Still Standing

Private Pain in the Public Sector – When Your Two Worlds Collide Unexpectedly

Image Credit: Beryl Young


I started writing about losing Peyton within weeks of her death. A friend gave me a journal, and in just a few hours I had filled its pages with every memory of her—simultaneously beautiful and torturous.

I began attending a writing workshop shortly thereafter. The first story I wrote and shared was about Peyton peeing on my leg. The class laughed—at first. They thought they were hearing about your typical new mom and a diaper mishap. Then the story morphed. I talked about the panic in the nurses’ eyes at seeing the wet stain spread across my lap. How they insisted I change immediately. How the chemo we were pumping into my tiny five pound child, was now infiltrating my skin, and this worried them. I wept and choked over the words. My classmates wept with me.

Six months after Peyton died, I had completed a first draft of a memoir about loving and losing her, and moved onto blogging about it.  No one read my first post, maybe not even my first few. Then there was a comment. A lone comment from a woman, H, who four years later I still call friend. That was my entry into a community that has shown me compassion, friendship, and understanding without bounds.

Four years after losing Peyton, I have written about every aspect of loving and losing her, the vast majority of which do not paint me in the best light. I have written about every wrong decision. My anger at God. Depression. The strain her death has put on my marriage. The way grief has aged me. PTSD. Hopelessness. Despair. Self-blame.

I hated all the books that told me life after child loss was all rainbows and butterflies. I hated anyone who told me ‘everything happens for a reason,’ or to make peace with it because it was ‘God’s will.’

I wanted to give an honest account of my experience, and as of writing this post, nearly a half a million visitors have read my words, been given access to my wounds, and ultimately, witnessed my healing.

Things have changed for me a great deal in the last few years. A lot of sharing. A lot of growing. I have birthed (via c-section) beautiful, healthy twins. To any outsider on the street I am your typical mother of toddlers, and I am grateful for it.

My husband was laid off in August, and we both threw our hats into the job-searching ring, deciding that whoever landed a position first would go back, and the other would stay home with our kids. I was fine with either outcome. In my previous life I was quite successful in my career, and my husband is an incredible, hands-on father. It would be a win-win either way.

My job search got off to a fabulous start—I was quickly called in to interview for a fantastic opportunity, had a great interview where the hiring manager joked, ‘what will it take to get you to come onboard? A new car? Xx dollars?’ and then, just as the two hour interview drew to a close and we shook hands (I thought, all but sealing the deal) the man interviewing me said, ‘I noticed when I Googled you that you have a blog. I am looking forward to reading it.’

I explained that the blog was really geared to one specific demographic, and tried to play it down a bit. A few days later I received an email stating that while my credentials were impressive, and I interviewed very well, they had ultimately decided to go with another candidate. I couldn’t help but wonder if my blog had something to do with that. I had never, in writing the blog, considered what affect sharing my private story might have on my career.

That night I considered taking my blog down. I didn’t want to be judged only for my grief, especially when it was really irrelevant in terms of my ability to do a job, and worried I was hurting my family’s chances by leaving it up. And then I received an email. A woman from halfway around the globe had found my blog, and read it from beginning to end. She had lost her beautiful boy to the same disease that had stolen Peyton from me. My blog had meant something to her. I left it up and continued my job search.

A few more weeks passed before another opportunity presented itself for me. This role, too, offered great promise, but the employer expressed concern over my ability to really devote my energy to it as a mom with young kids (won’t even go into how ridiculous a notion that is), and that was without knowing anything about Peyton.  The interview went well and I figured being Googled was inevitable. On the ride home I considered what to do with my blog. Make it private for a month until a job was secured? Scrub my name from it? Both of these options made me feel ill at ease. Why should I have to hide my grief? Wouldn’t that be doing a disservice to my little girl?

I arrived home with all of these questions swirling in my head, logged onto Facebook, and found another message waiting from me. This time it was from a girl I had been friends with as a child, but hadn’t seen in over fifteen years. She told me she had stumbled upon my blog. I don’t know why, but I am always surprised when people I know in real life tell me they have read it. For me it is almost this alternate universe where my grief resides, while my joy lives in the day to day. This woman shared with me that she had suffered a stillbirth a few years prior, and that my words, my anger, my honesty, and my story were something that she could identify with. She said my blog made a difference.

A difference.

She said my blog had made a difference.

What if I had taken it down?

So here we are, a few weeks later, and still without a job and trying to stay hopeful that the right job, my job, will come along, eventually.

“It wouldn’t be right to work somewhere where you have to hide something like that,” my sister has now said to me now on more than one occasion. “You’re really good at what you do, and you have overcome something really difficult. You shouldn’t feel ashamed of that?”

Deep down, I know she is right.

My grief is a symbol of the love I carry for my child. My loyalty. My humanness. If a company is going to begrudge me of that. If they can’t see that the only bearing my loss may have on my performance  would be to make me a bit more compassionate to my co-workers, then maybe, just maybe, that is not the right place for me.