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StrongHer Honoree Candace Chandler: ‘God Has Given Me Beauty for My Ashes’

Honoree Candace Chandler during the unveiling of the StrongHer art exhibit last Friday on the second-floor lobby of Birmingham City Hall. (Amarr Croskey, For The Birmingham Times)

By Chanda Temple | birminghamal.gov

Losing her husband to a massive heart attack was gut-wrenching for Candace Chandler. Then, one month later, she miscarried the couple’s first baby.

Another gut-wrenching moment.

Experiencing the back-to-back losses in 2017 left Chandler lost, confused and severely depressed.

“I said, ‘Lord, I can’t do this anymore.’ I wanted to give up,’’ she said. “I went from being at the mountaintop to the valley.”

But she told God that if He could help her through her pain, she would serve Him until her dying day. She sought grief counseling, took a 60-day leave from her Birmingham teaching job and focused on self-healing.

“I had to surrender to God, and that is why I can walk boldly in my purpose,’’ Chandler, 34, said. “I’m here to let the next person know you can make it past grief, and you don’t have to look like what you are going through.’’

In celebration of Women’s History Month, Chandler’s story is part of the first-ever StrongHer exhibit on the second floor of Birmingham City Hall. The exhibit opened on March 8, which is International Women’s Day and will remain up through mid-April.

Chandler broke again in 2021 when her best friend, Areyelle Yarbrough, was tragically killed in Birmingham. Chandler turned to God again for direction and found comfort and healing. This time, she shared her faith walk on her social media platforms, encouraging people to take a fresh approach on how to use essential tools to navigate and cope with grief in a healthy manner. She wanted people to see that it is possible to bounce back when things seem impossible.

The Birmingham native said that one woman, a total stranger, saw her story and told Chandler that just by seeing her story, she changed her mind about committing suicide.

“Life is going to life, but God is going to God,” said Chandler, who is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. “You are not a bad person when you go through your trials and tribulations. It just means you have been chosen. But you have to ask yourself will you let the pain break you or make you.’’

During her healing journey, Chandler went to graduate school and obtained a master’s degree in 2020 and an education specialist degree in 2023, both from the University of West Alabama.

Today, Chandler serves in administration as an Instructional Specialist with the Birmingham City Schools system. In her spare time, she runs Queen O Empowerment LLC, where she is an empowerment coach, a motivational speaker, a mentor, and a fashion ambassador for distinct brands. She said God has also opened her heart to being loved again.

“Even in your brokenness, God will put you back, piece by piece, and you will become His masterpiece,’’ she said. “God has given me beauty for my ashes.’’