Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Learning To Grieve Again




She died a month ago today. It seems like an eternity, but it's only been 30 days. I didn't know if I'd ever be ready to write about it, but here I am.

By "she, " I mean our cat, Eleanor. I guess I should count myself lucky that this is the first time I've had to experience the death of a pet as an adult, but it has been weirdly harder than I ever thought. I didn't expect it to be easy, obviously, but it seems much more difficult this time than I remember it being as a child. In some ways, it's been harder than the deaths of friends and family members, and I think for the same reason: I was responsible for her. She was mine. I was supposed to keep her healthy, keep her safe, keep her alive...but I couldn't. 

I second-guess every decision we made in the weeks leading up to her death. She had always been more reclusive than her brothers, so I wonder if it took us longer than it should have to realize she was sick and take her to the vet; it seemed to happen so fast, but how does a cat lose three pounds so quickly?  I wonder if we should have taken her for a second opinion when our vet didn't seem certain of what was causing her illness, or even after she did--pancreatitis-- but the steroids and antibiotics didn't seem to make her well. I wonder if we had done exploratory surgery if she would still be alive. I wonder if my seeing her getting "better" at times was more hope and blind optimism than reality.  I wonder if my force-feeding her every few hours to help her gain weight caused her pain. I wonder if she was happy with us and if she felt loved. 

I really didn't think she was going to die. 

The vet didn't either. We had taken her back for a check-up (one in a series of many) on a Tuesday, and she had gained more weight back--likely due mostly to the frequent force-feedings. The vet told us she was headed in the right direction and that we should wait to decide on exploratory surgery. I asked if waiting would be putting her in danger; I didn't want to put her through unnecessary pain, but if waiting was doing further damage to her body, I didn't want that either. I didn't want to risk her life, and I asked if I was. The vet said no. 

Five days later, on Easter Sunday, we woke up to find her laying under the kitchen table, and when I reached down to pet her, she was cold and stiff. That moment is burned into my brain. It has replayed over and over the past 30 days, forward and backward, in slow motion. 

I'm not good at grieving. I know what I should do, but in the moment, going through it myself, all of that seems to go out the window. I'm really good at compartmentalizing during the crisis phase, but when I try to process it afterward, I get easily overwhelmed by emotions. For me, grieving is a slow process, and one that I have to re-learn each time--and this is part of that. It won't do to stuff everything down and pretend I'm not hurt, or try not to think about her. She deserves better than that; she deserves to be remembered as much in death as she was loved in life. Even though I'm sitting here finishing this post with tears running down my face, I know it's necessary, and healthy, and a good start to learning to grieve again.  

1 comment :

  1. You did exactly what any mama would do, which is everything you possibly could. I know how frustrating it is to try everything and still not get any answers, but that is far beyond your control. My first fur baby is still living, so I cannot fully empathize but I've imagined it and that is hard enough, so allow yourself to grieve without guilt or doubts. She obviously knew she was loved and was happy because of how this is affecting you. I hope you can get to a place soon where the first memories that come to mind are not hard or traumatizing, but the moments that were sweet and funny. Sending lots of love your way. xx

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