Today is 31st January 2015. It is one whole, long, month since my beautiful, sweet cat Miss P died on New Year’s Eve. I had to let the vet put her to sleep. It was, and still is, absolutely heartbreaking.
I still can’t believe she is gone, and the grief is heavy. Together, with her brother, we have been a team for almost 14 years – through relationships, moving homes, countries and illness. They were never apart and his grief is palpable, he is missing a part of himself. She had the sweetest nature and life feels wrong without her. We both miss her terribly.
Losing my darling Miss P has hit very hard. She was a beloved family member, with a distinctive character and role. My memories of the past month are just of numbness, restlessness and endless tears, hoping that the next day won’t feel so desperately awful. Miraculously, in the past two days, something has started to shift and a blanket of acceptance is starting to settle alongside the pain. I am reminded that grief and the mourning process are not static, slowly you begin to move through the stages. It has a purpose.
In struggling with my own grief, my antennae are alert for how others navigate or respond to grief in general and this has led to one recurring observation:
People know what to do with the grief stricken when a person dies. There are formalities, cultural or religious rites, and generally there’s etiquette. (Even then, many people still don’t know what to say or how to act with those left behind).
However, people don’t have the same societal templates as to what to do with the grief stricken when a beloved pet dies.
Perhaps because of this the ‘get over it, get another one, chin up’ school of response looms large. It hovers and buzzes around the ether, silencing you. The subtext being you must face this grief alone. Society has no time for this, grief for pets, as if there is something weak and shameful in grieving openly for a close bond with any being but human.
Speak to others and do a simple search online and you quickly realise you are not alone. Millions feel deep grief when animal companions die. I’d venture to say, a majority. Mourning for the connection, love and life lost is a natural response. We often have closer, more constant, and certainly more uncomplicated relationships with our pets than with most humans so it makes sense that their loss is devastating to us. Therefore, it seems sad to me that a minority shaming view holds sway in public.
I am not prepared to diminish or allow other’s to diminish my grief, my feelings, my love for Miss P, simply because she was a different kind of being, a cat rather than human. My heart aches. I don’t believe that by allowing my grief I am denigrating others grief for the loss of those close to them, human or animal.
Interestingly, some of the greatest compassion and understanding I’ve encountered has been from those who have experienced terrible and unjust loss. As one of these friends put it ‘loss is loss and pain is pain, nothing is less or more’.
People experience a huge variety of traumatic events and clearly some appear to be more traumatic than others. But, I really believe there is no set-in-stone scale which allows any of us to dictate to anyone else that one pain has precedence over another. So this is where I struggle with the less than empathetic ‘get over it’ school of response – for anything actually.
It is sad and painful to witness someone grieving, often hard to be around. Grief makes many people uncomfortable. I get that. But I know for sure that trying to diminish another’s grief for anything – human, animal, relationship etc – does not help.
None of us have the exact same life pattern so we can’t expect to know completely why other’s feel as they do. Nor can we impose how we, or society, think others should or should not feel in any given situation, especially with loss – but what we can do is listen, try to understand and let our empathetic nature lead our response. Wouldn’t that be more compassionate, more helpful?
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February 25, 2015 at 07:05 —
I’m so sorry about Miss P. I lost my loving guy Blu in Oct most likely to predators that were near my home but I never found him. The whole experience seriously traumatized me and left me with heavy grief. In the middle of this horrible week a friend mocked me when I said (with tears in my eyes) that I was bonded to my cat. She plainly informed me that people bond to humans, not pets. She tried to shame me in my grief and it cut me to the core. The most important thing I have learned is the idea that pain, grief, sorrow, it’s not a competition to see who is most worthy of their expression. The worst thing one can do is not show love and empathy to others. To judge and invalidate people’s feelings over any type of loss is cruel. I still cry almost every day over the loss of a sweet, loving friend I will alway cherish. To not have closure over what happened to him complicates the grief process. I know in the future I will only have the deepest respect for grief others feel when they experience loss.
February 25, 2015 at 12:40 —
Thank you for your comment, and I really feel for you with your loss of Blu. It is so hard.
The experience you describe with your friend cannot have helped. Please don’t feel shame in your grief. I think millions more would understand it than not.
That’s been my experience through sharing in this post, and I hope you can get comfort too from those with a more understanding & empathetic approach.
April 17, 2015 at 23:15 —
Thank you for your beautiful post LC, it comforted me over the loss of my beautiful little dog who was put to sleep today. He was 18 and couldn’t go on so I feel it was right but don’t know how I will cope without him. My husband is very disabled and has dementia so Finn was my companion.
AK, it must make it so difficult to have your loss compounded by not knowing what happened. I find it difficult also that people prioritise humans over other species, all living things deserve our respect, and our relationship with a companion animal can be so profound.
Sending you love and hopes that you will find peace of mind and consolation.
October 16, 2015 at 13:02 —
Dear Ali Jane
Please excuse my slow response – I took a few months pause from my blog.
Thank you for your comment. I hope you are coping ok, I really feel for you with your loss. Sending you strength, and condolences, LCx