Photography by Brandi Stage Portraiture
BELL’S COPING TIPS
- AVOID ISOLATION • “Don’t allow yourself to go through any difficulty on your own. Talk to someone, whether you’re talking to a friend or a professional therapist, counselor or someone you trust as a spiritual leader. As humans, we’re meant for connection, and we need to do all that we can to build that connection. You need to give people permission to see into your life so that they can help you. I think we all have blind spots, and giving people permission to see into your life is important so they can help you avoid some pitfalls.”
- DAILY MEDITATION/AFFIRMATION • “(My mantra is,) ‘I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me.’ I have a purpose, and I’m not only going to meet that purpose, but I’m going to help other people meet their purpose as well.”
- PROTECT YOUR SPACE • “We need to be mindful of the things we look at, and we need to be mindful of the things we listen to. Eyes are a gateway to the soul. Things that I watch and listen to are going to affect me. I believe in putting up healthy boundaries, so to speak, so you’re not ingesting that. You need to feed on things that are good, positive and are going to help you reach your goals.”
- JOURNALING • “I think it’s important to find some way to connect with yourself at a deeper level, and for me, it’s journaling, I need to write out my feelings. For the next person, it might be going to spend some time on the beach because it brings them peace. It allows your thoughts to freely flow and clears the air.”
Whenever a stressor enters Tiffany Bell’s life, she commends it to “the box.”
First, she writes down what’s worrying her. Then, she folds the piece of paper and slips it into her designated problem receptacle.
To the executive director of the Women’s Resource Center, the box represents the hands of God.
“Once I put that problem in the box, I am no longer responsible for having to solve it,” Bell says. “I have placed it into His hands, and He is now responsible for solving that problem.”
Over time, the box has become a sort of victory cache for Bell — a visible, tangible record of obstacles overcome and challenges conquered — as well as a blueprint for handling future crises. The mother of two, nonprofit consultant, coach, author, speaker and co-director of Success Women’s Conference knows well what it means to be constrained by grief and fear — and she’s determined to teach others how to break free.
Much of what Bell knows about life and loss she learned from her son, Bishop. After having two children — Brieyon, 26, and Brandon, 18 — the South Carolina native and her husband, Ken, decided to add to their family.
Bishop Randall Bell, who was named after Bell’s grandfather, was born prematurely in the spring of 2006.
“My oldest son was premature as well, so I’d been through this before,” she recalls. “We knew there would be some struggles along the way, but my expectation was that it would end up well.”
Having visited Bishop at Ochsner’s Children Hospital on June 18, the Bells returned home. Once there, they received a phone call — and Bell struggled to understand what the doctor on the other end was telling her.
“I gave the phone to Ken, and next thing I know, he is melting down the side of the wall — and then I knew what she was saying. He just cried out in pain.”
At just 31 days old, Bell’s beloved son was gone.
FEB. 8, 2007
Seven months after losing Bishop, another phone conversation changed the trajectory of Bell’s life. For much of the morning of Feb. 8, 2007, she felt uneasy.
“I got to work, and I just had this feeling over and over again,” she recalls. “I had this feeling of wanting to be near Ken. I felt like I needed to get on the phone and talk to him.”
After several unsuccessful tries to reach her husband, Bell could no longer ignore her growing sense of dread. Then employed as an X-ray technician, she left Gulf Coast Medical Center and set out to find him.
Ken was working as a subcontractor for the city of D’Iberville, helping in the post-Katrina cleanup effort, so she didn’t know exactly where to look. Finally, a call to Ken’s phone was answered, but it wasn’t his voice she heard.
The nurse on the other end passed the phone to an emergency room doctor, who informed Bell that her husband had been in a work-related accident. He advised her to gather her family and come say her goodbyes.
“I hung the phone up, and I remember kind of yelling. I yelled at God,” Bell says. “I was like, ‘This wasn’t our plan! This isn’t what you promised me!’ I sat there for a little bit and thought, ‘OK, if this is how it’s going to be, you’ll need to make sure that I have everything that I need, and my kids have what they need.’”
VICTIM VS. VICTOR
In the aftermath, Bell recalls, “He did just that.” Rather than feeling forsaken, she was fortified in her faith — finding that whatever she needed, whether it was financial resources, wisdom, direction or just a shoulder to lean on, God provided.
While you can’t always choose what happens to you, Bell says, “You can choose how you’re going to respond.” She chose to approach the losses she’d sustained from a place of hope rather than being consumed by sorrow.
“When your joy is centered in your relationship with Christ, and knowing that as life goes up and down, He’s going to be on the mountaintop with you as well as in the low valleys, you can maintain your joy knowing that you’re going to be OK no matter what,” Bell says. “The win is not that the circumstance turns out the way that you want. The win is that you’re going to be OK regardless.”
By the time she experienced it in adulthood, Bell already was well acquainted with grief. In her youth, she dealt with a series of deaths as she lost her grandparents, adopted mom and aunt in a short time span, and she learned that death doesn’t mean abandonment.
“As I grew, I came to understand exactly what had happened; I realized death is a natural part of life,” Bell says. “For those who believe what I believe, it’s goodbye for now. In Christ, we’ll see each other again, and we’ll spend eternity together. That gives me hope when I look toward my future.”
In the present, Bell is making a transition from being executive director of the Women’s Resource Center to heading a nonprofit consulting firm, and a Nonprofit CEO conference is planned for June. Meanwhile, Success Women’s Conference has grown to have a global reach, and Bell has compiled a book titled “Leading with Uncommon Courage,” an international, best-seller available through Amazon, in which 30 women share their stories of faith and overcoming difficult circumstances.
These endeavors fall in line with Bell’s core philosophy. In everything she does, she strives to strengthen families and the community as a whole — leaving a lasting legacy.
“I live my life in a way that brings life and love to other people; I don’t necessarily live my life for me,” she says. “I believe we should live our lives in order to encourage and to bring other people up. So as I rise, other people are able to rise. I am intentional to bring others along in my journey, and I’ve had many people do that same thing for me.”
Bell will continue adding paper slips to “the box” — but that certainty doesn’t cause her dismay. Instead, the practice reminds her that with God’s help, she can persevere and maintain her happiness through any hardship.
“Every time I see the box,” she says, “I think, ‘Oh yeah — He’s working.’”