It’s that time of the year again. We are finishing up a year and looking back at our highs and lows. We are also gearing up for a new year. The idea of a new year takes on a different meaning when you have lost a child. You have that sense of dread knowing that it is once again another year your child is not a part of. It’s one more year you have to work, struggle, and climb that mountain so that their memory is staying strong.
It is also another year of opportunities. I will have 365 new chances to tell people about Drew. 365 more days to show people that his memory matters. Drew Alexander Lighthall mattered and will always matter while I have breath in my body. I plan on finding “joy” in telling people about Drew. I will find “joy” in growing Smiles. I will find “joy” in the everyday moments in my life.
Joy will be my word for 2019. I will embrace the joy that being Drew’s mother gave me and still gives me. When the idea of the word joy coming into my life I felt like it was a paradox with the idea of grief. What I have found out that for me to survive this journey I need to be able to find that joy deep inside me, the joy I buried deep when I lost Drew. I will feel the pain of losing Drew to my core but he would want nothing more than to know that I can still feel his love and know that I will have Joy once again. The pain will not go away but I am hoping that I can remember Drew with more smiles to my face than tears in my eyes. I am sure that there will be many time that I will have both at the same time.
Grief and Joy are like the ultimate Yin/Yang. To have the chasm of grief that you have with losing a child there will always be the joy that they were and are yours. They will always be with you.
I challenge you to choose a word for the coming year. Choose a word that maybe you need to keep reminding yourself to do more, be better. To all those that are grieving remember it’s ok to have the joy with the grief. Celebrate the wonderful people that were in your lives, celebrate that you were honored to have them and experience the joy.
My birthday was last month and Randall got me a new radio for my car. It’s awesome because I now I can listen to things I’ve downloaded or I can stream content. I had been hearing about podcasts for the last few months and I thought I would start to listen to some on the way to work. A podcast is a “is downloadable media that can be consumed at any time” (https://create.blubrry.com/manual/about-podcasting/what-is-a-podcast/). I really had no idea what podcasts where or really how many there were out there. There are so many…
According to an article published April 25, 2018, by FastCompany states there are:
Over 525,000 active shows and over 18.5 million episodes
That is a lot of podcasts. I was searching on Google Play to find something I thought I would be interested in listening to and I found a few that would be interesting. I first started listening to this true crime podcasts. The ladies voice kind of reminded me of that Saturday Night Live Skit where the ladies were radio people. It was kind of creepy. Then this one podcast popped up and I knew it was the one I wanted to listen to. It is called The Kindness Podcast.
Nicole Philips runs the podcast. She is what some call a Kindness Ambassador. In Nicole’s own words her podcast is:
“Kindness has the power to transform a mundane, passionless life, but it also has the ability to re-route a single bad day. I’ll be talking with people who share their uplifting stories, and together we’ll explore how to use kindness as an offensive weapon in a dog-eat-dog world.”
She has written several books to spread the kindness message and to keep the world more positive. Her first book is Kindness is Contagious: 100 Stories to Remind You God is Good and So Are Most People. She has a second book called Kindness is Courageous: 100 Stories to Remind You People Are Brave + Kind.
What I love about her podcast is every episode is so uplifting and I get to hear someone else tell the world why they do what they do. She has scientists come on and discuss how kindness can actually change your brain for the better and how there are so many health benefits to being kind. She has people that have found their passion with helping others and spreading their message. She has authors that have written books about kindness (which I have started a reading list on Amazon to buy the books they talk about).
To be perfectly honest, I’m hoping I can come up with the words to write her and tell her my story and to be able to tell more people about Smiles From Drew and all that we want to do. If you are in need to hear more uplifting stories and see that so many people are out there trying to do good, you should find her show and take a listen.
I’ve been trying to write this blog for weeks now. My head has been in a bad place for a little while, to say that I am struggling is an understatement. I have not felt like myself since Drew’s birthday. Then it seemed right after that it was the anniversary of his death. This year feels so different. So final. I’m not sure why it feels so different. I feel more scattered, more lost, more broken, and oh so alone. To add to the self doubt in my head I was fired from my job a few weeks after Drew’s anniversary. When your heart is in so many pieces it’s hard not to take these things to “heart”.
My normal coping skills have just not been cutting it. Usually when I start feeling that dark veil creep in on me I get busier with Smiles or some other project. I just have no motivation to do any of that right now. I am so tired. I am tired of my heart hurting. I am tired of pretending I am okay. I am tired of not seeing my son. Yea, it’s a bit of a pity train I’m on but I’m not quite sure how to make the thoughts quit swirling in my head.
Drew has now been gone from Molly’s life as long as he was in it. She was so young when he died it just seems like that is my measuring point. The other day we were doing a project for her kindergarten class and it was all about “her”. We were supposed to write things about her so her classmates could get to know her better. I’m going through the list of her many likes: science, bugs, worms, unicorns. Then I say ” You have 1 older brother and 1 older sister”, she looks at me and says “no, I only have a sister, my brother died and that doesn’t count”. It was like my heart was breaking all over again. In her mind does he not count? Does she really remember him? If she doesn’t remember him and just the pictures on the wall I can see why she would think that he doesn’t count. Who does Drew count to anymore? Is he now just a past memory that people say “Oh yea I think I knew him”? These are the thoughts that get stuck in my head.
My house is covered in my kids pictures. To me there is no better art than to see my kids smiles over the years. Awkward school pictures with missing teeth, baby pictures when they were just too cute and squishy and moments we have had together that have always made me smile. The first few weeks following Drew’s death I would wake up several times a night with this overwhelming thought that I needed to take his pictures off the wall. His beautiful blue eyes and radiant smile was everywhere. I would get up when I got these thoughts and go out to the living room and look at the pictures. Some nights I would take his pictures off the wall and then immediately put them back up. I would have that panic filled thought of “what did you just do”. The past few months I would look at Drew’s pictures and I wouldn’t get that flood of comfort from them. I would see a look of blame, disapproval, and disappointment. I took his pictures down and I boxed his ashes up.
I don’t think I will leave them down forever but that is how I realized I’m not okay. I called my primary doctor and of course they can’t get me in for months. I ended up calling nine (9) doctors in town and the soonest appointment I could get was the middle of November. I know I called more therapists offices than that and was not able to secure one appointment. We tell people to reach out…there’s always help available. But there isn’t. If I was in a much darker place I would worry. I will do what I need to for my girls. I will keep getting up day after day.
So if you’ve been wondering why I’ve been so quite lately that’s why. I’m not okay……
14 Days of Joy came about like everything else I have thought of since Drew died, in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep. It was about a month before his 1st anniversary (which is a really bad word for that day) and I felt like I was drowning. I was drowning in my pain, my what if’s, and what should be’s . I felt this frantic feeling in my chest and had no idea if I was going to survive the tolling of the calendar. I feel like I may know what someone on Death Row may feel like.
When you lose a child the passing of everyday is like one more step farther away from your child. You have all those moments that have happened between on August to the other. My mind was racing, my heart was not in my control and I knew that if I didn’t do something it was not going to end well with me. I looked back on the things we had done the past year in Drew’s memory and all the people I was able to tell about my sweet boy and I smiled. Then it came to me….if I purposefully got out of my own head for awhile I may just may be able to handle that dreaded 1 year mark. As with anything (at least for me) the leading up to a day is much worse than the actual day. That’s when I came up with the idea to spread joy to at least 1 person. It was a goal…it was something my brain could fixate on instead of not having Drew. That was the start of 14 Days of Joy.
Here it is that time again and we are doing our 3rd 14 Days of Joy. This project is so much more personal for me than Smiles and Smiles is pretty darn personal. 14 Days of Joy is my lifeline, it helps me give myself to others so that I am not so broken inside. It really doesn’t take much to do this project with me. You would be surprised as to how the joys come about without you even realizing. Helping someone with putting their groceries in the car, holding a door open for someone, letting someone go in front of you at the store. Do these things purposefully, with joy in your heart and you will feel a lifting in your own spirit.
Everyone could use some joy in their lives, we never know what people are facing alone. Let them know at least for a moment they are not alone. My hope is one day that more and more people know about 14 Days of Joy. They know that it was started because of my beautiful blue eyed son and when they see the momentum they smile. They smile because nothing would make my heart so happy as to see others do this with me and they smile because they brought joy to someone else and the circle is unbroken.
So I ask you from July 21- August 4, 2018 go out and do something to bring joy to others. It’s ok if you get strange looks, it’s ok if others don’t understand your why. Do something for someone else. When you do use the hashtag #14daysofjoy2018 and #smilesfromdrew https://www.facebook.com/smilesfromdrew Follow the hashtag and see how others are bringing joy. So my question to you is…….