I have been overwhelmed with gratitude by the tributes and messages of support pouring in over the last two months with tales of how my husband, Nick, influenced people in a profound way during his own remarkable, yet tragically short life.
Nick earned his reputation as one of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs by solving a problem he wanted to fix for himself - democratizing wealth management by lowering fees and leveling the playing field for first-generation investors.
The motivation for the charity he founded in the final year of his life, Elizabeth’s Smile, has plenty of parallels. Nick was determined that our daughter Elizabeth, and many others like her, would be given equality of opportunity - if not circumstance - to live out their dreams.
Sadly, the data does not support this desire. The rate of crime, academic underperformance, and mental illness for children who lose a parent before the age of 18 outweighs the broader population. Elizabeth’s Smile is already helping to combat this problem through “Grief Guides,” which will offer bereavement advice for surviving spouses, close relatives, teachers, and other adults in the child’s inner circle.
Nick attributed a great deal of his personal success to the inspiring people he met along the way. He was the best networker I ever met. He drove the charity to establish “The Smile Network,” in order to preserve a parents’ circle of friends and professional contacts, with the aim that this network becomes a support group for the surviving family. I have witnessed the loneliness that can accompany a terminally ill prognosis, and I strongly believe in the power of community to overcome an otherwise crippling journey for the patient and their family.
I also hope that “The Smile Network” will eventually be used to alleviate the financial burden that far too many families endure through a prolonged illness. There is potential to harness the network's technology to assist with areas such as childcare and meal planning - services I found to be essential, albeit expensive and difficult to source. Despite the countless hours I spent battling insurance companies over the last four years, I did so with the understanding that if I failed to make my case, we could still pay our bills and put food on the table. I am humbly aware of what a luxury that is, especially amid today’s cost of living crisis. In the same way that no child should be left behind in a sea of suffering following the death of a parent, no parent should be forced into financial hardship over the death of a spouse.
Numerous experts have told me that the number one indicator of how a bereaved child handles the death of a parent is the way in which the surviving parent copes. I sincerely hope that Elizabeth’s Smile can become a powerful advocate for caregivers who are struggling with their grief.
As the weeks go by and the flower and card deliveries come to an end, I miss Nick more and more. I occasionally feel survivor’s guilt as Elizabeth and I dance in the kitchen, giggle with our new puppy, or race to preschool with her new scooter. But I also know that this is exactly what Nick would want.
Every time I hold our daughter, I’m reminded of Nick's infectious laugh and that unique twinkle in his eye, which made everyone fortunate enough to know him believe that life can and should go better. I am confident that Nick’s charitable work will help millions of grieving parents do what Nick did for us each day: keep smiling.
To support our work, visit elizabeth.org/donate. Elizabeth’s Smile is a registered charity, UK number 1204025, US 88-2987304. All gifts are fully tax-deductible to the extent provided by law.