I just got through my 3rd holiday season without Peyton and it was no easier than the other two.
The first Christmas, my family and I packed up and drove the 8 hours to Branson, MO where we rented a lovely cabin. The idea was to do something completely different than we had always done, to stray as far from the traditions of my family as possible. I knew that if I didn’t, I wouldn’t survive my first Christmas without Peyton. It was nice to be with my family, but (no offense to anyone who lives there) Branson is not the nicest place to visit and almost the whole town leaves over Christmas. The place was practically a ghost town.
The following year, everything seemed to just fall back into the same routines that we always followed. Our family stockings were all hung on my sister’s mantel. It’s funny – my parent’s stockings have hung empty for several years and it never really hurt. To see Peyton’s stocking hanging there – glaringly empty and forlorn – was like a knife in my heart. We ate Chinese food on Christmas Eve and we spent Christmas morning opening presents one person at a time. While I loved seeing my sister’s and their families share the holiday together, all I could see was how incredibly alone I was.
So, this year I decided to do something completely different. It was time for what I called my “non Christmas Christmas.” My best friend, Beth, and I decided to fly to California to see her mom. Beth was raised in a Jewish household, so I was confident that there would be no red and green decorations, no lit up tree and no stockings on the mantel. I thought that, in flying across the country, I would be able to escape the heartache of another Christmas without my boy.
I was wrong.
Make no mistake, the trip was lovely. We had fun at Universal Studios riding the Harry Potter ride over and over again and we got to take a “behind the dugout” tour of Dodger Stadium. On Christmas day, there were no presents to open. Instead, we drove up PCH 1 through Santa Monica to Malibu where we found a fun restaurant right on the beach. We ate fresh seafood for lunch with our toes literally in the sand. The drive back was peaceful and beautiful as we watched the sun set over the ocean.
But, it was the first time in 30+ years that I didn’t eat Chinese food on Christmas Eve. That night, all I could do was lie in my bed and cry. On Christmas night, I cried even more. I cried because I miss my Peyton and I miss my old life. I feel like I’m in limbo now, just waiting until I see him again.
When we lose someone we love, the grief can consume us. My grief has become a part of who I am; it is woven into the very fabric of my soul. As much as I wanted to escape it, that is impossible. I am forever the grieving mother to a child who died by suicide. There is no way around it and there is no way to deny it. I’m not sure I want to anymore anyway. Peyton was my reason for living and when he died, a very large part of me died too. I’m slowly learning that I can’t fill the hole in my heart with new experiences or with Kindness Matters or with anything else. It will always be there. All of the other things just build up around it, but they will never be able to fill it in. The Peyton shaped hole in my heart is permanent and to deny the grief that is there is, in a way, like denying Peyton.
Some people say you can’t go home again. The Rolling Stones say you can’t always get what you want. As much as I wish these statements weren’t true, there is no getting around their honesty. No matter how much I wish I could turn back the clock to a day prior to October 8, 2014 and no matter how much I pray to die in my sleep so I can be with Peyton again, I know it’s impossible to get back what I lost.
So, for now, I push forward. Each day brings new challenges and new grief experiences and, each day, I try my best to handle them. Some days, I do a pretty damn good job. Other days, I’m a walking shell of a human being. I never know from one day to the next which version of me will crawl out of bed in the morning. I just hope that I can have more good days than bad and that I can continue to share Peyton’s story so it can inspire a change in world. Because if I can’t do that, at least in some small way, then there is really no point.