somebody that’s going to listen to how they’re feeling and what they’re going through. They can’t call their sisters, they can’t call family members, because family members don’t know. I understand. It has to be someone that has lost like you.”
Healing Hearts offers a grief support group, one-on-one sessions, community outreach events and educational seminars and workshops. The organization’s tagline is “Live Life Healed.”
Williams says she has about 20 women that she texts each morning with an inspirational message. They’ve grown attached to receiving them, and sometimes they respond with how they’re feeling and what they’re going through.
Over the years, Healing Hearts’ ministry has expanded to include anyone going through difficult times, not just those who have lost loved ones to gun violence. Williams has talked to people who have lost jobs, some affected by the historic 2016 Louisiana flooding, and those who experienced loss due to COVID-19. This year, she has had several people reach out following the death of a spouse. Williams says she would love to transition to full-time work with Healing Hearts and is trying to find sponsors.
“God chose me for this. Sometimes I wish it hadn’t been me that lost my son to have this ministry, but it’s my way of taking my power back,” she says. “You know, you might have killed my son, but his name will live on, Chad will live on, through healing.”
What do you love about the volunteer efforts that you do?
The interaction with mothers and family members who are grieving. It’s also allowed me to heal. I feel like I wouldn’t be at the acceptance stage if I hadn’t been pouring into others.
How is your cause making a difference?
Knowing that someone is there for you when you’re going through the really dark moments. My motto is “I’ve been there.”
What do you hope to achieve?
My goal for the new year is to get an office building to provide a safe haven for parents and children for our individual and group sessions. As a nonprofit, most of our events are held at the public library now.
Is there a big yearly event for your cause?
Healing Hearts Grief Support Group hosts a prayer breakfast each year in November. The organization celebrated its 10th breakfast this year on November 12. The event is always free to the community, with entertainment and a guest speaker.
What is something we don’t know about your cause?
I try to host a workshop each year, and this year’s workshop will be around Valentine’s Day and will address getting to the root of grief. Once you’re confronted with grief, you have to go all the way back and think about past traumas in your life. Until you deal with those past traumas, you won’t be able to receive healing.
For more info, visit healing-hearts-grief-support-group.ueniweb.com.