Friday, April 29, 2011

So close and yet so far.

This isn't the post that I sat down to write. I was going to tell you about my frustrations over Peyton's grave. I was going to tell you how guilty I feel that her spot has gone neglected these last few months. How I lie up at night sometimes, thinking about it.

I tried to go up there to fix it up yesterday, but I had two fussy babies on my hands and by the time I got there it was too buggy to get out of the car.

I was going to talk about how it makes me feel to think of Peyton looking down from Heaven and watching me leave the cemetery without even exiting the car because circumstances didn't allow for it. How I was so close to her grave, yet a world away from her (hence the title of this post) that it hurt my heart and I worry she might feel as though she has somehow been replaced.

I wish that I could get the message to her that replacing her - our first child - our brave little warrior - is impossible.

That is what I was going to write about, but as I started writing this is what came out instead.

Yesterday I ran into G, an elderly man that I have come to know during my visits to Peyton's hill. I drove into the cemetery and when our eyes connected, I could see a familiar sadness in his. We exchanged hellos and G proceeded to tell me how down in the dumps he has been feeling lately which came as no surprise since every conversation we have ever had has involved G telling me that he is feeling down in the dumps. I've almost come to expect it. 

G doesn't seem to want or to permit even the smallest bits of joy to creep into his life and to see him on one of his visits feels more like bearing witness to an act of penance as he leans for three hours a day, day in and day out regardless of the elements, against the cold stillness of his wife's stone. There is nothing cathartic or healing for him in his routine. 

The sad truth is that G has given up. He had already given up by the time I first met him, and it is something that has always struck me about him. Even during my darkest days on the hill I found it difficult to understand the level to which G had let go of allowing himself to find any measure of joy in what life he has left. Don't get me wrong. There were days, months, that first year really where I found little joy or humor in anything, but if a smile crept through, or a laugh, I welcomed the change. G does not and this has always struck me as especially ironic as I would peer into the young face in Peyton's picture at her grave, and note that while my daughter was allotted so few days on this earth, G has wasted so many.

He is in good health. He is living independently despite his age. He has family and friends (us included) who frequently invite him to dinner, or over for holidays, but he declines all invitations because to accept one might mean accepting happiness, and G sees this somehow as a betrayal to his lost love. 

I see G's story as a cautionary tale for all of us. It demonstrates what can happen when we, as the grieving, fall into a pattern of belief that to love those we have lost is dependent upon punishing ourselves.

Finding it difficult to find joy or to even want to find joy is a normal reaction to loss. There were days in my grief, many days, when I would let the phone go unanswered. Days when I thought the sky was black like pavement, because I didn't look up to see the sun. Days where I believed my smile might be lost forever... but not every day. Not every minute of every day.

I think it is important to remember that regardless of what stage you are at in your grief, if there are times when the sun pokes through the clouds and you feel joy, even if that joy lasts only the briefest of moments before another reminder of all that you have lost,  it is okay to embrace it. Punishing ourselves to the point of never experiencing joy benefits no one.

Not our families.
Not our friends.
Not the loved ones we have lost. 

G's wife died more than two years before Peyton - which means that this pattern, this slow march towards death, this refusal to enjoy one single moment of life, has gone on for nearly five years.

Five years where new connections could have been made, lessons could have been learned, experiences could have been had.
Five years where even if the overwhelming majority of his time had been spent grieving, G may have felt his suffering ease for a few brief moments here or there.
Five years of moments that would never and could never have replaced his wife or cheapened his love and commitment to her.
Five years of a death sentence that G could have spent living.

When I look at G leaning against his wife's stone, I see so much tragedy in the fact that with her death, so died his willingness to ever again allow himself to live.

Loving those we have lost should not carry with it this kind of a death sentence.
Love is not a punishment.


This Sunday is International Babylost Mother's Day. I am wishing for you all a day of beauty, peace, and if possible - joy.

Exhale Magazine is hosting its first ever visual arts contest with the theme SEEING WITHIN. There are great prizes available. The deadline to enter is this Sunday. Check out the details here.


  1. Thank you for the reminder.

    The man you see up near Peyton's hill reminds me much of my grandpa that died. I believe from a broken heart not so much the medical cause. My grandma died in 1999 and he died just two short years later. He smiled occasionally but we all knew that his heart was with her and that he didn't want to go on much longer.

    I think men that truly love their wives/women tend to grieve differently. Men hold stuff in and it eats them alive. I think there is more to G's suffering then he's willing to tell. How sad though to see someone so lost without their mate.

    Hugs mama,
    Been think about you and the snow flakes.

  2. YOU ARE EXACTLY RIGHT! There are times in grief that you cannot see the light and joy, but as long as the tiniest part of the griever WANTS to see the light and joy, it means we are healing. If we are stuck in the darkness and don't care to see the light, we will stay in darkness the rest of our days. I think Peyton EXPECTS you to spend oodles of time with the snowflakes, she'd have it no other way. She wouldn't want you constantly at her hill when you have her siblings to love and care for. If it REALLY bothers you, maybe you can recruit some of Peyton's other family members and close friends to spend time with her on the hill and primp her special place! I am sure Peyton would love some time with them! Just a suggestion! HUGS to you!

  3. I needed to hear this today, THANK YOU for writting such a beautiful post once again.

  4. What an introspective and beautiful post. This statement...Loving those we have lost should not carry with it this kind of a death sentence.
    Love is not a punishment.
    ...really touched me.

  5. Oh my word Kristin, you are so right. I'll have to admit there are days and moments when I just don't want to feel joy, or be happy. There are times i just want to cry it all out. But like you, I welcome the change when sun light peeks through or something hilarious happens. Thank you for voicing this, I needed it.

    Lots of love Kristin,

  6. Thank-you for the words of wisdom that have struck a chord in me.

  7. I have spent the past couple of months reading your blog from the very beginning, finishing with this post this evening... i have cried and felt deep sorrow for what you have experienced in the loss of your beautiful Peyton and then smiled and cried happy tears on the arrival of 'the snowflakes' (who have the most beautiful names btw, along with Peyton's - all stunningly unique). Thank you for sharing your inner most thoughts and exposing yourself in a way many others could/would not... Sending lots of love your way x

  8. Thank you for posting this story as a reminder and a help to those stuck in the grief journey.

    I embrace everyday now and even though I do get sad and cry about my losses, I somehow feel I'm letting those down that I've lost if I don't meet every day with gratitude and 'live.' for them who aren't here.

    Maybe you could suggest a therapist for G, although sometimes, some peopls don't know how to see the beauty in the world when they've suffered a devestating loss.

    with love
    Diana Doyle x

  9. To read more about this gentleman... In some ways, I can understand his pain. My feel is he just feels too old and too tired and too broken, you know? Maybe if he were twenty-something, thirty-something, even forty or fifty-something he'd believe in a chance to start over, and he'd learn that he shouldn't punish himself so.

    I don't know what else to say other than that I'd just give him a big hug every time I'd run into him and send him lots of love from afar.

    Beautiful, touching piece, Krissy.


  10. How sad, I don't know what to think about that man...very sad. I don't believe in starting overthough, it's a continuous journey.

    I am happy to see your little ones Kristen, they are lovely just like mommy. Thinking of you and your family.


  11. So sad for G. In the beginning I thought my life would be like his is now. I wish for him some peace. Maybe you two did not meet by chance.