Woman Dedicates Life to Helping Children Overcome Hardships

Kristen Deville

@kristen_deville

Sarah Brabant finds joy dedicating her life to serving others. 

Brabant, now in her 80s, is full of energy and remains busy. Brabant, professor emeritus at the University of Southwestern Louisiana, is accredited with designing the first Death and Dying course at the university. However, the road to her accomplishments was a bumpy one.

Brabant grew up in LaGrange, Georgia, into an isolated household. As a child, her mother struggled to accept her after losing three children before her birth.  Until the age of five, an African American woman, by the name of T, worked for her family and was a maternal figure in her life. 

Brabant looking at an old photo album, pointing at a picture of T.

“It has made a difference in my life, I have been comfortable working with African American women, they were my role models when I was a child,” said Brabant.

As one of the founders of the Mayor’s Commission on the Needs of Women, now called the Lafayette Commission on the Needs of Women, she merged African American and white women together to fight for what they believed in: Women.

Because of her upbringing and recent divorce to an abusive man, her desire to help women flourished. She knew the struggle of having to face life on her own as a single mother of three would be an uphill battle.

She remembers seeking the bathroom as a place of prayer. She would hold on to the toilet begging God to send someone to ease her pain, but he never did. Eventually, a neighbor of hers, a widow, went back to school at the same time as Brabant. It was through her neighbor’s strength, Brabant took leaps of faith and went to school in Tennessee at Memphis State University. 

“When I finally got my doctorate, I wanted to reach out to other women and help them because until you’ve been abused for years – sexually, emotionally, you can’t really understand what it is like, you are a victim. But, I went from being a victim to a survivor,” said Brabant. 

A chapter of The Compassionate Friends approached Brabant and urged her to help children, but she didn’t know where to start. It was with a visit to see the children she thought to ask what they need instead of trying to fix the problem.

Little did Brabant know she would become one of the five founders of  The Grief Center of Southwest, Louisiana, now called Healing House. Healing House is a place of refuge for grieving children to be lifted up by volunteers, staff and other children who have experienced a loss.

Even with Brabant’s success, she never saw it as solely hers. She said, “I think I have had a gift of being able to gather unlike people together to deal with a problem and I think I have used that, but I don’t see any of them as mine.”

Brabant is an author of many publications and has a special collection on the third floor of the Edith Garland Dupré Library on the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s campus.

a collection of Brabant's publications in a file.
Sarah Brabant’s Collection in UL Lafayette’s library.

Jane Vidrine, who worked as an Archives Processing and Microfilm Specialist at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette for the last 35 years speaks highly of Brabant. Vidrine said it was important to get Brabant’s collection in the library and promised Brabant she would look after it.

Brabant’s newest project is called The Listening Project. The goal of The Listening Project is to gather women to talk about their lives. The project started with a phone call in which Brabant asked a white and African American friend if they wanted in, and they did.

The project has now expanded with four African American, four white women and Brabant. Even though she might not see the project in its entirety, she aspires to bring younger women in to listen to the stories of older women who have overcame tragedies, experienced happiness and to understand one another.

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