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……



Guest Blog by Grant’s Mom

August 7, 2014 – on a bright, sunny summer afternoon…my world shifted into the unknown. An unimaginable task was given to me. My handsome, kind, intelligent, quick-witted, determined, adventurous, devoted & loving son was unexpectedly & without warning called Home. Grant had been found unresponsive, by his older brother. He was rushed to the emergency room by ambulance. I was at work & rushed to get to him as all I had been told was, “Grant’s not breathing!” As I sat in the ER Family Waiting Room my head was spinning, my mind chaotic & my heart pounding so hard I thought it would beat out of my chest. As the doctor walked in & sat down I watched every move he made. I was aware of Grant’s father, the oldest of my 3 sons & my partner…the 4 of us transfixed on the Doctor. Time slowed…frozen…then he said, “We did everything we could. We tried everything we could think of. I’m so sorry, your son is gone!” All I could say is, “No!” I must have said it 100 times…they (the ER doctors & nurses) had no explanation – there was no reason – they were all so upset because Grant was the epitome of health. Strong, vibrant, healthy & fit. 7 months later we finally received an answer, Multifocal Lymphocytic Myocarditis. His heart could not handle an infection that had gotten into his system & it just stopped. In fear for my other 2 sons, we had them tested just to be safe. The cardiologist who tested Adam & Jake, told me that it happened  quickly & Grant did not suffer (that was a relief to my aching heart). His father & I spoke many times over those 7 months, as we waited for the autopsy results. We racked our minds trying to remember anything he might have said or done that would explain how this could have happened. While there were a couple of comments he made, there was nothing that we didn’t attribute to his workout regimen or his busy lifestyle. All I knew was (is) my beautiful 21 year old son, was dead & I was a stranger to myself. How would I survive this? How could I endure this heartbreak? Tears…OMG…I’ve cried countless tears…I’ve discovered in almost 4 years that there is a sacredness in tears…they speak for our hearts because no words will ever be able to articulate the sorrow! 

I have walked a path no parent  should ever know. The weight of this task has been the most overwhelming of my life. I changed irrevocably in a single moment. I strive everyday to live with my grief. I still ask, “Why?” Why my son, why this amazing young man with so much promise, who means so much too so many? And the only answer that ever comforts me…his life serves as an example of truly living each day to the fullest. GRANT IS OUR EXAMPLE OF LIFE. I have been amazed at how many lives he touched. The beauty of his soul affected so many people. 

Through his loss, I have discovered that I am stronger than I ever imagined I could be…I’ve also learned that despite this unimaginable loss…life continues. I was on a very different path before this happened. I was not the person I needed to be…or wanted to be. I have become a very different person. I have learned a great deal about life these past 4 years. It’s so much simpler than I’ve made it out to be. In looking back, I can honestly see that I’ve made it difficult, over the course of my life, because I chose to be angry or offended or annoyed rather than choosing joy or understanding or acceptance. I now see, with so much clarity, it’s a daily choice whether I grow and become better than the day before or I focus on the negative aspects of each day. Negativity is easy. Not much effort is required to always see the hopelessness and sadness and heaviness in life. Yet, when I choose the positive, a peace fills my heart and a calm feeling resides within me! In the quiet, contemplative moments…I’ve discovered that if I choose to live inside of a deep gratitude, for my own undeserved grace and limitless mercy – past hurts & mistakes I’ve made have very little power to cause me pain in any lasting way. They are not worth the time or energy I used to expend on them. They are merely lessons and tests in the great school and journey of my life. And in discerning my own right to seek forgiveness & to be shown mercy – I understand that I then must excuse offenses & exhibit tenderness. It’s tricky & on the bad days…nothing helps…I just have to work through the indescribable heartache of Grant’s death, which evokes a gamete of difficult emotions, unfathomable regret & overwhelming sorrow. Thankfully, the calm surrendering of my heartache takes me to a place of solace within my soul and my refusal to let my past mistakes become my identity is where the healing begins and the understanding is indescribable. An abiding gratefulness and a gentle grace encompass me. Words cannot explain the tender feelings within me. And the more time I spend in gratitude, the more strength I have to battle the “bad days”! I’ve come to know, deep within my soul, if I do not find a way to transform my pain, I will without a doubt transmit it to others. And that is not who I want to be or how I want to be remembered. I’ve discovered not to treat my grief, my mistakes & my regret like an enemy, rather embrace them as part of me so I have the potential to be better, wiser, happier, filled with grace, to know more joy & radiate peace. In honoring myself, I have the opportunity to make a difference and I hope, leave a legacy of love – just as my precious son did!! I know that for the rest of my life I am going to miss him and hurt deep inside – I also know that he would want me and all those he loves to find joy and happiness and peace.  To live as he did – laughing, learning and loving…taking nothing for GRANTed… I see this human experience from a newly formed perspective. If I could, I would give all that I am and willingly take his place, to give him back to so many who mourn him and grieve the loss of him. For the rest of my life, I will carry his heart…I will carry it in my heart! I know that he is smiling on all of us and watching over us too. Loving you & missing you my beautiful boy…}I{

Thank you for sharing in my story & letting me share my grief & healing journey with you! Grant’s Mom 🙂