Today is January 1, 2020. To others that haven’t been touched by loss it’s a start to new year, new hopes and happy beginnings. To parents that have lost a child it’s one more year that you didn’t have your child with you. This year is a pretty significant year for us, not only is it a new decade that Drew isn’t in but 2020 will be 5 years that he has been gone. Gosh, 5 years sounds so long, but it feels so short.
Last year I chose a word for the new year in the hopes that when my mind was swirling I could use it as a mantra of sorts. I decided to do the same thing for this year, my word for 2020 is BALANCE. Finding balance in my life with work, kids, marriage, self-care and Smiles From Drew. Making sure that I can be all to everyone that needs me including myself. I tend to go all in on something and it doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for other things. That is how I have been working Smiles the last few years.
This past week I’ve been thinking of what Balance will mean to me and how to handle that with such a pivotal year in grief. That thought then got me on the track of the number 5 and what does it mean…so that got me on Google to find out. So here is what I found:
Five as an angel number means balance. The website suggests to put your life in balance because you are always in motion and need to slow down. It means keeping a balance between the material things and the spiritual realm.
It wasn’t long after I lost Drew that I knew that having an outlet to be able to get all the words out of my head was what I wanted to do. That is when I decided to start this blog. I wrote more in the beginning because I had more swirling thoughts. I did the posts more for me than anything else but my hope was always that if one person read them they would know they weren’t alone.
A few months ago I started listening to podcasts on my way to work. I first found The Kindness podcast. The podcast interviews all types of people that are trying to make difference in the world by spreading kindness in one way or another. I started searching for other podcasts that I found interesting. I started listening to the Grief Out Loud podcast and the What’s Your Grief podcast. I loved listening to the episodes since they discussed topics of grief and I somehow did not feel quite so alone in my feelings and thoughts.
I decided to email The Kindness podcast to tell them my story about Drew and Smiles from Drew and she emailed me back! Nicole Philips is the host and she wanted to interview me! I was so excited and nervous. We scheduled the interview and they called and I got the chance to talk about Drew and Smiles, it was wonderful. That is when I got the idea that I can start a podcast interviewing parents telling us about their children that have gone on before us. Give them a space to talk about them, talk about their life before, and talk about their life after.
Like any endeavor I have started since Drew died I just jump right in. If I don’t know how to do it, I just keep figuring it out. I’ve been researching microphones, software, and how to post podcasts. I had an idea in my head and just went for it. I’m so close to start interviewing other parents and getting the podcasts live.
I will be changing the name of this site that I blog on, the name of this website will be www.say-their-name.com. I will still be writing blog posts about Drew but I will also post the episodes of the podcast on here also. I sure hope you can join me on this adventure and we can hear all the great stories from parents that have lost children, giving parents a chance to Say Their Name.
I’ve had this recurring thought for the past few months that there is a whole section of kids that Smiles From Drew should be helping. We have been blessed enough to help as many kids as we have but normally the kids we help are already signed up for the activity and for one reason or another they need our help. Whatever the reason they have gotten in touch with us to help with the registration fees. But what about those kids that know deep down that there is no way they would ever be able to participate? What about the kids that know that either because of finances or family life that they don’t even dare to think of signing up?
I am hoping that this year these are the children Smiles From Drew can focus on. There are so many children out there, that no matter how the parents try to shield them from the struggles know that their families couldn’t afford it. So what do those kids do? They just never say anything to their parents, they never bring home flyers about the activities. They just silently do without. I know Drew would have been that way. He was just such a caring person and if he knew there was no way I could afford it he wouldn’t even tell me about it. He would take that burden on himself. He would feel that by him not saying anything about the activity he was “helping me”. We need to get to those kids so they don’t have to take that burden on. We need to even for a moment let them be kids and not have to worry about whether or not their family could afford it.
There is a National Organization call The Aspen Institute and they study the effects of sports and social exclusion because of factors out of children’s hands. They have an initiative called Project Play. They want us to “think globally but act locally”. The focus of Project Play to date has been on children ages 6 to 12, who form the base of our sport system, with a shared vision of “an America in which all children have the opportunity to be active through sports.” (https://www.aspenprojectplay.org/) The below statistics don’t take into account the demographics of the children that never get the opportunity to participate in the activities. This study just reflects the percentage of children that are participating. As you can see, in 2016 only 34.6% of children in households that income was under $25,000 were able to participate. That tells me we have a whole slew of kids that Smiles From Drew could be servicing.
My goal is to enlist people to help us find these forgotten children. School counselors, teachers, social workers, and youth leaders. These are all the people are on the front lines with these children and know when and where we can help. Reaching out to these children is going to take all of us to help them. We will need to raise more money. It’s going to be a big a job but Drew would want nothing less of me. I feel this calling to branch out and I know Drew is the one that is pushing me. He has been with me every step of the way in this journey of Smiles. Every single time I have doubted the strength of myself or the ability to keep going with Smiles, Drew sends me a sign. I can picture him beaming that beautiful smile and telling me “Good job Mama but you’re not done”.
So if you know of children that fit this category email me. If you know someone who is a social worker or a contact that you think we should team up together email me. I know deep down this is the path we are supposed to be on and with everyone’s help we can get to those forgotten children and help them feel like a kid again, even if it’s only on the playing field for a little bit.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can always message me on Facebook also. Help me grow Smiles and help these children. Much love to you and thank you so much for always supporting our mission.
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.