My Decade long Journey With Grief: Faith, Purpose, and Gratitude

May 17, 2024

“Through all the changing scenes of life, in trouble and in joy. The praises of my God shall still, my heart and tongue employ.”

 Indeed, through the changing seasons of my long journey with grief, God has been faithful. He has been with me every step of the way, even when I felt abandoned in the trenches. I am beyond grateful for the blessings, lessons, love and support received along the way. To God be the glory. Echoing the famous words of my son, “It’s all good.” 

Though He slay me yet will I trust Him Job13:15 

I continue to trust in Him. 

A decade ago, the inexplicable happened. At exactly 3:41pm on May 19, 2014, my son Jeggan went home to be with the Lord. He slipped through my grasp into eternity. The loss was monumental and so was the pain. My heart was broken and like clay I was falling apart from the inside. The natural order of life had been brutally disrupted. Surely, a mother should not have to bury herchild. No! Never! But He alone is God and His will must be done. 

 Oh death where is thy sting? Oh grave where is thy victory?

 Losing my son, especially at a time when life for the two of us was finally moving on an upward trajectory, was devastating. The lights were justbeginning to burn bright. Jeggan was in his final semester of grad school with tech jobs lined up. As a mother, I was proud of my son’s accomplishments and the man he was becoming. At home in Gambia, my job was taking me places and positively impacting rural communities. By all standards, we were in a good place and had all our ducks in a row. 

Or so, I thought.  

On December of 2012, EVERYTHING came to a screeching halt. I was happily in the midst of Christmas preparations when my phone rang and I learned of Jeggan’s illness.  Fourteen months later, in one fell swoop, it was all over. My hopes were dashed while Jeggan’s dreams were buried with him forever.

The center could no longer hold and everything fell apart (Chinuwa  Achebe).

 In that moment, I was thrust into unspeakable grief.  I watched the reels of my life flash through my mind in an instant. I stood transfixed as the audiblescreams from inside my head pleaded for a seemingly deaf world to stop and hear me out. “Can’t you see that I have just lost my son!” Sadly, my desperate pleas for the world to stay with me in that crucial moment of pain and loss went unheard, unnoticed. All alone in a terrible state of desperation, despair and hopelessness, I dropped to my knees and cried out to the God who’s always been there for us: when Jeggan had his first surgery at age nine months and when at barely 17 he left the shores of Gambia to pursue higher education in the USA. And yet, even as I knew God was with me, my thought at the time was, how unfair and cruel life can be!  

 Without a doubt, my story is one of tragedy and loss.  But God has sprinkled in blessings, love and hope.  From the day I received the call in the Gambia, God’s presence remained with me.  The hospital room in Kentucky became my home for many months.  Sometimes a fold out chair was the only furniture available for me to rest on.  Other times, I tried to sleep out in the public waiting areas.  Even though God’s will was not to heal my son, He still heard my supplications. He came through for us in unimaginable ways. Jeggan for instance had been in a comatose state for nearly two months. The doctors and even the chaplain gave up—and then they pressured me to give up as well.  At that critical moment, my faith never wavered.  I began to fast.  A prayer chain was set in motion by kind hearted strangers and friends, pleading for divine intervention. Less than twenty-four hours later, the powers of heaven released over my son and for the first time in two months, JEGGAN WOKE UP. The Almighty God granted me fourteen precious months with my son. 

 Indeed, God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.  He plants His footsteps in the seas and rides upon the storm. , He is a miracle working God.

In another example of His divine providence and mercy, God brought the most God-loving kind and generous family into our lives – Dr Peter Lipsy, Amanda Lipsy and their three children, Adrielle, Elijah and Arulai.  The timing was divinely ordained.  With no home to take my son to following his discharge from the hospital, God came through for us. The Lipsy family invited us to their humble abode and we got to stay with them till the very end of Jeggan’slife. They have been in my life to this very day. 

 On Jeggan’s final day on this earth, the Lipsy’s prayerfully stood in the room as I bade my son farewell for the very last time. What a blessing! Indeed, the good Lord gave me a family away from home and in the process restored my faith in humanity.  The Lipsy family broke every sociocultural norm and blessed us in immeasurable ways. From housing, meals, transportation and even with the burial of my son. The Lipsy’s did it all.  I am filled with emotions of gratitude each time I get to talk about my wonderful and amazing adopted family. In the Lipsy’s, I have three beautiful grandchildren.  I am a firm believer that there is more good in this world than there’ll ever be bad. 

 All glory be to God. 

 As moments turned into days… into months… into years, I realized that grief wasn’t going anywhere. Like an unwelcome visitor, grief moved in and then took over. I was never prepared for my journey with grief. But seriously though, who in the world prepares for a journey of this nature and magnitude? Never did it cross my mind that at such a tender age, my son Jeggan would be gone forever, and my life upended.

 Left with no choice, I did what was necessary and soldiered on. 

The early years of my journey were particularly challenging and disruptive. I felt trapped, suffocated and frustrated as I dangled over an abyss of grief that threatened to swallow me up. Unlike new gadgets that come with instruction manuals, grief comes with no map. There is no “one size fits all” method of healing.  The bereaved traveler must painstakingly carve out her path through all the rocky terrain.  Because Jeggan had been such a warrior, fighting his battle till the end of his life, I was determined not to give up.

 Even though I walk through the valleys of the shadow of death I will fear no evil. Psalm 23:

 After several missteps, I began to find my way. First, I spent time researching and reading about grief, suffering, healing.  This gave me a glimpse into the complexity and enormity of the journey ahead.  Then I embarked on several courses of action to alleviate my suffering.  I learned coping skills to help process my pain, joined online grief support groups like Compassionate Friends and Alive Alone for psychological and emotional stability. Testimonies and real time stories of bereaved mothers that walked a similar journey also provided much needed assurance that with time things would get better. I learned how to take better care of myself, continued to research and learn, found new hobbies and even spent time helping others. It was generally a period of self-discovery through learning, practicing mindfulness and prayer/meditation. 

 But even after all that work, I couldn’t escape the pain.  For the good part of ten years, ‘normal’ life eluded me. I still felt trapped in my world of grief and struggled with feelings of emptiness, loneliness and pain while the rest of the world moved on.  Was I really trusting God if it was taking this long to get back to normal?  I tried to hide the grieving part of me.  But pretending to be normal was exhausting too. So, trying to build a new life – a world without Jeggan – seemed far-fetched. Fear, denial, guilt, shame, confusion and regret stalked me. Unanswered questions demanded to be answered. How did it happen? What could I have done differently? Why me? Like a broken record, the questions never paused. Other times it was a game of “whack a mole”; I put one question to rest, and another quickly popped up. 

 “No one told me that grief felt so like fear.” C.S Lewis

 Always eager to get back on my feet, I made many futile attempts. At one point, I returned home to Gambia to my previous job, family and friends.  I grasped on to a false sense of hope that everything would be alright in no time. However, despite my best efforts, nothing worked. I soon had to contend with reality and accept that getting back to ‘normal everyday life’ was not an attainable goal. Eventually, my faith, time and painstaking work, the intensity of the pain and the triggers diminished–but the feeling of loss was always present. 

Faced with insurmountable challenges, overwhelming fears and a deep sense of abandonment, I turned again and again to my faith. My faith has been my anchor, the cornerstone of my grief journey. It is the glue that holds together the broken pieces of my shattered life. Over time, the pieces have been finely glazed over like a KINTSUGI pottery and given another lease on life.  In the darkest and scariest moments of my journey God patiently held my hand and led the way. I learned to trust Him to navigate the unfamiliar and rugged terrains of my journey and the minefield of emotions. 

 He comforts the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirits Psalm 34:18 

Now, let me reminisce about the amazing son that God blessed me with. He was a Christian. He was soft-spoken, smart, unassuming and had a witty sense of humor. Jeggan was humble, compassionate and sincere. His passion for education and anything tech opened up many doors for him. So, it wasn’t a surprise when he ended up majoring in computer Science. Jeggan loved to help other people and would not hesitate to give away the shirt on his back. Animals too, he adored and had a dog named Romeo. Jeggan was a diehard Manchester United fan and playing soccer was his favorite pastime. A beautiful soul both inside out. I am grateful to God for bestowing upon me a beautiful, kind and caring soul like Jeggan.  I lived for him during his lifetime and will continue to do so even in his death 

 Jeggan was a man of few words. He had little but gave much. His quiet acts of generosity and kindness were clothed  in humility, gentleness, grace and andcontentment. His friends, colleagues and professors attested to it. While Jegganwas not great at making friends, he was excellent at maintaining them. His friends were a solid few. When it mattered most, those friends showed up in a big way. They played a pivotal role in his discovery, illness, hospitalization, recovery, subsequent passing and funeral. His friends raised funds for his care, and religiously visited him at the hospital and at home. These awesome friends sent us food and flowers regularly. They are such a caring bunch who to this day continue to check on me.  I am blessed to address them as my sons and daughters now.   Thank you. 

 So, how do I honor and celebrate this incredible and amazing young man who gave me and the people around him so much during his brief life? How do I harness my experiences with trauma, grief, and turn it into something beautiful and meaningful? I have been blessed with so much and feel the least I could do is to give back. Besides, giving back has always been core to Jeggan’s values and dreams. In our last telephone conversation, two weeks before his illness, he informed me of his plans to volunteer his time at the YMCA. So, with my years of experience working in rural communities in The Gambia together with Jeggan’s passion for education and service, the Jeggan Cole Memorial Foundation (JCMF) was birthed. What a befitting way of honoring the memory and legacy of my dear son.  

 The Foundation captures Jeggan’s unfulfilled dreams and passions. With support from the Lipsy’s and friends of Jeggan, the Foundation was launched in November of 2014. Since it’s inception, the Foundation has supported disadvantaged students living in poor, rural communities by providingscholarships, mentoring and community service programs. Over the years, a number of scholars have either completed high school and university or joined the work force, living productive lives in the communities. My work with the Foundation has been cathartic and rewarding.  One by one, the shackles of grief that long kept me bound and tethered are being broken.

 Other projects of the Foundation include the newly refurbished and fully equipped library of St George’s school in Basse. Educational and medical donations to various institutions such as the Basse hospital, St Joseph’s Senior secondary school, Marakissa Methodist school, Bakau Sunday School and the university of The Gambia Medical school. The great thing about my work is that I get to say Jeggan’s name all the time which is comforting and keeps us connected. 

 Since my encounter with loss, life has never been the same. But such is the transformative power of grief. It rouses a present sense of urgency that time is of the essence. The present is what we have and all that matters. Eckhart Tolle succinctly describes this “ever vanishing present” in his book entitled, The Power of Now. To illustrate my point, I recall walking into Jeggan’s apartment for the very first time since his hospitalization.  Laying on his nightstand, in plain view, was a yellow post-it pad gathering dust with a pen resting next to it. Written on it was a to-do list. Sadly, he never got to complete any of the tasks on that list and never even got the chance to return to his apartment. It was a sober reminder of the fickleness of life.  The powerful present is all we have so we must take time to enjoy the moment.

 “Life is now. There was never a time when your life was not now, nor will there ever be.” Eckhart Tolle. 

 My life focus is now about living intentionally, making each day count.  Every day that I get to walk my journey is a blessing that I cherish. My priorities and focus have shifted radically. As a result, the burden of grief is much lighter and better managed. I’ve learned to accept the waiting and the silence, which have taught me patience and endurance. I share my story with the hope of helping others find comfort and peace in pain and suffering just like the stories of others inspired me. I I remain hopeful. 

Reflection for consideration:

 For anyone going through grief or any kind of trauma, kindly allow me to share some of what I’ve learned. First, acknowledge that you are in this extraordinary moment of pain and anguish. You are the architect of your journey and carve out your own path. Travel at your own pace. More importantly, lean into your faith knowing that God is with you every moment. He will not abandon you. Please be patient with yourself and take one day at a time. Love on yourself as you journey along.  With time and enough work, I can assure you that you will feel better and you will find healing and hope. Remember that this too shall pass. I promise that the sun will shine again and laughter will ring through your heart. The bright rays of the warm sunshine will find their way through the window panes and into the dark spaces. 

 C. S. Lewis’ book on grief reinforces the simple truth that continues to weave itself into the tapestry of my journey: Honor the season and remember that this too shall pass.

 Finally, to Grief, my teacher and lifelong coach:

Our walk together in the past ten years was sometimes rough but thank you for the lessons of gratitude, patience, resilience, empathy and hope.  Life may have dealt me a heavy hand but the experiences have been deeply humbling. I better appreciate the blessings of the little things of life and endeavor to look for the silver lining and the rainbow after every storm.

It’s been one heck of a journey that has taken me through numerous twists and turns, highs and lows, valleys and mountains and yet I soldier on. I consider myself a survivor having made it this far with God’s amazing power, grace and mercy.  Ten years may be a relatively short time in any journey of grief, but it’s still time worth commemorating. 

To my future self: I have no idea how much further I may have to go in this journey but I am certain that the God of yesterday and now will always be with me. In the meantime, while I still have breath, I will endeavor to remain faithful to the God I serve, keep the memory of Jeggan alive and honor his legacy.  This is the story of a mother’s amazing and authentic journey with grief.  

Deuteronomy 31:8  The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.


To my family: Thank you and may God richly bless you.  

To my friends who have stayed the course with me, may the Almighty God reward you handsomely. 

To my JCMF scholars, mentees and team, you are the reason that my journey has been manageable and worthwhile. You keep me sane. Your accomplishments give me so much joy and I am proud of each and every one of you.  In you, I see Jeggan’s hopes and dreams come alive.  So thank you for being part of my journey.

To my dear Lipsy family, words cannot begin to express how blessed I am to have had you in my life. For twelve long years and counting, you witnessed it all – the heartaches, the tears, the pain and my daily struggles while I with Jeggan. You celebrated my joys and and milestones. You have blessed me in unimaginable ways and I am beyond grateful. You are truly an embodiment of Christ love. Your humility and kindness inspire me every day to become a better version of myself and you restored my faith in humanity. Thank you and May God almighty richly bless you and my grandkids.  

To friends of Jeggan who have been steadfast in their support since the day you found him unconscious in his apartment, you are my unsung heroes. May God Almighty bless and keep you: Kara and mom, Tarquay, Teron, Dr Stephen, Fanta, Haddijatou, Mary Jane, Ebrima, Mossan and Esther, I am grateful for the diverse ways that you have been there throughout my journey. I found so much comfort in the lovely stories of Jeggan’s selfless acts of kindness and generosity. A man is truly known by the company he keeps and you have been a great bunch . Thank you I am indebted to you for life.  

To my website developer Kim, who stepped in and gifted me the most incredible and professional Jeggan Cole website at a time when the grieving process was challenging, I say thank you and will forever be grateful. 


  1. Musa Sanneh

    Undoubtedly the write up shows the love of a true mother to his only son who was an embodiment of the right upbringing of indefatigable mother. All the credit is yours forever.

  2. Hamida Pyne

    Pamela you are a blessing to the world of people around you. You bring strength and inspiration through your grief. You serve a God that is unchangeable and you bring sure Hope to others. I am beyond moved and touch by your testimony. May the Lord continue to use you to bring others to Him and give strength to the weary. You are one in a million and I feel blessed to have you in my life.

  3. Adiatu Fofanah

    Hello. This is so heartbreaking, but so encouraging. So sorry for your lost but Jehavoh has giving you the strength to creat this for others to take courage.


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