Monday, February 18, 2019

Pet Loss: Cannot Stop Crying

Where he is really buried, and where he is, and where he always will be, is in my heart.  ~ Cleveland Amory, in The Best Cat Ever

A reader writes: I lost my kitty, Sunny today and my grief is overwhelming. I knew this was coming because she was diagnosed with a bad heart four months ago. She was only 5 years old. We (me and my daughter) did everything we could, lots of doctors, lots of meds and lots of tests. Each time she came home from the hospital, she had her quality of life back, if only for 2 to 3 weeks and then back to the doctor. This week she was at the hospital for 3 straight days with nothing helping and she became so ill and was so tired with the heart of hers. This morning it was determined that her kidneys and liver were affected and there was nothing they could do. And she was so tired. She passed away at 9:00 AM this morning and I cannot stop crying.

My response: I am so very sorry to learn of the untimely death of your beloved kitty Sunny this morning, and I can only imagine how difficult this is for you and your daughter. You say that since Sunny died, you cannot stop crying, but I can assure you that your reaction is normal. Oftentimes the attachments we have to our animal companions are even stronger than those we have with relatives, simply because our animals are with us every moment of every day, and weave themselves into every aspect of our daily lives. The unconditional love they offer us is pure and innocent, quite unlike the relationships we have with human loved ones. The grief we feel at losing them is very real, and worthy of our respect and our attention. (See, for example, Pet Loss: A Disenfranchised Grief )

Also, because your beloved kitty was taken from you at such an early age, it is quite understandable that you feel as if your heart has broken into little pieces, and fearful that the tears will never stop. I hope that you and your daughter will give yourselves permission to get such feelings out ~ I would be far more concerned if you were holding all those feelings in and hiding them from each other. Grief is the price we pay for loving our dear pets so much, and it is both normal and healthy to feel and express deep sorrow and pain when they die. I hope too that you will consider and celebrate the fact that you two are healthy and warm-hearted enough not only to have loved this creature dearly and cared for her so devotedly, but also that you are fortunate enough to have each other to share in this deep sorrow as you travel this grief journey together. You might also consider finding and using some of the information, comfort and support for pet loss that you'll find on the Internet, including my own Grief Healing website and the Pet Loss Forum on our Grief Healing Discussion Groups site.

I don't know what you've decided to do with Sunny's remains, but you might see if the two of you can talk about this with each other and plan and construct some sort of beautiful memorial ritual in Sunny's honor. You can make her burial or the arrival of her cremains as special a time as possible ~ think of it as a memorial service for your beloved, and plan it out accordingly. Here are just a few suggestions:

- If you had Sunny's body cremated, you can display the box or urn containing your kitty's cremains in a special place of honor in your home. This does not have to be where others will see it (unless you want it to be) ~ it can be in a private place such as your master bedroom, for example, and you can place her picture there along with a flame-less votive candle or any other objects that you choose ~ whatever you do is up to you. The point is to do what brings you comfort and whatever enables you to remember her with love. Keep in mind that death may have ended Sunny's life here on earth, but it did not end the relationship you have with her. The bond you have with this kitty remains, and her spirit will be with you just as long as you keep her memory alive in your hearts and in your minds.

- If you choose to do so, you can place a portion of your kitty's cremains or a piece of her hair in a special locket or container that you can carry with you. (If Sunny was cremated, be prepared for what you will see when you open the container. Cremation is a process that returns your kitty's body to its elements through intense heat and evaporation. It results in a quantity of ash as well as tiny fragments of bone which are processed, reduced and placed in the container that is returned to you. Cremated remains are odorless and can be stored indefinitely, so you and your daughter will have plenty of time to decide how and when you wish to deal with this, and you can plan accordingly.)

- You can pick a place in your yard or in the country that holds special memories for you and your kitty, and bury her body or her cremains (or scatter all or a portion of her cremains) there, as a way of releasing her body and spirit back to the earth and sky.

- You can keep her cremains in an urn that is sealed in a niche, then placed in a columbarium (an arrangement of niches, indoors or outdoors) at a pet cemetery or crematory, or you can bury her body in a pet cemetery.

- Even if you have neither Sunny's body nor her cremains, you still can construct a beautiful place of remembrance where you can go to be with her in spirit ~ by planting a shrub, a rose bush, a tree, or a garden in your yard ~ or by setting aside a special place in your home with photographs of her, where you can go to think about and remember her.

- Visit some of the links I've listed on the Memorializing A Pet page of my Grief Healing Web site, where you will find all kinds of other suggestions and ideas. Your options are as broad as your imagination.

I hope this information proves helpful to you. In the meantime, please know that you and your daughter are in my thoughts and prayers.

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