365 Days of Kindness….

Smiles From Drew was originally started with the intent to just spread kindness in Drew’s memory. As time went on I knew I needed to do more for him, me and the community around me. But the core of our creation is kindness. Drew was one of the most kind people I had ever met. I learned so much from his beautiful soul.

Because I feel that the essence of Smiles, Drew and my grief journey is kindness and giving back I thought it was appropriate to have a 365 Days of Kindness. I know there have been moments in my grief that the only way I have gotten through that moment was stepping outside of myself, my pain, and my discomfort to help someone else. I have found that by me extending kindness I am not only being selfless but I am being selfish. I by far receive so much more from it then the person I have been kind to. I’m not sure I could have survived this long without Drew without reaching out to others in my pain.

In the last few years there have been lots and lots of studies done about the benefits of kindness. Performing acts of kindness can help relieve depression, pain, anxiety and it can actually change the way your brain processes stress for the better. You really can’t lose by doing acts of kindness. Kindness is actually a trifecta of blessings. You’re probably wondering how one simple act of kindness can help at the very least 3 people. Well, you have the person performing the act of kindness, they stepped out of themselves and saw something that they could help with, then you have the person the kindness was performed for. We have no clue as to what that one action could do to change their day, perspective, or worth for that day. Then lastly we have the people that are witnessing the acts of kindness. These are the people that are just walking past you as it’s happening or just seem to be in the right place at the right time. They carry that act in their subconscious and are more likely to perform their own act of kindness because of what they witnessed. You may not think that holding that door open for someone that had their hands full was a big deal but that’s the wonderful thing about kindness it has a ripple effect. You may never know how far your ripples go or where they travel.

According to a study at the Stanford University found that kindness can be as contagious as a virus. That when people witness the acts of compassion, giving, and kindness they will be more likely to exhibit the same behavior, even if it is much later.


“We find that people imitate not only the particulars of positive actions, but also the spirit underlying them. This implies is that kindness itself is contagious, and that that it can cascade across people, taking on new forms along the way. To be a potent social force, positive conformity requires such flexibility. Not everyone can afford to donate to charity or spend weeks on a service trip to Haiti. Witnessing largesse in others, then, could inhibit would-be do-gooders who feel that they can’t measure up. Our work suggests that an individual’s kindness can nonetheless trigger people to spread positivity in other ways. “

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/kindness-contagion/

Doing random acts of kindness can connect you to a bigger picture and instill a sense of gratitude in the heart of the giver. You become more connected to the people around you and it can heighten your own sense of good fortune even when the giver is going through hard times themselves. Doing intentional acts of kindness releases dopamine, serotonin, and other natural opioids. That is why some researchers call the feeling you get when you are doing acts of good as a “Helper’s High” or “Giver’s Glow”. That is why giving or being intentionally kind can help with your physical well being. Studies show that not only giving but the anticipation of giving can help lower blood pressure, less pain and better sleep.

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared by scars.” Khalil Gibran

To download the your own 2019 kindness calendar go to the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. Click here for a link to their website.

You can also follow the Smiles from Drew’s 365 Days of Kindness on our Facebook page. To like the Smiles From Drew Facebook page click here.

2019 here we come……

Happy New Year!

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.

“The more unfelt grief we carry, the less we are able to feel joy.  And because we often turn away from our grief in the pursuit of more joy, it follows that trying to always feel joy has the exact opposite result.” https://theunlockedheart.com/blog/2018/2/12/the-yinyang-dance-of-grief-and-joy

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. 

The Kindness Podcast….

2018 Podcast Statistics

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.

To go to the podcast click here.

Not okay…..

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……