Grief. Grief is weird. It has been almost 5 months since I lost Muffin to cancer; I thought was past the worst of the grief. I was not “over” the loss of Muffin, I hadn’t forgotten her, but the sting of the loss wasn’t so great. I wasn’t breaking down in tears whenever I thought of her. In fact, Muffin wasn’t in my thoughts much at all. I was thinking instead of Crash, Sneakers, Mama and Little Black. I was thinking of work, bills, life. Then I changed out the litter boxes. Muffin had this thing about clean litter boxes. Whenever I brought up a freshly washed litter box with new litter in it, she would appear from nowhere to use the box. Within minutes of me putting the clean box down Muffin would appear and “christen” it. I thought of this memory a few weeks back when I was changing out the boxes. It was a good memory and I smiled a bit before the floodgates opened and I got smacked with the emotions all over again. I was so sad. From that moment on I was suddenly being reminded of all the goofy things that Muffin and Sam did. I would be doing something completely unrelated and suddenly be crying over my lost cats. I could be in the kitchen cooking and remember how Sam had to sit on the cutting board (we won’t think about how sanitary that was…). Or I would be drifting to sleep and remember my last moments with Muffin, the agony I was feeling at that moment. So I repeat, grief is weird.
Working in the world of veterinary hospitals and animal rescue groups, I am confronted with grief on a regular basis. I have seen so many people lose a beloved pet. I have seen so many different responses to that loss. Some, like me, cry hysterically as they ease their beloved pet’s exit from this life. Others are much more practical about their loss. They understand that having pets means loss. That is the sad reality, our furry friends don’t live as long as we do, so we are going to lose them. Some people cry, others don’t. Some need to be with their pet to the very last moment, while others don’t want to be in the room for the euthanasia procedure. Some people want ashes back, others do not. And ya’ know what? That’s just fine. Everyone grieves differently.
I’ve had coworkers who told me they couldn’t look at pictures of their cat for years after she died. I had one coworker who threw a party in memory of his cat, because he was so loved by so many. Some people want to hold on to the ashes of their beloved pet, keep them on a shelf with a picture and a collar. Others want the ashes to spread in a meaningful spot, perhaps a childhood home or perhaps they even want to bury their cat’s remains somewhere. The first cat I lost as an adult was a cat who was in hospice care with me. He was one of my favorite cats from the shelter I worked at and the two of us had a great bond. When he died I got his ashes back and spread them in a little pond near my house. It was a perfect spot for him because he was obsessed with water, especially running water. We all respond differently to the loss of a pet.
The important part of grief is not how you grieve, but that you do it. Grief is a painful experience, and it shakes the ground on which you live. I was grieving for Muffin before she even died. The anticipatory grief was hard, but the grief after the loss was harder. When I was looking for resources to help me through my grief nothing seemed to fit my needs. So, I am going to write about pet grief. I will write what I needed to read at the time. Hopefully it will help someone with the loss of his/her pet; if not, it has helped me grieve, which is a good start.
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