Mother of fallen ULM student travels to help others deal with grief

Published: Jul. 21, 2018 at 6:17 PM CDT
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A mother is using her own grief to help others.

Almost two years ago, ULM student Savannah Payne died from strep and staph infections in her body.

Now, her mother, Stephanie Payne, is traveling the area, speaking to groups on how to deal with grief.

She's letting people know that it's okay to grieve and it's okay to cry.

She says now as a speaker and life coach, she feels connected to her daughter, Savannah, even more, and helping people is something she says she was born to do.

"How can you live?” said Payne.” “How can you get out of the bed?"

Those are just some of the questions Stephanie Payne asks herself every day.

"For the first year, my first response was, 'We're doing,'” Payne said. “That's about all I could get out. 'We're keeping on keeping on. It's not pretty sometimes, but we're doing.'”

But lately, things are different.

“And now I'm able to say 'We're doing all right.'"

Finally turning the corner, thanks to stepping outside her comfort zone.

"I hope to be a source of hope for individuals and help people realize they can do this," Payne said.

She's talking about dealing with grief and after her daughter, Savannah died, it's something Payne knows all too well,” said Payne.

"Two years ago, my oldest daughter became critically ill and she passed away in November," said Payne.

Back in 2016, Savannah contracted strep throat and a deadly staph infection. After her death, Payne got a lot of community support.

So much so, she retired in December of that year and became a life coach.

"That's when I decided, retire, step out, let's do this," Payne said.

Now she's giving the community what they gave her, going around the region to speak to people who've experienced grief too. Telling them it's going to be okay.

"Though she has mourned and she has struggled with the loss of her daughter, I believe that God gives her the ability to come in and to breath life into people and say 'Hey, it's going to be okay. You're still going to hurt and that's okay," said Savannah's youth pastor at First Baptist Ruston, Josh Sanderson.

Payne says these last two years have been life-changing because she knows Savannah is still with her along the way.

"Everything that I'm saying or doing, I attribute to her," said Payne.

Changing lives one word at a time.

Payne's next speaking event will be next month at the living out loud women's conference in Oxford, Mississippi.

For more on her work, go to