Posts Tagged ‘grief’

Just a Cat

September 26, 2015 4 comments

My cat died.

Here’s my story.  She was nineteen years old and has been slowing down for the last couple years.  One night after dinner, her back legs collapsed.  She had previously had some trouble in her back legs, one would assume arthritis.  But on this night, she didn’t regain control.  A quick Google search prepared me for the worst.  The next morning, I begged off work and took her to the vet where an enormously expensive series of tests confirmed what I suspected.  She was in kidney failure, and there was nothing more to do.  I made the decision to put her to sleep right then.  You see, she never gained any control of her legs, and the tests confirmed that she was also dehydrated and feeling pretty rotten.  So as much as it hurt to make that tough call, my heart could not tolerate leaving her to suffer.

Long story short, my cat died.  I petted her and talked to her until she stopped breathing.  I made arrangements for her cremation.  Then I went home to drop off my sad, empty cat carrier and fix my mascara and then I went to work.

Let me be clear.  I didn’t want to go to work.  I wanted to sit down by myself and cry, mourn and grieve for my loss.  I wanted to sit still and remember all the sweet moments with this little creature who shared nearly half of my life with me.  Who slept beside me every single night.  Who walked on my neck to wake me up if I slept too late.  Who instinctively knew when I was sad and comforted me better than any human I’ve ever known.

But that’s frowned upon in this society.  If a person died, no one would question me taking a couple of days off work.  There’s even a corporate policy for that.  I’m sorry to say that I don’t love most people half as much as I loved that cat, but society places an awfully low value on the relationships we have with our pets.  My life has not been the same since I lost her.  I don’t sleep well.  I keep thinking I see her sleeping on my bed.  Every time I open the pantry, I see the leftover cans of soft food we gave her when she started to lose weight.  I miss her so awfully that even thinking about it brings me to tears these weeks later.  And I don’t mean silent weeping.  I mean the kind of soul-shaking ugly cry that you normally only see on hospital dramas.  But I feel foolish.  Because she was just a cat, right?  Cats die all the time.  And it’s true.  I’ve lost two other cats previously, and that wasn’t easy, either.  But.  She was nineteen.  I rescued her when she was found on the side of the road at four weeks old, sick and abandoned.  She was my companion for all of her life and half of mine.  And now she’s just gone.

I miss her terribly and I suspect that I will continue to miss her for a very long time.  Even though she was just a cat.  Just a cat who tried to sleep on my throat every night.  Who snuggled into my arms like a human baby.  Who stole the occasional tuna snack from the other cats.  Who loved me most and best for all of her life.  Who came into my life when I was barely into my twenties and newly married and traveled my journey by my side until I was old enough to have a kid driving.  Who outlived two other cats and tolerated two others, plus an obnoxious dog.  Who gave my children dirty looks for all of her life because she had seniority.  Who I could always count on to be by my side, no matter the circumstances.

Those of us who love pets will, at some time, have to say goodbye to them.  And we have to mourn quietly, because they were only animals and most people won’t understand our grief.  Anyone would understand the horrific pain if we lost a friend of nineteen years, but they expect me to be fine now.  Because she was just a cat.

What they don’t understand is that I just lost a friend of nineteen years.


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This Day is Difficult

May 9, 2012 5 comments

On this day, I am made of glass.  I am fighting horrific images of hospital corridors, midnight tears, funeral songs and saying goodbye to a friend.  It’s the anniversary.  It has come, as it always does, with a heart-wrenching flood of hurt and regret.  I carry an extra burden on this day and I must carry it gently so I don’t do any more damage.  I am dangerously close to the precipice of grief and it wouldn’t do to slip.

You would think, all these years later, that I would be better in control, but on this day, time doesn’t matter.  On this day, I am transported back and I exist in the past.  I fight the memories fiercely.  I can’t keep living through these most awful moments.  I wait for the year that brings this day without the shards of pain, and I continue to wait, fruitlessly.

Today, I am hurting, but I force myself to find a smile under the darkness.  I am not honoring my friend by holding back tears on this day.  Of course I miss him.  Everyone misses him.  He was the guy that everyone loved, and still remembers with love.  He would smack me on my nose if he could see me on this day.

These are the things that I want to remember on this day.

Pink ping-pong balls, lintless socks, burritos with no onions, roller blading on the track and busting into the school.  Secret long distance phone calls, did you ever see Schindler’s List, freeze outs and goose down pillows.  I’ve got front, headgear is important and fighting over the chunk of fat.  Hello, my name is Stupid.  Holding hands in the dark.  Crying together in a bathroom.  Cooler surfing, Madonna, onion tartlets,  it’s a pterodactyl (caw, caw) and having a wedding by the drink machine.  Ask me if I’m a tree.  You wanna buy a duck?

The things that sound like a ridiculous list of random nonsense are the things that keep me grounded on this day.  These things make me smile and make me happy to have known Matthew even as I cry for the loss of him.  I will never again have a friend like him.  He was full of joy, fearlessness and laughter.  There was never a time when I wasn’t happy to see him.  There was nothing I couldn’t say to him.  I miss him and my heart hurts, but I am so very, incredibly, unspeakably blessed to have known him.

Matthew Lee Montgomery. Pimpin’.

We didn’t have him for nearly long enough, but what we had was incredible.  That is what I choose to remember on this day.

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A Word About Grief

April 11, 2012 8 comments

What I’m about to write isn’t easy for me.  It won’t be easy for some of you to read.  I’ve been putting it off, but now the time has come to let it out of my heart.

Saturday night, our community lost one of our teenagers to a car accident.  While we all mourn, one girl in particular, whom I happen to love very dearly, has lost a friend.  You can see the grief in her blank stare and her half-hearted smile.  She’s mourning a friend and facing her own mortality and it’s hard and it hurts and there’s absolutely nothing any of us can do to make it any better or any easier for her.

Next month marks the sixteenth anniversary of the day that I wore her shoes and my heart still hurts.

I was twenty when I got the call.  You know, the call.  My new husband had a car accident and was in the emergency room.  Whoever drew the unpleasant task of calling me not only had the sense to dramatically downplay his injuries, but also failed to mention one thing.  He was not alone in the car.  When I rushed to his side, I discovered that his ankle was “bothering him” because the bone was pulverized and his hand was hurt because it had been crushed.  In the midst of all his pain and shock and my rush to sign consent forms to get him to surgery, he told me, “Find Matthew.”  Our very dearest friend, the best man in our wedding, the person that we both loved with all of our being, was his passenger.  I was like a crazed woman in the ER.  I peeked behind curtains, I begged nurses for information.  I wandered around like the lost soul that I was until I found a police officer who minced no words and permanently broke a part of me.  I know now that my husband knew it, and I knew it somewhere under all the denial.  We lost our friend that day.

Loss of anyone at any time is never easy.  I don’t intend to address here the loss of a family member, a sibling, or, God forbid, a child.  What I want to talk about is specifically the loss of a friend.  In doing so, I don’t wish to disregard anyone else’s turmoil or in any way suggest that I was hurting worse than anyone else.  There’s something unique about losing a friend at a relatively young age.  For many of us, it’s our first exposure to the reality that anything really can happen to any of us at any time.  Youth does not make you invincible.  It’s a smack in the face to the natural order of things.  When you’re just getting started in life, you don’t expect to have to say goodbyes and it knocks the wind out of you when you do.  I don’t claim to know how everyone handles it.  I can only tell you my experience and maybe in the telling I will heal a little bit more.

To say I was crushed was an understatement.  I literally did not know what to do or where to go.  I stood alone in the ER until someone came.  I can’t remember those moments clearly even now.  My husband was in surgery, doctors were talking to me, at some point my family came to support me.  I remember sitting in a quiet room somewhere until my husband was moved to a room.  Then I had to tell him what his heart already knew.  He was properly dosed with morphine, which is probably the only thing that got him through those first days, as all hell broke loose.  The hospital phone rang off the hook as our friends called to confirm the horrible news.  Our pastor came to pray with us, and I’m ashamed to say that I was so wounded and angry that I left the room.  I stepped outside for a smoke and was confronted with a front page article of the accident, including a picture of the wreckage.  I was twenty years old and I thought I had a lifetime with my friend.  I was not adult enough to know how to deal with the loss and I wasn’t child enough to be protected from it.  It was a full-blown wake up call from reality.  There is no permanence in the world.  No matter how much you love someone, you can still lose them.  And no matter how much it hurts and how much you might wish it, it won’t kill you.  You have to learn how to pick yourself up and move on with that empty space in your heart.

I learned how to do it, through trial and error, but I can’t say that I healed.  If pressed, I might go so far as to say I never recovered.  The experience broke me in a very real way.  I started putting up walls.  The more people I care about, the more I have to lose.  The more I let into my life, the more I will hurt if I lose it.  I don’t mean to suggest that I’m a lonely old hermit.  I am married and I have children and I have a number of acquaintances.  Friends?  Real, true lifetime friends like Matthew?  No.  My heart can’t bear any more.  I know all the reasons that’s wrong, but I can’t overcome it and so I’m at peace with it.  I bear scars and they may not make me beautiful, but they make me real.  They remind me that I can be strong if I have to and they make me feel like I always have to.  To this day I have the most lovely dreams about him and I pray that they represent a spiritual visit from him.  I miss him so much that it hurts to breathe sometimes.

To the girl that I love, I say this.  Be strong, do what you need to do to get through this part.  The next will be a little bit easier and the next will get even a little easier.  It might never stop hurting, but there will come a day when you realize you no longer relive the worst moments again and again.  Keep breathing and hold tight to the memories, but don’t lose sight of tomorrow for too long.  Don’t let it break you.  You are not alone.

When Comfort Isn’t Comforting

February 27, 2012 1 comment

I want to speak of loss and grief, and I know this is somewhat of a departure for me, but it’s weighing heavily on me, and so I shall write.

We’ve all experienced times of loss and grief so big that you felt that you would die of it.  If you haven’t, you are either too young to be reading this or you’re living a charmed life.  We all are also familiar with the helpless and awkward moments of talking to those who are in the thick of a tragedy.  I know that I never know what to say in these situations, and I have to assume that I’m not alone in that, since people often say ridiculous things.  Some of the most common platitudes follow and while I know they’re offered with the best of intentions, I want to bring to light another perspective.  I do not always view things through the rosiest of glasses and these optimistic, supposedly soothing, sentiments often just bring a surge of rage when I’m already emotionally fragile.

Sentiment #1 – It’s darkest before the dawn.

What nonsense.  It’s a nice thought when you’re at your lowest, but as we all know, sometimes when things are bad and it seems that they can’t get any worse, they get worse.  And even if it doesn’t get any worse, it’s a cheap comfort to think the sun will shine tomorrow when you’re not even sure you can make it through the night.  When the pain has swallowed you whole, there is no dawn in sight.  You’re just trying to find your way in the dark.

Sentiment #2 – What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

Let’s face it, if you’re upright and even going through the motions, I suspect you already know that you’re stronger than you ever believed.  That’s probably why it didn’t kill you in the first place.  But it can be hurtful and insulting to suggest that your tragedy is going to benefit you in any way.  Yes, you are strong, you are surviving grief and that is no small feat.  You will come out on the other side with more life experience, and maybe you’ll be stronger.  However, I suspect every one of us would trade that strength to undo what was done in a heartbeat.  This doesn’t comfort.  We don’t want to be stronger.  We want our lives back to normal.

Sentiment #3 – Time heals all wounds.

Please excuse me for a moment, but I have strong feelings about this.  What complete and utter horseshit this is.  Time does not have healing properties.  There are wounds that will never heal and it’s absurd and delusional to suggest otherwise.  It belittles your loss and makes light of your pain.  Time absolutely will not heal your wounds.  In time, you will grow and you will learn to live with it.  But you will never be healed.  It will get easier, in time, but it will never be healed. You will be changed forever, and you’ll learn to deal with that, but you’re going to carry this with you forever.

My last opinion on the subject is not a platitude, but it regards hugging.  People want to hug you when you’re in pain.  I appreciate the healing power that human contact has for some people, but I respectfully request that we all remember that it’s not for everyone.  I don’t generally want people to touch me at any time, I’m not a human contact kind of person.  When I’m emotionally crushed and just barely hanging on, I’m like a house of cards and your hug is a windstorm.  Please don’t indiscriminately hug.

I know I can come across as harsh sometimes.  I cannot stress enough that I completely understand that all of these things come from a place of love and concern.  I just think it’s important to understand how they can be perceived.  It’s hard to shrug things off when you’re completely broken and the most innocent, well-meaning comments can turn hurtful and ugly in those moments.  Most of the time it’s best to just to say, “I’m so very sorry for you.  Please let me know if I can do anything.”

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