Monday, February 24, 2020

Pet Loss: Feeling Lost, Broken in Wake of Parents’ Euthanasia Decision

[Reviewed and updated July 19, 2020]

The heart will break, but broken live on.  ~ Lord Byron

A reader writes: My cat Susie was put down today by my parents. I had some reversals in my life and at 42 ended up having to live with my mom and her husband. I arrived with 2 cats and my mother immediately did not like the kitten and decided he needed to be sent to the pound. I ended up trying to kill myself that night for not being able to care for something I loved so much. I got good help and good medications and made it through.

Now 7 years later I live with a good man and have for 5 years. But he's allergic so my other cat, the lovely and sweet Susie, had to live with her "grandparents." They treated her so well and loved her so much, but her dietary habits were off due to indulgence. I fed her Science Diet and mom essentially fed her Pounces treats. But Susie thrived and was always healthy. Meanwhile, as my 83-year-old stepfather and 72-year-old mother face their own aging and mortality, they sort of put some of their emotions onto Susie and began worrying about her dying. Anyway, they became a little obsessed over the last two weeks with her not eating and being listless. I think she was depressed by my mom's allergy illness and then the two of them crying over her so often. 

Anyway, after many trips to the vet, me included, nothing was really wrong. They have money and spent over a thousand dollars to have every test and x-ray run. They gave Susie an antidepressant with the side effect of appetite increase. She started eating and being her "old self," but then they started worrying again and she stopped eating. After two days, with no diagnosis, they put her to sleep. I was at work and was not asked nor able to come. I had asked previously if they would cremate her if that ever happened and they said yes, but they didn't. 

And now my baby girl is gone and I never said goodbye. I would have brought her home here, allergies of my guy or not, and let her live out her days (or years), but somehow my mother thought that anything short of killing her would be "cruel." She wasn't in any pain and had no disease. How could the vet do this to a non-dying kitty? I'm so lost and broken. Any words would help. Thank you.

My response: I’m so sorry to learn of the circumstances surrounding the death of your beloved cat Susie, and my heart goes out to you.  I can only imagine how difficult this must be for you, especially since your parents were so involved ~ and you had no say ~ in hastening your kitty’s death.

You say that your mother “overindulged” Susie in feeding her, which leads me to believe that she may not have been very objective in her evaluation of Susie’s overall condition or quality of life. Misguided as this decision to euthanize Susie may have been, it sounds as if your parents’ behavior stemmed from fear ~ fear  that Susie was suffering and sicker than she really was, fear that returning Susie to you was not an option because of the allergies, and fear that they could not continue to care for her due to their own aging issues. Their fear may have been irrational, but if it was, I don’t know why their veterinarian would have been willing to go along with their decision to have Susie euthanized. That is a question only their vet can answer. Have you considered calling the office and requesting an appointment with the veterinarian who agreed to euthanize your cat, so you can get your questions answered?

In the wake of all of this, you say you’re feeling lost and broken.  You didn’t get to say goodbye to Susie, and because she wasn’t cremated, you don’t even have her cremains to remember her by. Harsh as it sounds, there is nothing you can do now to go back and change what has already been done ~ but that doesn’t mean there is nothing to be done.

You might think about finding some way to communicate with your furbaby's spirit as a way to say goodbye to her and ask for her forgiveness. That may be by meditating, by writing Susie a letter and saying all you need to say to her, by finding a quiet place and lighting a candle and speaking to her in your mind ~ whatever way you choose is up to you.  It just helps to find a way to externalize and express all those mixed feelings, so you can release them and move forward in your grief process. You might also attend an in-person pet loss support group in your community, or make the effort to find a chat room or message board on the Internet and talk with others whose experiences may be similar to your own.  Sometimes sharing our story in this way enables us to unburden ourselves and to obtain the support we may need from others.

If you haven't already done so, I hope you'll pay a visit to my Grief Healing website. There you may find some of the information, comfort and support you need at this difficult time. Learning what is normal in response to losing a beloved pet can be very helpful, because you will discover that you are not "crazy" or eccentric for feeling the way you do, you'll learn what to expect in the weeks and months ahead, and you'll discover useful ways that you can manage your own reactions. I'd especially recommend that you read the article listed on my Pet Loss Articles page entitled  Loss And The Burden Of Guilt, as I think it addresses a lot of what you are experiencing now. If you decide to participate in our online Loss of A Pet Forum you will discover that you are not alone in what you are feeling, and you will avail yourself of some very caring support and inspiration from others. See also my Comfort for Grieving Animal Lovers page and my Pet Loss Links page, which will take you to many other wonderful sources of support.

I hope this information helps, my dear.  No one can take away the pain you are experiencing now, but I can assure you that you do not have to bear it all alone.

Afterword: You are so kind to take the time to help and be so very understanding.  I will follow your advice and so appreciate the very helpful insights on my mom.  Your words are a gift. Sending all the thanks I can give.

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