Monday, February 13, 2012


I looked at myself in the mirror this morning. I look younger--somehow. If you look past the worry wrinkles, and the generally dull pallor of my skin from these last few hard years, there is a sparkle in my eyes. It's a feature that left me when we were in the hospital with Peyton. My best friend, C, called me after seeing a picture of me holding Peyton and she was crying, not only because of what was happening to our baby girl, but because it scared her to see my eyes that way.

I thought for a long time that I would never get that back.

I think I am at a point now where a person on the street wouldn't know I was broken.
Someone meeting me the first time might say I am outgoing, even funny.

I spent the better part of two years leading with the "I have a dead kid" foot.
I don't know when the shift happened, but now I tend to lead with the "life is still worth living" foot.

Some people would think that this shift is due to having my rainbows here, and don't get me wrong when I say that they have brought an immeasurable amount of joy and love into my life, but I honestly think this change is the result of allowing myself to go there.

Where? There. Far, far, far down to the depths of my grief, and yes I say allowing myself to go because I gave myself permission a long, long time ago to feel what I needed to heal.

I think there is something to be said for going there. I know every single day how blessed I am to be here because I've been there. I can be honest to myself about expectations. I think a lot of people who are grieving, either because of outside influences, or as a self-protective measure, force themselves into a sort of false sense of healing before it has really come. It's the I'm Fine Syndrome, when people ask how we are and we say what we think will be the most comfortable for others to hear, rather than our real feelings. Maybe I am selfish. I never told people I was fine. I told my family, my friends, a stranger in the super market just how incredibly not fine I was at every opportunity.

I told them that my baby had died. That it was shocking. I walked them through every gory detail of what chemo did to her because to say it out loud was to reaffirm it had happened, and in some small way, to release myself of carrying that burden alone.

Maybe saying alone is unfair. My friends love me. My family loves me. My husband certainly loves me or he would have left some three years ago, but only I was Peyton's mother. Only I made certain choices. Only I witnessed certain things. In the world of PTSD, tragic loss, survivor's guilt, even the most loved person can feel very, very alone.

I have never sugar-coated what happened to Peyton. I don't refer to her as my angel, or say she is in a better place. I don't say that God needed a rose for his garden so he picked her, or tell people her last moments were peaceful - they weren't. I don't lie about her because it doesn't do me any good, and it doesn't honor all she went through.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I don't do these things, and yet I am healing. I will never be healed. None of us will be. The sooner we let go of that hoop dream, the better, because if you look to be healed, or for things to go back to the way they were, your life will be nothing but a fruitless search for the impossible. But I am healing.

A few years back I was friended on FB by a woman who had lost her first child to leukemia. She had a profile pic of her husband, a golden retriever, and her three living children. It was one of those posed pics where everyone is wearing the same colors. It was so beautiful, their smiles so genuine, that I broke down and cried. Was that possible? Could I ever get there?

Throughout my infertility and darkest parts of my grieving, I would go back to this woman's profile, and look at that photo. It became a goal for me. Something to wish on. This woman was a survivor. Her daughter, I am sure, had endured all Peyton had and more, and yet this woman as broken as that had left her, kept chugging along until she found her happiness. There is no happy ending. There is no happily ever after. You always feel that loss with you, but she found her happiness - the best she could make of the life she was given.

I look at myself in the mirror, past the wrinkles and the worry lines into the way my happiness has settled into the sparkle in my eyes and I am content with who I see... a survivor.


  1. What a beautiful post. I needed to read something like this today because I'm struggling to "go there" before I can move forward. Thank you for sharing your story so candidly.

  2. This is beautiful. I remember getting to the point where I saw a sparkle in my eyes. I'm content in who I see, too. Also, a survivor.

  3. I think almost 2 years out that I too am arriving at my happy place. You're right that the 'rainbow' helps...but that's not entirely it. It's just easier to breathe these days.

    I miss him, I always will...but he's gone and I'm here and I honour him by making the most of the life I am grateful to have been given. I know now that not everyone is so lucky.

  4. You are absolutely a survivor. I think anyone who can roll out of bed after suffering the loss of their child can consider themselves one... But to truly live (and enjoy it) after having lived the worst experience possible makes you so much more than that.

    I am glad to hear you have your sparkle back, I think I'm one my way to a little glimmer myself. Funny how it can sneak up in you, huh?

  5. Such a wonderful Post! I am going to send this on to a dear friend of mine who lost her 4 year old son. I feel like you can almost speak for her sometimes! Like the words are coming from Jamie, yet they are yours!

  6. This phrase "I gave myself permission a long, long time ago to feel what I needed to heal," is exactly what I did. It was gut wrenching and all consuming. And it terrified others to watch they might lose me too. But I think it is the only way to heal... Here's to living after the pain...

  7. YES. To all of this. The greatest gift I ever gave myself was giving myself permission to grieve exactly as I saw fit. It was ugly sometimes and I went down to some very dark places but, you're so right, if I hadn't gone there I couldn't be here ... and here is good (mostly) and happy (often) and Emma is loved and missed eternally.

  8. Kristin, it is all so true. Each time I heard or saw the 'others' in that happy survivor place, I just wanted to shout yell and scream. Now I am there. That survivor place, but the wrinkles and lines are still there. All etched into my grief and worn like badges of honor. We went through a war, were in the trenches and have survived.

  9. I'm like Stephanie...I would read those blogs or see those posts and think, 'FAKER! FAKER! FAKER!' I thought they were liars. I thought they were disrespectful to their dead children. I didn't believe it.

    And you...I'm them. And much humbled.

    I never even bothered to give myself permission to go there. I just threw myself there. I was miserable and I didn't give a flying fig whether anyone else wanted to be with it and/or watch it or not. Hell or high water, I just sort of felt like it was the only place I could be and 'prove' I was heartbroken beyond devastation.

    But you are right. I think that being there...however you get important to getting here. It's ugly, but necessary.

    And I have to say, it's nice to see some of the 'old' me back. She's definitely a different gal, but there's some of who I've always been in there!

  10. So so beautiful. I agree with Stephanie and Lori too. I am glad we have allowed ourselves to go there. It isn't easy but it is so much better to live again this way. The wounds never heal and that is OK because it has made all of survivor's better people.

  11. Lovely. And YES as Jill said above. I have just posted a couple of similar sentiments on my blog.
    We're in a similar place, I think. And we've also followed a similar sort of path to get here.

  12. I still don't believe it (a rainbow, a real smile, a new kind of happy family) will happen to us, but posts like this make me more hopeful. I'm glad to know more about your journey.

  13. Just to add... I see my sparkle, funny, self everyday now. PTSD strikes at odd times but I call them Micro-bursts (a very intense short storm) More "my new normal" than my old grief as each day and milestone passes. When anyone asks how I got "here" I direct them to all of "you" in blogland.. ok and to my therapist.. Love you lady and your honesty. Anyone else reading... still working on getting There please know... first time you drive down a road full of pot holes you will hit every one.. next time you drive down the road.. some will be filled in and others you will know to avoid.. Keep driving down your road until you get there free of bumps but stay mindful of all the patches for each one healed you in a different way.

  14. I appreciate so much your honesty...and realness. Thank you.

  15. This is an inspiring post. Thank you so much for sharing, and I'm so very pleased for you that you are in this place.

  16. I'm so sorry to hear what you have went though and are still going though. I feel for you.

  17. I def think it is important to allow yourself to feel your grief no matter how intense it may be. I'm def in a happy place now and I'm glad to be here but I know I wouldnt be if I didn't allow myself the time for my grief and the things I've done.

  18. Wow. Your post just made me tear up. Thank you so much for being a survivor, sharing your story-all the ups and downs, and writing the words, "I look at myself in the mirror, past the wrinkles and the worry lines into the way my happiness has settled into the sparkle in my eyes and I am content with who I see... a survivor." Thank you for allowing yourself to own survivor-ship, and in turn allowing others to as well.

  19. Heart-stirring, thank you for sharing! And hang in there!

  20. I am so there with you. Yes. Yes. Yes. xx