A few of you may have heard that one of my cats died recently. Harry, so named for the lightning-strike-shaped black and white markings on his leg, was hit by a car a fortnight ago. Readers, I was devastated. Completely and utterly, hysterically and uncontrollably distraught. I had to leave work to go home and ‘be sad’, as Anna so succintly put it.
Harry’s first ever photo.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but it turns out that grieving for a pet is not dissimilar to grieving for a human. If you’ve never had a pet, or never lost your pet, believe me-I know that sounds mental. I thought that when one of our much-loved kittens died (way, way, waaayyyy in the future) that I would be quite sad and cry and miss the cat very, very much. I was not prepared for a fully-fledged demonstration of the Kübler-Ross model
. When Phil phoned me at work to tell me that he’d found Harry lifeless in the garden, my first words were, ‘No, don’t be silly…’ I then cried A LOT down the phone at Phil, who in turn was clearing his throat and sniffing LOT. When the crying was under control I was furious-who would hit a tiny cat in their car and drive off without even attempting to help? What kind of ******* ******* does that? There was much yelling in the direction of the telephone and all that Phil had to say in response, obviously, was ‘I don’t know, baby…’
Bargaining seems to me to be the cruelest of the five stages of grief. When you are grieving a death, there is no bargain you can make with any higher power that will reverse the pain you’re going through. And yet we try. I told Phil we should have raised Harry as an indoor cat (ridiculous notion-he could catch rabbits twice his size and bring down 2 pigeons with one swipe, that boy was NEVER made to live indoors), I promised God that I’d never let Lucy outside again and that I’d buy the expensive cat food if we could just have Harry back, please. Bargaining hurts.
And then came the inevitable. The crushing sadness and depression. And ohholyhell we were sad. So.much.crying. And not just from me. But mostly from me, I’ll be honest. It felt like I was the saddest girl in the world and that everything bad that could possibly happen to one person was happening to me, to us. It felt like if Harry was fine and scaling the living room curtains and licking the dining room chairs then everything else would be ok too. Which is, of course, nonsense.
Finally, acceptance. Of sorts. I am still angry that someone hit our little cat and didn’t take him to a vet. I still feel guilty that I didn’t make more of a fuss of him when I fed him his breakfast that morning. I still, though with reduced frequency every day, expect to hear him head-butting his was through the cat flap at warp speed. We’ll always miss him, but the sting of loss is gone.
The only difference I found in grieving for Harry the cat, rather than my beloved Nanny or my best friend’s father, was the length of time it took to ‘officially’ grieve. Grieving for a person takes a lot longer. The stages are more drawn out, the gaps between them more pronounced. I had to leave work the day Harry died, so extreme was my sadness. The next day I was back at work, bleary eyed but able to focus, not at all on the edge of erupting into tears. I was ‘ok’. I’d gone through all five stage of grief and come through the other side, in one day. Exhausting, yes. But quite efficient.
I learnt a lot, that horribly sad day two weeks ago. That people will come through for you, when you need them. That my friends are amazing and that my husband will do almost anything to protect me from pain. And that grief is grief. No matter who you’re grieving for.
Readers, what are your experiences of grief? Everyone is different, certainly…