It’s Important to Say Goodbye – The Human Opines

I am writing this post from the depths of the rawness of recent grief. My beloved Jasmine followed her brother Tucker across the Rainbow Bridge three days ago.  Tucker and Jasmine were in my life for 17 years but no matter how many years we have with them, we still want more.

As I suffered through the loss of Tucker in February someone asked me how old he was. When I said 17 the person said, “Well, at 17 he had a good run.” I don’t believe this comment was made to hurt me but it did. This is not the first time someone has dismissed or belittled the grief I’ve suffered at the loss of a fur kid.

It was Tucker’s loss that prompted me to enroll in a certificate course for pet bereavement counseling. I had no idea I would be grieving his sister only four months later and that I would become my own bereavement counselor.  

I am learning that each loss is unique and grief takes many forms.  The circumstances of the loss of our cats vary, sometimes we have to make the decision to help them over the Rainbow Bridge, and other times that decision is taken out of our hands when our felines pass away suddenly or, we may never have closure as they just disappear.  

Grief isn’t logical

Loss is always traumatic but when the loss is sudden or unexpected it can affect us very deeply and for an extended period of time.

This was the case with my beloved coal black, green-eyed mellow tempered and loving Buster. Buster never insisted on anything. He always expressed pleasure at every petting he received, every treat he was offered and every stroll around the back yard. We shared twelve wonderful years together until the evening we were sitting together in the downstairs TV room. He woke from his nap with a scream, had a seizure and died. It was 11:00pm and there was nothing I could do until the next morning. I wrapped him lovingly in a blanket, placed him in a carrier and put him in my car in the garage. My logical mind said, “He’s gone.” My heart and emotions said, “What if you’re wrong?” I worried that it had all been a horrible mistake and that he’d be sitting up in the box wondering why he was in the car. I went out to the garage several times during the night to check on him.

Buster’s ashes were spread in the beautiful memorial rose garden behind my veterinary clinic. I couldn’t bring myself to visit that garden. I moved along in life, shedding tears when I found a favorite toy of his, looked at photographs and when the tape of the moment of his death ran in my head. I believed that time would heal my broken heart and I soldiered on.

It was about a year later I decided I wanted to bring a kitten into the family. I was excited (who doesn’t love a kitten?) and entered the kitten room at the shelter with anticipation. The room was full of sweet little guys – and all of them were black. I felt my chest constrict and my eyes filled with tears.  I ran out of the room and the shelter. There was no adoption that day and not for many months later.

Black cat in the garden

Traumatic Grief

My logical mind couldn’t understand my reaction and it was only when I was working through my  bereavement counseling course that I began to understand the particular grief I suffered at Buster’s death.

I watched Buster suffer at the end. I never had a chance to say good-bye. I couldn’t stroke him and tell him how much I loved him in his last moments of life.  His sudden and traumatic death left me with many unresolved feelings.

According to the Ralph Site, a pet loss support group, “Sudden and unexpected pet loss can cause pet parents to exhibit physical and emotional symptoms of shock. If your bereavement has just happened – or you’re reading this on behalf of someone it’s just happened to – you may find yourself shaking, experiencing palpitations, headaches, stomach aches, sleeplessness and more. Some people even show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is defined as ‘recurring memories and a heightened state of arousal that lingers for more than a month after a traumatic event’. You don’t even have to have witnessed your pet’s passing to feel traumatized. Sometimes not having been there can be just as painful.”

I realized that the loss of Buster had traumatized me in a way that my other losses had not.  Please make no mistake, every loss is traumatic but my reaction to this death was unhealthy and extended.  My mind constantly cycled through the same questions, “Did I do something wrong? Why didn’t I see this coming? Did I take care of him the best I could? Did he know how much I loved him?” The tape of his passing played repetitively in my head.  I felt tormented.

Healing and moving forward

There is no timeline on grief, every situation is different, every person is different and therefore there is no one size fits all formula to recover from the grief you feel.  In sharing my journey to healing my hope is that there will be something in these five points those suffering from the loss of their cat or other pet can take and use to find their own healing. They a re helping me deal with the loss of Jasmine.

1-Feel Your Pain: No one likes to hurt but not allowing the grief to work itself through is unhealthy, physically and mentally. As awful as it is, there is healing in feeling the pain.

2-Accept solace from those who understand: Find the people who will cry with you, comfort you and who understand the grief you are feeling. Stay away from those whose attitude is, “It was only a cat.”

3-Stop the Distressing Tape in Your Head: This is not an easy thing to do. I am a person of faith and when that tape starts running I stop it with prayer. If prayer isn’t part of your lifestyle acknowledge what is happening and refuse to let the tape play. Replace those images with thoughts of happy days, remember the joy and love you shared with your cat. Refuse to allow the tape to play and every time it starts, fix your mind on something else.

4-Dump the Guilt: Refuse to play the “what if” game. Remind yourself of the care and love you lavished on your cat, focus on the wonderful times you had together, not the last moments of your cat’s life. The fact that you are grieving so much is a testimonial to the love you had for your fur kid.

5-Don’t dwell on the death, honor their life:  Honoring your cat’s life needs to be done in the way that is best for you. Some people write a letter, some set up a memorial, some talk to others about their cat; some have a memorial service or another memorial type of activity.

My closure and healing will come soon not just for Buster but for my recently deceased and beloved Tucker and Jasmine. I will go, for the first time, to the rose garden where their ashes have been spread and I will remember them with some friends who also have recently lost their beloved fur kids. I will celebrate their lives and the love they brought into my life.

The answer is……..there is no answer

We all grieve differently and we move through our grief differently. The key is moving through it so that it isn’t detrimental to our physical and emotional health.  This is why it’s so important to say goodbye, in whatever way is best for us as it will help navigate this rocky path of grief. When we say a proper goodbye to our beloved felines we find that in time (and that time is different for everyone) we focus on our cat’s life and how much we loved them, and not the loss. Our memories of them will be full of the happy days, the joy and the love.

Wherever you are on your journey of grief, I hope that you will find some help from my story. If you do not have supportive, understanding people around you, I highly recommend The Ralph Site Facebook page and group to share your story. You are always welcome to have a discussion in this blog in the comments or contact me directly. Don’t suffer alone, there are many of us who understand what you are going through.

59 thoughts on “It’s Important to Say Goodbye – The Human Opines

  1. Oh, I am so sorry for the loss of Jasmine, and Buster and Tucker, and and and

    It hurts every time. I also really resonated with your running out of the shelter when confronted with kittens and unresolved grief. I, too, have had that experience. Peace and healing to you and yours.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We are so sorry about Jasmine (And Tucker…and Buster…) We just lost our Oscar, who had CKD (I believe we asked you about the kidney treats Jasmine liked so well and you helped us get some for O.) Like you, there are other cats here, but they are themselves, not Oscar. We lost calico Lulu in Feb. their lives are so short…Purrs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so sorry about Oscar. CKD is nasty and unpredictable. I had blood work done on Jasmine last week and everything was great and then she had a stroke on Sunday night. Praying for your sad heart.
      Anita

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  3. There are always insufficient words when our beloved pets say farewell, all we can do is know and remember times shared, loved shared. And thank you for sharing your times together with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m so sorry for the loss of Jasmine, Buster, and Tucker. The age does not matter, there is never enough time with them. I know how it hurts to lose an animal friend, and I still cry over those I’ve lost in the past. I hope we can all find peace and comfort, sending hugs and purrs.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I had the exact same thing happen when my black cat, Pandora, died. It was horrible. Two others have just fallen over dead from cardiomyopathy. There was nothing I could do. The grief is real, the despair and being helpless to do anything is real. I hope that sometime in the future, if you feel able, you will bring another cat or two into your home. All cats need a loving and safe sanctuary and that is what you have in your home. All of you will be grieving for awhile. My heart aches for you.

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    • Thank you. I know people who say they will never bring another cat into their home and heart because of the pain of the loss but that pain is so small in comparison to the wonderful loving years we had together.
      I’m so sorry about Pandora and hope that your heart is healed and your memories of her are only happy ones❤️

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  6. Oh meow is me what dreadful news. Too many of my dear furiends seem to be crossing the rainbow bridge. I was just getting used to Mr. Tucker moving there, now Ms. Jasmine, too….My consolation is that while the earthly body passed, the spirit is eternal…. I like to think those that have crossed the rainbow bridge have become guardian angels for those of us who are still here.
    Purrseidon

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m so sad and sorry for your loss – again. It is the hardest thing ever and not being able to have a “proper” goodbye in terms of those last minutes and moments tenderly spent vs. a “surprise” departure has to be terribly traumatic. Thanks for this post though – so much information and while all of us who have pets go through these losses we DO all have different experiences. It helps to hear others’ stories. Sending you hugs.

    Pam and Teddy too

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I am deeply sorry for your loss and I truly understand your Grief. There are no magic words that help ease the suffering we feel when we lose something that means so much to us in our daily lives. It’s a part of us that is suddenly missing, no matter how long or how short of a stay that they shared with us, the impact can be truly devastating. I will not burden you with my own deep sadness, but like you I’ve been on an odyssey journey trying to understand my own grief and why I felt the surge of emotions I did. It has now lasted 7 years and I’m still uncovering layers of it. Grief is deep and long and jagged. Like you commented it can be hard to hear some of the things people will say, and that seems like it only makes you feel like you have to keep your grief hidden and adds additional burdens to an already full of grief heart. Prayers for your continued healing, as I can see you already know it’s an ongoing process and one that simply stays with us the rest of our lives, although it becomes less piercing as time makes the wound smaller, but it never goes away.

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    • Thank you for your beautiful words and your wisdom. I think there is a place in our hearts called “gref” and that place gets bigger or smaller depending on life. I too believe it never goes away but that in the time God allots, it will not be so painful. I’m praying for your hurting heart. ❤

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    • Thank you for your kind words. The Ralph facebook page is wonderful as is their website. They also have a Facebook group where you can share your thoughts and experiences. I’m praying that your grief will soon be happy memories but whatever time it takes, it’s your process alone. There is no formula for this.
      Anita

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  9. When we lose someone we love, there is no ‘good run’; there is only a ‘short run’, a time that was here and then over before we knew it, before we were ready for it to end. I am very sorry to lose another of your beloved family, and so soon after Tucker. But I believe they are together, and some day, you will be with them again. Godspeed, Tucker. Godspeed, Jasmine.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Anita, I am so sorry. They never stay around long enough, do they? I have lost several in the past 2 years, the most recent just a few weeks ago. It’s never the same, I miss them all SO much.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. All my love, thoughts, prayers, and hugs are with you through your time of mourning. The loss of a fur baby cuts deep into the soul in a way that cannot be explained. Much Love, Deborah

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Jasmine; we are all truly sorry and send hugs and loves to you, mom, dad and the family you leave behind. We know St Francis walked by your side every step of the way until you reached heaven’s gate; so that you weren’t afraid or had any pain or suffering; and we know your brother greeted you at heaven’s gate, so he could show you how to watch over mom and dad.

    with our sincerest condolences;

    daisy, tuna, mackerull, dude, sauce and boomer ♥♥♥♥♥

    Liked by 1 person

  13. We just saw about Jasmine at the Cat Blogosphere and wanted to say we send our support. This is an important post as the loss of a dear friend is a very difficult issue to deal with no matter how it comes about

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I am so sorry for your loss. I agree that the longer you have a kitty, the harder it is to say goodbye. They become an integral part of the family. We had one cat who lived to be 22 and another who lived to 20. It was horrible when they died. I also know that being a grief counselor doesn’t make it any easier when you have a loss. May you find peace

    Liked by 1 person

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