Dealing with Pet Loss: A Lesson in Grief and Love

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This is a post I do not want to write, because I don’t want it to be true. But, I want to let other people out there suffering the pain from losing their beloved cat that they are not alone.

On Mother’s Day of 2015, I woke up alone. Sometimes Henry spent the night around the house, sleeping on different windowsills or maybe the back of the couch.

But that morning turned out to be very different than my previous mornings without him. We noticed our dog behaving strangely out in the woods of the 10 acre property we moved to recently. A quick check revealed Henry’s bow-tie collar, fur…and blood.

We covered over 25 acres of land trying to find him, and had to conclude that he was killed – most likely by a coyote.

As you can imagine, I was devastated. I screamed, I cried, I shook. I considered every possibility. Maybe he escaped, but was lost and too scared to come out. I walked the entire property calling his name in every tone I could. Maybe he’d cry out if I sang his name the way he liked.

Or maybe if I shook a can of wet food or his jar of catnip, he’d come out of hiding.

It didn’t happen.

My best little friend, who was merely 5 years old, had not only died, but was killed by a wild animal.

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Two days later, I went back to work as a substitute teacher. In front of a particularly unruly class of third graders and after a night of fitful, tearful sleep, I broke into tears. My students’ eyes welled up as I told them something really sad happened in my life that weekend. I knew then that I needed to give myself room to grieve.

I had to remove his litter box, food, and dishes. I would cry anytime I saw the empty spot he liked to sit in my bedroom window, so I rearranged my room and bought curtains. I changed my pillowcase because waking up next to the same one he always slept on next to me was the worst way to remember.

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It’s been just over two months now, and I’m still so heartbroken about it. Some days feel better and I understand that things happen. Meanwhile, some days I feel bitterness towards anyone who still has their cat and shake my fist at the grand unfairness in life.

Of course, everyone processes death differently and everyday is a new test in self-awareness and healing.

I don’t consider myself to be beyond the grief, but I do find that I have more good days than bad days.

Still, I’m still experiencing so many “firsts.” For example, I only interacted with my “first” cat since Henry died a couple of weeks ago. Before, I avoided them so I wouldn’t feel hurt by how acutely they’d remind me of him.

Related Reading: 7 Things That Helped Me Cope with Losing a Cat 

On the two month anniversary of his death, I went to a work meeting at a friend’s house. She has a dog and three cats, so I was a little worried about being around these happy, loving cats and missing my sweet boy.

She introduced all of her cats to me as they made their appearance. The last one sat right next to me on the floor and started climbing up to get on my lap.

“And this guy’s Henry,” she said.

I could feel myself start to shake. How on earth did I not know she had a cat named Henry? How could I possibly behave in a professional, mature manner when this sweet cat named Henry was curled up on me two months after my favorite little cat was killed?

I didn’t cry and I didn’t leave in a hurry, but I did let myself feel all those emotions: pain, loss, sadness…and the warmth and comfort of bonding with such a sweet cat.

There are days when I feel overcome by the desire to adopt another cat and I even have dreams about Henry. I don’t know why he’s gone and I certainly wish he was still here, falling asleep on my windowsill watching the birds and soaking up sunlight.

 

Grief is a painful, heavy burden and it often feels lonely.

Some days, I desperately want to cry and tell people how awful it feels. How heavy my heart is. I was afraid people would tell me to grow up and stop crying over a cat. But then I’d talk to cat parents and friends who told me how much this hurt them, too. People shared stories of the cats they loved and missed, and it helped me recognize that we all have deep relationships with our cats. We can grieve as long as we need.

We can miss them every single day and that’s okay.

If you’ve ever lost a cat or have recently, know that there are many people out there who feel your pain with you. We send you love, understanding, and healing.

Feel free to use the space below to share a story or memory about a beloved cat who touched your life. Give others the chance to see your love and remember with you. <3

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Resources for Coping with Pet Loss:

  • Catherine Wood

    <3 <3 <3

    Losing a pet hurts every single time. Every. Single. Time.

    All we can do is let ourselves grieve and go through all the emotions as they come. Eventually it hurts less and we open our heart to another little furry creature that fills it with love and companionship. You're not alone in how you're feeling. I've been there and so have many others. Both of my dogs are really old so I dread the day when I have to go through the pain of losing them too.

    Hang in there. And enjoy the memories and beautiful photos of that handsome boy!