FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — When Fairfax native and nonprofit founder Tauheedah Washington had her two sons, she knew the road ahead would be a tough one.
For the young Black men she was raising, she knew the challenges that could befall them, from gun violence to fights and run-ins with the justice system. So, she worked hard to keep them busy.
"Tajir, my oldest son, at the age of five, started out in soccer," Washington said. "From soccer, we went to football. From football, he went to basketball. And the same goes for Lawrence."
She still remembers how her son Tajir was known: at 6'2, he was a "gentle giant with a heart of gold." At age 20, he was a student full of life, holding down a full-time job.
Then, on the night of his 21st birthday, Tajir was the victim of what Washington called a "drug-induced homicide." He died after taking a Percocet laced with fentanyl, leaving his mother debilitated.
"I couldn't work, I couldn't eat, I couldn't do a whole lot of stuff," Washington said. "But I knew that I still had a son to raise. I had to find some way to heal from this loss."
Washington said she knew having a community would make all the difference. Two moms who also lost their kids - one to gun violence, another to a hit and run - came across her Facebook feed. Soon after, the trio arranged a meeting to finally talk to another person who might come close to understanding the pain they faced.
Washington described the meeting as emotional and surreal.
"Not only am I grieving the loss of my child, but I'm looking at two other mothers that I don't have to explain to them how this feels because they're in that same space," she said.
The moment inspired her to keep going and find even more mothers living the same experience to connect with. From that, her nonprofit Mobile Moms was born.
Founded in March of 2021, Washington's nonprofit has grown to 60 mothers seeking support and involves everything from community check-ins and heart-to-heart zoom calls to activities like Sip and Paint, helping the women continue to live life and find a reason to smile while living with their grief.
"I realized that, what we're going through, it's a devastating loss," Washington said. "But what I realized in my own personal grief is that I cannot ruminate and kind of soak in the loss; it is important that I focus on how can I heal from what I'm going through."
She also emphasized her own struggles with processing her grief, while staying strong for her other son, who had just lost a brother.
"A lot of my programming, if you will, is geared to healing," she said. "I don't want to have kind of like a pity party. This is more or less, yes, the loss has occurred, what can we do to heal from it . . . just trying to provide tools almost, like a survival kit of how can we heal from this?"
Washington says it's important to focus on multiple approaches, from meditation to anxiety-coping mechanisms to having a listening ear when needed most. She emphasizes Mobile Moms welcomes mothers from across the area who feel a community could help them make it through.
"A lot of mothers suffer in silence because they don't feel as though they have a safe place, and that is where mobile moms come in," she said. "Mobile Moms is a safe place that is able to help mothers heal and rebuild."
Mobile Moms will host an Angel Walk in Alexandria at Jones Point Park on Saturday, Oct. 8 at 11 a.m. for anyone interested in supporting their movement and getting involved.
"I tell them, I don't have all the answers," Washington said of the women she works with. "But we'll learn through it together. We will walk through the process together."
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