Grief…

There is one thing humans across the universe have in common, yet bizarrely, in our western cultures, many of us find it difficult to talk about.  That taboo subject is bereavement.  Most of us are familiar with meeting someone who is in mourning.  For so many reasons, it might feel impossible to broach the subject comfortably, if at all.

Grief will affect every one of us at some point in our lives.  We are all destined to know that gut wrenching pain from losing someone or something very dear to us.  The devastating sense of hopelessness, that raw ache in our chest from knowing a precious time in our lives has ended. 

The definition of grief is an emotional response to loss, not necessarily death.

The day my little Oscar was ‘put to sleep’ is the most difficult day of my entire life.  My heart was screaming ‘noooo, no, don’t do it’, but a swirling head was firmly pushing me forward, ‘Yes, YES, you must’

I vaguely recall leaving the surgery without him.  Friday peak time traffic through London was buzzing all around me, the noise and headlights somehow bounced off this grim sense of desolation. 

Driving home in a trance like state, the most powerful emotion was fear.  I was utterly terrified; still am to a lesser extent.  Being fortunate not to have experienced bereavement in the past, I didn’t know what to expect.

There were other options for Oscar.  This is the most difficult part to come to terms with.  I just could not see any of those alternatives being viable for my little Oscar. Whether that was right or wrong, I need to live with that decision for the rest of my life.  Ultimately, I believe it was right for so many different reasons but the bargaining, “what if’s” are a natural progression though anyone’s grief.

Unlike other relationships, the love from a pet is unconditional.  Some might find it difficult to appreciate the bond of love and complete acceptance we share with our “fur-babies”.  Society doesn’t recognise losing an animal to be a significant cause for bereavement.  Consequently, the death of a beloved pet can be amongst some of the loneliest experiences we will ever have to face in our lifetime.

Sharing our lives with a pet has huge guardianship responsibilities.  We are the sole provider of their mental and physical wellbeing.  For many, it can be their only companion or contact with another living being.  When that is removed, it’s hardly surprising we experience the full range of devastating grief.

In the past two weeks, I’ve read about the stages of bereavement.  I swing in and out of the anger, guilt and ‘if only’s’ on a daily basis, sometimes hourly.  The debates with such painful guilt feel eternal; was it mercy or the ultimate betrayal?  I think that question might remain with me forever.  At the core of these emotions, I realise that there is a foundation of acceptance.

For someone with Recurrent Depressive Disorder, a relapse of depression can be the trickiest part of grieving.  I am trying hard not to succumb to Oscar’s death acting like a trigger.  Of course, there is sadness and tears.  I’m desperately keen on processing the full range of emotions, allowing the grief to unfold in its own time.  I read somewhere that “healthy grieving is getting through, not over our loss”.

I’ve never been good at dealing with emotional pain and have gone to great lengths to avoid it, often to my own detriment.  In the past, I might have numbed the pain with mind-altering substances, but this is all completely different territory.  I’m terrified that the grieving process will further complicate my already precarious mental state.  It seems that providing space to feel and work through those painful emotions is my only choice right now. 

It feels a bit like fumbling around in the darkness.  I believe that taking those little cautious steps forward through the pain is a huge achievement in comparison to my past life.  I move forward in the knowledge of whatever causes the deepest sorrow has also been our greatest satisfaction and love.

“Life is a blend of laughter & tears, a combination of rain & sunshine”

Norman Vincent Peale

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40 thoughts on “Grief…

  1. Ann Koplow

    Thank you so much for this wise and beautifully written post. I’m sorry for your loss of Oscar. I have a pet named Oscar, too. I’ve also lost several pets, and have had to make difficult decisions. All the best to you.

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  2. shoe1000

    Cat,
    I think that grief is the one of the largest bases for the cultural dis-ease we suffer. From the loss of the love, nurturing and support that I needed and did not receive from the inception of my life to this point, I suffer from unexpressed grief, sadness and psychic pain. This is where our cultures work will need to come from. How to express it.
    Wonder full post dear friend
    I hear your grief, I do.
    Jim

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Jim. Recently, I’ve thought a lot about grief and loss, not just death. I would agree with what you say. We seem to almost instinctively run from the pain of grief, usually just adding even more pain.
      Thank you for your kind words, they mean a great deal

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  3. sensuousamberville

    I did a post on grief a year or so ago, I am sure you read, on the internet as much information as my post contained, you can peek if you like though.

    Cat there are stages of grief the number varies, but they will change for each, and we bounce between them often. Guilt is the tormentor. More so with a pet that we had to make the hardest decision for. The one that keeps them from suffering. It is sooo hard to make, as we question it constantly. But after the years of devotion that they have for us, we owe them this final act, the one given with such love. Not guilt Cat. only love. We don’t want them to suffer, not even for a second. Cat do not feel guilt please. You did this with love. We move through the stages at our own speed, we bounce back between them a few times, there is no rule, no correct way to grieve. We try to move on though, for the simple reason, the one we grieve for, would want us to. They want us to be happy. 🙂

    As you sit in a chair with your arm drooped you will feel him brush against your fingers, you will catch glimpses of him out of the corner of your eyes. When you do, just smile and remember. No guilt though, he is pain free now and has your love.

    *hugs*
    Amber

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    1. Cat Post author

      Thank so so much, Amber, what you say means so much. I know you are right and, yes, I do feel and catch glimpses of him all around me. You’re right, guilt is the real tormentor, but it does bring me great comfort to know it is a normal process. I try not to get too hung up on those powerful emotions. The only way to get through it is by telling myself everyone goes through the same and it does, of course, get easier. *big hugs*

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  4. jamborobyn

    Such a wonderful post, Cat. I feel as though Oscar’s parting gift was the journey you are taking, the one where you are discovering just how far you have come, your strengths and weaknesses, your ability to survive through the best and the worst that life can throw at you and still stay true to that open, beautiful, loving heart.

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    1. Cat Post author

      That’s a lovely way of thinking about it, Robyn, and I’ve written those words down in my desk diary. Thank you for commenting

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  5. Susan Irene Fox

    Cat, good to see you processing through it. Staying in touch…with us, with your classmates, your teacher…is a healthy way to mourn. And helping Missy go through it, too. As you watch her, you may derive some comfort knowing you’re not alone. Prayed for you this morning, and will continue. We all fumble in the darkness, because we’re human. Yet each step forward brings a little more healthy light and love into your life.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Thank you, Susan, little Missy has been missing Oscar, but she has been getting full attention. I appreciate your kind support and prayers, thanks

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  6. Cate Reddell

    Hi Cat, I haven’t been around much lately but want to say how sad I am that Oscar’s days ended. As I read this post, I was reminded so much of the passing my my cat Penny nearly two years ago. You know one of the most difficult things for me was leaving the surgery without her, with an empty cat carrier. Everyone else standing waiting to pay had their pets with them and I was alone. It was difficult to explain that to people around me. Most were not pet people and just expected me to get over it, but I still miss her today. Sometimes I will be lying in bed even now, and I will sense Penny walking across the covers (as she used to). I’d swear she was right there only to be disappointed. Maybe it’s her way of visiting. 🙂

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    1. Cat Post author

      Cate, I really do understand that you still miss Penny two years down the line. Leaving the surgery with that empty carrier was also my worst point. I will never forget that feeling of utter devastation. I continually catch glimpses of Oscar or get a sudden whiff of his scent (he was a little dirty in the end, bless him!). I do believe their energy – or spirit – visits us. When I touch his scratching post in the garden, I swear I can feel his presence. He was a HUGE presence in our lives, so it is going to take time, as you already know.
      Thank you, Cate, for offering your kind words of support.

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  7. Gel

    What sensuousamber wrote really really touched me and helps me too. Cat you have some really wonderful friends here.

    I could only echo what others have said. I wish I could relieve your guilt as that could hamper or rob you of letting the other aspects of grieving flow through you.

    Your last paragraph says to me that you are moving through your grieving process and deepening in your heart and soul through it. I know it’s not over but you are moving through. Thanks for sharing the process.

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    1. Cat Post author

      I think I am moving through that process, Gel. I’m not sure there is a set process, but certainly a range of emotions we can swing in and out of, in no particular order. I know this is also close to your own heart at the moment with your beautiful chickens. Thank you for your support and encouragement. Hope you’re doing okay

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  8. mm172001

    I can relate so much with the loss of Dexter earlier this year. I am sorry you are going through this loss, I missed class due to Dexter’s death and just said there was a death in the family. That was what it was to me. Would you mind if I re-blogged this?

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    1. Cat Post author

      Thank you Marci. It really does help to know people have experienced the same. It is indeed a loss in the family, sometimes even worse! Please feel free to reblog. I really appreciate your support

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  9. littlevoicetalks

    Speechless. Touched to my bones by your honesty and writing Cat. My Mom just recently had to make the same decision about her own precious Beastie-Boo and she is struggling to come to terms with her loss. I will be showing her this post because you voice everything she was concerned about and i know it will help her in her own grieving process. Thank you x

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    1. Cat Post author

      I’m sorry for your Mum’s loss. It is especially difficult if our lives revolve around our beloved pets. Thank you for your kind words

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  10. Tracesofthesoul

    So sorry for your loss, Cat. I have lost several dear furry friends in the past and each one was different and yet the same in that it is a difficult loss as you so well say, it is not always acknowledged. I shared only with “pet lovers” to avoid the stupid comments like “ah you can get another one”…which is the cruelest thing to say but obviously they have not experienced such losses. I had to put down my Tigger first 5 years ago and the guilt was huge…I looked on the internet and found a few support sites that brought me comfort before the final day. Tigger almost gave a sigh of relief when he saw me for the last time. I knew then it was the right thing to do. I know how much Oscar has been a close part of your life. Bless you and take the time you need to heal, Cat. Oliana xx

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Oliana…Thank you so much for your very supportive words. It really does help to know other people understand and have gone through similar. Apart from the things I shared in my last three posts, it took me days before I told anyone and they were carefully chosen. The decision came suddenly and I still have not been able to tell anyone what lead me to that terrible decisions. As you know, the guilt is never too far away but I am largely at peace that it was the right decision for everyone.
      I always did wonder how I would know when the time was right. A friend assured me that good pet owners know when that dreadful choice had to be made. It is the last kind act we can do for them.
      Thank you

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      1. Tracesofthesoul

        Skinny was my other cat that I delayed putting down for a year…selfish of me but the guilt I had for Tigger was still there …and many kept telling me I was selfish. Oh Boy, never a winner, eh? They are both together as they were most of their lives with my Schnauzer, Desirée who passed on 9/11 of all days…with my daugther and me. Such a sad day…and so many calls from youths worried about the end of the world and I was more focused on my Desirée. Write about, talk to close trusted friends…email me if you like any time…it is a process…we do feel depressed as grief does bring this on and we must go through the process. The guilt, sadness, anger, back and forth, no particular order. I compare it to waves on the ocean…stormy at the beginning, the tide comes in less frequently until a time there are ripples on the water as reminders of nice times spent together.

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        1. Cat Post author

          I can understand delaying that final decision. I have been coping/processing Oscar’s death by deep cleaning absolutely everywhere. Not a thing left un-scrubbed (including Jack!). I had the living room decorated and now in the process of laying new flooring. It’s something I could never have considered when Oscar was here, bless him. I have had some emotional moments, especially finding long lost toys and photographs. As you said, it is all part of the process. I am grateful I still have Oscar’s sister, Missy and Jack. Life would feel so empty without them. Thank you, Oliana

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  11. Cheryl-Lynn

    Grief is a necessary process and sometimes I feel a necessary evil, only because of the pain it causes. And yet, it is also an opportunity to process the love we have for our lost one…to feel the emotions, to slip down in a depressed state is not “depression” but scary,yes; I like to call this taking a pause in honour, respect of this great soul that accompanied us on a journey part way…it sounds like Oscar did this for you and Missey is accompanying you and needs you too as she must surely be grieving as well. Blessings and lots of love on this journey, Cat, Cheryl-Lynn

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    1. Cat Post author

      Thank you, Cheryl-Lynn, for those encouraging words, which I do agree with. Missy is grieving and is getting loads of extra attention. I’ve been on a mad cleaning spree but taking it slowly for her sake. She swings in and out of her own stages of change.

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  12. Tracesofthesoul

    Sounds like you are doing lots of things that is cathartic…let your friends and community here know when you need to talk about Oscar. So glad you do have Jack and Missy …I am sure they miss Oscar too. Blessings, Oliana xx

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  13. Priceless Joy

    I have to agree. Our pets are truly members of our family and losing one is just as painful. I have an old dog (13 years old) and he is a bigger dog and I cringe thinking of the time I may have to have him put to sleep. Hopefully that will be a long way away from now.

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