The magnitude and scope of a death not only affects a spouse and family but results in what Howell called a domino effect of grief and the disappointment of lost potential.
"I realized there are other people in the world who are suffering, and while I by no means am an expert on grief or trial, I'm acquainted with grief," she said.
"I just realized at that point that I wanted to serve others with all my heart, with everything that I had, and I realized that I had been blessed so much after the loss of my husband and comforted so much."
Howell had come to the realization that the worth of a soul is great, as is the value of comforting and caring for that soul. Humanitarian service then became a natural for combining compassion and medical care.
Medical training and education took alterations; Howell refuses to call them "changes" but rather "enhancements." She looked for opportunities to serve others.
"That's why I decided at 30 that I would go on a mission — at age 30!" exclaimed Howell in mock disbelief at herself. She served her LDS Church mission in Portugal several years ago.
"It was a difficult transition period," she admitted. "People can take away your loved ones, they can take away your greatest treasures, but they cannot take away or change the way you respond to a situation.
"And that's what I made. I took the responsibility to channel my grief in a positive direction."
In addition to being a nurse, Howell is one of eight full-time employees in the LDS Church's Humanitarian Services, working in the neonatal resuscitation training program.
She helps gather and coordinate teams of doctors and specialists who travel across the country and throughout the world to train individuals who in turn train others on techniques to improve newborn mortality rates.
Sometimes simply using an inexpensive bulb-type suction instrument or applying manual massage techniques may help clear a new baby's airways or prompt him to begin breathing on his own.
Lesser-educated or lesser-understanding medical personnel sometimes think nothing can be done for a baby not breathing, ignoring it to focus on postpartum treatment of the mother at the expense of the newborn's life.
Howell said she loves the humanitarian work and the opportunity to teach and interact with others.
"When you're of service, you lose yourself," Howell said. "All of a sudden, your trials don't seem nearly as big because everybody else is going through something. It puts it in perspective, and it's very, very healing."
Howell, who says she has "a lot of love that I can give," has spent the past week giving that love one injured or ailing patient at a time at makeshift clinics housed in LDS Church meetinghouses in Port-au-Prince.
And she's allowed the peace of humanitarian service to bind up her broken heart.
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