Iyanla Vanzant has closed many chapters in her life while opening some new ones. In March of 2021, she announced that her OWN series Iyanla: Fix My Life would be ending after its 11th season. But in 2003, a chapter closed in her life that no mother ever wants to experience: watching as her daughter transitions from life to death. While Iyanla Vanzant recently reflected on the tough time during an emotional conversation with Tamron Hall on the latter’s talk show, she says the experience made her feel like a “fraud.”
Christmas Day 2003 would forever change the course of Iyanla Vanzant’s life. Her daughter, Gemmia, succumbed to a battle with a rare form of colon cancer after being diagnosed in 2002. She was only 31-years-old. While on the Tamron Hall Show, the host asks Vanzant to elaborate on expressing why her daughter’s passing did not impact her confidence but instead, made her feel like a fraud. The life coach went on to explain to Hall that while she was able to help and impact people’s lives worldwide, as a mother she felt inadequate due to her daughter being sick and there was nothing she could do to help.
“Cancer is a formidable challenger,” said Vanzant. “So, how can I help people save their lives and fix their relationships, and my child is sick, and there is absolutely nothing I can do but stand here?” She then blames her ego for allowing her to question how she would be able to help others without helping her own daughter. The experience was a “challenging” one, Vanzant stressed.
The conversation begins to bring tears out of Tamron Hall as Iyanla Vanzant recalled the moments after Gemmia’s passing. Vanzant recalls being in her daughter’s home “that she owned”, which brought a smile to her face. As the officials were transporting her daughter’s body downstairs, Vanzant remembers telling the undertaker to close the body bag. “She doesn’t like the dark,” recalls Vanzant. It was then that a realization deposited within her. “God must really think that I’m a strong person to give me the privilege of bringing her into life, and the privilege of supporting her as she moves into the other life,” Iyanla Vanzant continued. “So, I closed that body bag and I told her, ‘It’s gonna be ok.’ Because I knew she didn’t like the dark.” Vanzant added that in doing so, she felt that “something else was going on.” She says the renewed energy she was feeling motivated her to focus on that realm rather than the bleak aspect of the situation.
In a past appearance on Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sundays, Iyanyla Vanzant opened up about a letter she found while reading her daughter’s journals following her passing. The letter “saved her life” as she told Winfrey, and impacted her as she was thinking to “leave this life” herself. “Father, I know you have ordained me to do great things,” the letter read. “I even know that some of the things you have planned for me, I will not be able to do in this body. This body is just physical. The greatness you have for me is of a spiritual nature. A nature I may never find in this body.” Because of this letter, Vanzant was able to gain peace and understanding that her daughter felt aware that her purpose would still be fulfilled. She added that Gemmia was her “greatest spiritual teacher.”