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Death of a Cat and the Grieving Process August 2, 2012

Filed under: self awareness — Lyndsey Fraser, MA, LMFT @ 4:34 pm

Recently my cat, Jack, AKA Agent Jack Bauer, Black Jack, or BG passed away. Now I have had this cat for a little over thirteen years. We started our relationship in 1998 when he was a little puff of fur and only a few months old. He was a gift from my parents over the Christmas holiday. Now Jack has never been a graceful kitty and to be honest he has been quite an odd cat. When I first got him he would fall of ledges, into toilets, and couldn’t quite make the jump to the bed. I have always found it enduring how I got the one cat that isn’t graceful. Even up until his death Jack was quite clumsy. Another oddity of this cat was he was more like a dog than a cat. He would come up to new visitors and jump on their lap insisting he be pet. He also enjoyed following me around the house. Whenever you turned Jack was there. He was constant in my life and when he died something was missing. I didn’t realize how sad the passing of my little buddy would be. After all he is just a cat right?

This began the process of thinking about grief and how it is continual process. Where death may be primarily reflected in grief it is not the only experience. This reminded me of other losses I have experienced throughout my life. Which include my sister moving away, the death of my father, the ending of a four-year relationship, and the change of several jobs. All of these experiences have brought me pain and sadness, some more than others. Loss and grief take several forms and as the saying goes “the only constant in life is change”. How do we cope with change? Do we allow ourselves the ability to grieve? How do we respond to others grief?

I found myself initially shocked with Jack’s passing. In the last week or so I keep thinking that I see Jack, as if I have forgotten he passed away. Currently I am in the classic denial stage. As Elisabeth Kübler-Ross & David Kessler have stated there are five stages to grief. Which include denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It is normal to have disbelief at first. It is also normal to go through the stages several times before acceptance. The interesting thing I have learned is that we grief many changes in our lives.  I have found myself in these same stages even when it wasn’t a death.  Do allow ourselves to grieve change?  I would say society encourages us to be “strong” and not succumb to grief. Hence, my initial response, “This is just a cat, why do I feel so sad?”.

What do others do when they experience a loved one grieving? Some of the responses I have include: “You will get a new cat”, “Do you want my cat?”, “A father is supposed to die before his child”, “You will find a new partner”, “Your sister will move back”, and “Time will heal all wounds”. Do any of these sentiments really help when we are in the process of grief? What I noticed in all of these comments is others trying to “fix” the problem.  Is grief about fixing? All I wanted in these moments was someone to listen, hold, and support me. I didn’t need anyone to fix it for me. Why is it that we find it necessary to fix? Can’t we just sit in our grief and be allowed to work through the process.

I encourage my readers to not only allow sit in grief but also provide the comfort for those around them in it. At times of grief nothing needs to be said. All I ever wanted in my times of grief was someone to hear me. Those that were the most comforting were the ones who just sat in grieving process with me.