Recently, in an interview that I did, I spoke about “riding the wave of grief.” It is much more empowering than feeling engulfed by the waves that come. What I find most interesting is how memories seem to seep back in with no rhyme or reason. Today I am missing my cat who disappeared on May 5th, 2013. I had resolved my grief at the time and knew that I was just calling up a memory to process. I have become very clear about the difference between unresolved grief and sadness that appears to be experienced. I am able to move through these feelings and they pass gently into the happy memory, or at least a neutral one.
I was taking a walk by the river this morning, something I have done many, many times since my cat Magic had disappeared 6 years ago. As I walked along this morning, I remembered how she would walk along beside me chatting away until a certain point. I was never sure how she had determined that point in the walk, but she always stopped in the same place. She had been a feral cat with great hunting skills. I let her domesticate herself as much as she wanted to and she stayed in the house lots during the winter months, but preferred to be out in her cat ways when the weather was better. I knew that keeping her inside would be much safer for her, but I was not willing to bend her to my ways when she was so happy being the little alpha female hunter cat!
So this morning all of that flooded back to me and I just let it flow. For whatever reason, today, I wanted to walk along chatting with my cat again. I cried and let the sadness of her not being here wash over me and acknowledged that I missed her this morning. And then I felt the sadness change a bit and lessen in sadness while moving toward happiness, that she had found me and chosen me to take care of her. A smile came to my face from the memories that now reminded me of what she brought to my life in those years that I had gone through divorce and my mother dying. Magic, my cat, was at my side through those years with the kind of unconditional love that our pets bring to us.
Pet loss is often minimized. It is normal and natural to feel this loss deeply. At times people share with me that they had not expected the extent to which they were experiencing this loss. Each relationship with a pet is unique and holds with it, whatever qualities of relationship you have enjoyed with it. So don’t compare or place expectations on how you think you should be “getting through this” better. What causes our grieving are the hopes and desire for either more or better time (if your pet was ill) with your pet.
Sometimes when I tell people it is normal and natural to be feeling what they are feeling, it gives them the freedom to let themselves grieve. When you allow sadness to be expressed, just like the wave, it begins to dissipate as waves come onto the shore. Many times when people are trying to support you, and maybe even in your own mind you fall prey to one of the myths of grief and loss – replace the loss. Many times this is learned in childhood from parents who are just trying to soothe their distraught child.
While I have another feral cat that has adopted me, this morning I remembered and honored the feelings of loss that showed up on this beautiful fall day. And I cried a minute or two as I walked and was smiling by the time I had gotten back home. Being out in nature helps me remember cycles and rhythms of life. Remembering my cat as a hunter cat reminded me that she was a part of the cycle that she disappeared into that night.
If you feel like you are stuck and unmoving in your sadness over the loss of a pet, I invite you to consider grief recovery work with me – the Grief Recovery Method is an evidence based program that gives you the action steps to move through to complete the pain you may be holding on to over the loss of your pet.