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