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“I’m ok, really.” Why I feel like I am not allowed to grieve.

Confessions…

You are going to hear that a lot if you start reading my writing on a regular basis.

Crazy cat lady

Confession #1

I am a crazy cat lady.

Many friends have tagged me in the this picture because it’s no secret. Just the thought of this picture gives me all the feels. I LOVE felines! I love dogs too (we have 3) but I REALLY LOVE cats!  In my 45.5 years on this planet I have only spent my college dorm years without a feline in my house. And most of the time there has also been more than one. Cats are independent, picky, sweet and their purr is the ultimate sound of comfort for me.

In early 2006, just a few months before my wedding, I met the fur love of my life. I clearly remember keeping her in my lap in the car ride home (my now husband was driving) and thinking to myself, “How will I ever love this little thing as much as I love Aimee”?; my cat at the time. Little did I know that she would love me with such crazy abandon that any doubt would quickly be removed. We named her Claire, after one of my students at the time and her middle name was Elisabeth, after my niece, Karen Elizabeth.

Claire in bed

Claire immediately attached to me. She would sit outside the bathroom while I took a shower and cry until I was done. She would follow me around the house and plop down in my lap the minute I sat down. She would run across the room if I called her name, and she would wait by my bed after I had kids just a steal a few minutes with me alone.

I was her entire life. From the ages of 3 months to 13.5 years her world was me. No matter how often I was gone, vacation or just for the day, she was always anxious to see me. She had the softest fur you have every touched on a cat and between her fur and the constant purring she did around me, she was my therapy. For 13 years.

The last 10 years of her life she suffered from kidney failure; in various forms. Whether it was UTI’s, vomiting or dehydration, it was always there in some form. As she got older these things became more frequent and her treatment became more extensive and expensive. The last 6 months of her life, we had to give her daily IV fluids, supplements and  canned prescription cat food. Many thought that I was crazy for spending so much time and energy on a cat but she was my baby. I would have done anything.

On the morning of June 21, I awoke to find her in her normal morning spot. I went to pet her and noticed something was different. I touched her head and she looked up at me but did not move. I picked her up and held her like a baby, which I always did, and she opened her eyes a little more. When I tried to put her on the floor, she collapsed. Unable to stand. Her body was shutting down.  At that moment I knew what I had to do.

My husband was out of town, and simply by happenstance,  I had a babysitter scheduled to come that morning. I called her and asked if she could come by ASAP. When she arrived we all got in the car and drove to the vet. As my angel babysitter sat in the car for over an hour with my kids, I said good bye to my fur baby girl. Her passing was very peaceful and I can honestly say, she purred the entire time she was in my arms. I held her even after and baptized her with my tears. I have never cried so much in one hour in my life.

Two months to the day later, life has marched on. I am laughing, going on vacation, doing all the back to school shopping, taking care of my kids, etc. Life has carried on and things will be good again. But I will never be the same. Claire changed me and the fact that I don’t get to hold her and hear her purring into my ear every night haunts me.

All of us experience grief, for a variety of reasons in our lives. Loss of a job, dream, family member.

Child.

I have too many friends that have experienced child loss. One of my oldest (like I met her in 6th grade) friends has a child that never left the hospital. Another delivered a child that was too premature to make it. And yet another one brought her child home from China, loved, cherished and poured into her for 3 years then suddenly lost her after countless prior surgeries and a long, gut-wrenching, thousands of people praying for miracles battle.

I am in no way comparing my loss to theirs. IT IS NOT THE SAME.

But loss, of any kind needs to be grieved. And most of us, when we loose a friend or a pet for example, feel like we are not allowed to grieve. Or simply don’t know how.

“Just let it go” is not as easy as it sounds.

So for those that know me well, if they ask how I’m doing I simply say, “I’m ok , really” because I have to be ok. Because life has to continue. But if I told you nights are not hard for me I would be lying. And if I told you I sometimes expect her to come bouncing around the corner looking for me, that would also be a lie. And If I told you that our other pets are filling in the gap with their mere presence, that too would be a big old lie.

Because they can’t. They can’t take Claire’s place.  Please don’t ever tell a grieving mother anything like “at least you still have children”. That’s just a pouring salt into a very large and seeping wound. And honestly fairly cruel.

So to all the grieving mothers out there I am sorry. Sorry that others think that you should be over it by now. Sorry that others compare your grief to that of a pet. It’s not the same.  Sorry that others like myself feel that because they have been touched with grief they think they know how you feel.  We don’t. It’s not the same.

The only thing that is “the same” is that we both need to grieve. In our own way, in our own time. With others who will let us. And lift us up. And simply be there.

Although she was, “just a cat” Claire is irreplaceable. Her absence leaves a gap in my heart.  A gap honestly that I don’t want filled with anything but the knowing she will always be with me.

So let those of us who are grieving the “smaller” things grieve too. Maybe if we all have permission to grieve we can create more kindness, understanding and cooperation in this world in which we were made to dance. For the one who both gives and takes our very breath.

 

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-4

“For everything there is a season a time for every activity under heaven.

A time to be born and a time to die.

A time to plant and a time to harvest.

A time to kill and a time to heal.

A time to cry and a time to laugh.

A time to grieve and time to dance.”

 

 

Dawn