Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The end of Missing Aimee?

I started this blog on December 19, 2011, the day after Aimee's tragic death. At first it served two distinct purposes:

  1. Share information about what happened and what was happening to anyone who was interested, without me having to repeat myself constantly, and
  2. Give me a way to express what I was going through and feeling in a way that was helpful (therapeutic) to me.
As time went on and the readership of the blog seemed to take on a life of its own (over 82,000 page views of this blog to date), I realized I was connecting to people who didn't know Aimee or me, but who were finding something here that they needed. It has been an incredible honor to think I may have somehow helped other people in their dark times with my own pain. And that in itself was wonderfully therapeutic as well.

I haven't shared everything I've wanted to. Legal issues have kept me from writing about certain topics that I would have liked to have covered. Specifically, I wish I could have shared more about what I know and think I know about what happened on December 18 and what led up to it. I'd love to name parties involved, and talk about who I think should be held accountable, and why.

But I can't.

So with about thirteen months having passed since Aimee's death, I'm left with less and less to say that's new, or in my estimation, useful to anyone else. I continue to miss Aimee, sometimes with so much pain that I even now still cry (that has never gotten easier to admit publicly, but I try to keep this blog as honest as I can). Rowan still has, and probably always will have, pain and loss from the death of her mommy. It's a long journey for her, because as she grows and understands her world in different ways, she'll feel her loss in new and ever more painful ways. I believe there will always be a 'primal hole' in her life from now on. Nothing I or anyone else can ever do will fix that. She'll have to learn to live with it.

As for me, my own journey is changing. Dating and 'finding a new mommy' are part of the next phase of my life. I miss being married, and hope to have that magic again someday. And I would love to find someone with whom I can share life's joys and pains, as well as someone who can share in Rowan's accomplishments and milestones. I want someone in Rowan's life as a role model, and with whom we can model a healthy, happy relationship for her so she knows what she should be able to expect/demand when it's her turn.

I suppose I could write about the adventures of dating as a widower with a child. Possibly there might be some use in that for some readers navigating (or thinking about) that way themselves. But it doesn't feel right to me to share that type of stuff, especially as it involves another person. Dating should be private, so I think I'll keep it that way. I could also write about single parenting, but I suspect there are a great many blogs out there that do so already, and probably better than I could.

I do have two more posts I've been working on for a long, long time. They've both been extremely hard to write, and they're still not quite done. The topics are pretty raw, as are the emotions they bring out in me. But I hope to publish them both within the next week or so. After that...

I may continue to add posts from time to time as new information becomes available about events of December 18 that I can share. Or if new feelings, emotions, or other pitfalls come to me that I feel the need to share in this forum. But otherwise, I think the time has nearly come for me to begin to close this chapter.

Stay tuned for my last couple of posts...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Go On

I recently discovered a new TV show: Go On. I'll get to why I bring this up in just a moment.

First, basic info: It's on NBC, Tuesday nights at 9. But of course I don't watch it then. I DVR it, and then watch episodes when I get to them. The main star is Matthew Perry (of "Friends" fame), a cocky sports radio show host who - get this - lost his wife, and he's in a therapy/support group to help him through it. The show is a sitcom, but there are certainly some poignant moments.

And by now you probably have guessed why I've decided to write about it here.

As a sitcom, it's not bad. And clearly their audience is not widowers - that's not a big enough audience to make a prime time sitcom successful. But there are moments, sweet moments, where Ryan (Matthew Perry's character) remembers things or shares things about his wife, and it really resonates with me. There was an episode where he imagines she's there, and he talks with her for just a few moments, and I wished so hard (for not the first time) that I could do that - make Aimee appear in my head and just... talk to her.

The episode I watched tonight showed another member of the group, who'd lost several members of her family, at her teen daughter's birthday party. Someone asks her how she remains so happy, despite all of her loss. I forget already exactly the quote, but it goes something like this, "You can laugh, or you can cry. I choose to laugh." I know how she feels, but I also know how brutally hard it is to make that choice to laugh, especially early on. In fact, it was impossible for quite some time.

Anyway, I think it's a decent show, and I recommend it. And if you've ever lost someone, you might find a few gems thrown in.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Rough week

It's been a rough week.

I came down with my first bout with the flu a week ago. Of course, that coincided with Donna being out of town for two weeks, so I didn't have the backup I would normally have available. So that left me feeling like hell and trying to take care of Rowan.

Then on Thursday, it was Rowan's turn to get sick.

Luckily for both of us, Rowan's bout of sickness hasn't been as bad as mine. As of this moment, she's in bed coughing up a storm, but overall she's been doing better than me (who's currently on the couch coughing up a storm). Regardless, taking care of a sick kid when you yourself are sick stinks.

After a week of being sick,
I FINALLY got the dishes done
But that's not all of it, really. Earlier tonight I gave her a bath. While she was in the tub, I got some work done that's been LONG over due in our extra bedroom/office. After I got her out of the tub and dried her off, I sent her off to get her her PJ's on. And then I just sat there in the bathroom, towel in my hand, head bowed, and felt so, so tired. Not just from being sick and taking care of Rowan, but from doing this by myself for the last year. I know I shouldn't complain, but man, sometimes it's hard.

In fact, it's damn hard.

It's hard doing all the work. It's hard being responsible all the time. It's hard taking care of Rowan emotionally and physically. It's hard working a full time job. It's hard not having someone take care of me for a while. It's hard doing the laundry, fixing the food, shopping for groceries, cold medicine, toilet paper, dog food, blah, blah, blah.

Don't misunderstand me. The hard part isn't really the doing of all the work. I can do it all, and I have. And I think overall I'm doing it pretty damn well.

But doing it alone is tiring, and lonely, and sad. I liked the companionship of running a family with Aimee. I liked the teamwork we had. I liked how we gave each other breaks, encouraged each other, supported each other. Loved each other.

That's the part that's hard. Missing that partnership, that camaraderie.

Missing Aimee.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Observations after one year of Missing Aimee

Here are just some random observations after a year without Aimee. These are in no particular order.

I can do this single dad stuff. It took a long time to accept that I was a good solo father, but I did get there. I seriously doubted myself so much the first 8-9 months. But I eventually came to see that Rowan was as happy as a child could be in her circumstances (though she obviously carries a lot of pain), and that she she clearly felt loved, safe, and secure. Additionally, she is well behaved, well-mannered, and sweet. No matter what a child's parenting situation, you absolutely can not ask for more than that.

That being said, I can see seeds of the challenges I may face with her. I already see her questioning things about her mothers' death, and I know that some of the worst of her pain is still likely ahead of her, as she gets older and learns more about the circumstances of her mother's death and how needless it was.

Speaking of single parenting... I've known single moms throughout my life (including both of my sisters and my mom for at least some stretches of time), and across the board I've admired them for all they manage to accomplish. This year I learned firsthand just how difficult that is, especially if it happens suddenly and you're hell-bent on continuing to do everything well. I learned how to let go of some things, and how to get by on a lot less sleep.

All you need is love? The Beatles once sang that "All you need is love". Well, I'm not sure I completely believe that, but it sure as hell goes a long way. Aimee's love made my life a truly wonderful experience, even when life was far less than wonderful. And after her death, the love of so many friends and family members was just amazingly huge, I still can't fully wrap my head around it. Meals, gifts, free child care, words of support and encouragement, prayers, and so much more.

But please take this to heart: people can't truly love you in practical ways unless you let them. That means if you ever find yourself in a situation like the one I was in a year ago, when people offer to help, let them! I know it's not easy. Our culture idolizes the strong, and in some ways, that's OK. But when you're down, people want to help you, and you hurt them when you don't let them. You're not imposing on them by accepting their offer, you're recognizing their love for you, and returning it by allowing them to feel like they're alleviating your pain or worry in some small (or big) way. I know. I was exactly like that once, always one to say "Thanks, but I got it" when someone  wanted to help me in my times of trouble. But after I read "90 Minutes in Heaven" by Don Piper in the summer of 2011, I realized just how wrong this mentality is. And it was a lesson learned just in time for when I'd really need it. Now I'm passing it on to you. If you're going through struggles, don't be an ass and try to shoulder the burden yourself when someone offers to help. Let them help.

Choose to live. After Aimee died, I didn't feel like living anymore. Not that I was suicidal - I wasn't. But my joy for life was gone, as was my joy in all things (yes, even Rowan to some extent). But very early on, I decided, largely for the sake of my daughter, to choose to live every day. Not just to physically live, but to actually re-learn to find the beauty in life, to find enjoyment in things, and to feel happy again. It was damn difficult, especially the first six months. "Fake it 'til you make it" the saying goes. That's what I did. And slowly but surely, I found some joy again. Far more importantly I showed Rowan, by my example, that life does go on, and that it can be good if you choose to make it good.

Many days I still have to consciously choose to have a good day and find happiness and joy. It's often still difficult. But it's easier than it was, and it's a far better way to go through life than being miserable and taking those around you with you.

No one else is you.  No two people's grief is the same, and you can't compare your own grief process to that of others and wonder if you're 'doing it right.' There is no right or wrong way to grieve. There is no right or wrong amount of time before you can laugh again. There is no right or wrong way to remember your lost loved one. There is no right or wrong time before you can find joy. There is no right or wrong amount of time before you can fall in love again. You get the idea. You have to walk your own path, at your own pace, and do what you know in your own heart is truly the best way for you to go. Just keep in mind that this is never an excuse for being callous to the needs of others grieving with you.

Finally, let go of fear. I have had many fears this first year, some of which are still with me to some degree or another. Early on, I was afraid that most of my friends would move on from this tragedy and get on with their lives, and I'd be alone in my grief. And while slowly most of my friends have moved on from this, they haven't done so and left me behind. They've stayed by my side, checking in and just being available when I've needed them. I have not felt alone.

I have also feared for my own safety a lot more. Before, in the back of my mind, I knew that if something happened to me, Rowan would have Aimee. Now I'm it. I am more cautious than I used to be. More paranoid in dark parking lots, that sort of thing. I don't know if that will change. Perhaps it shouldn't.

There have been others. Fear about being a terrible parent. Fear that I won't find love again. Fear that our household won't be able to get by on one income. And so on and so forth. I have had to either learn that the fear was unfounded (I'm not a terrible parent), or that I'll just have to do what I can to address it, such as simply being more careful with my health and well-being.

I have chosen to live, but I will not do so enveloped in fear.