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.