Pet Loss

Review: Heavenly Headbutts

heavenly-headbutts

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Grieving the death of a cat is a painful process, often complicated by the lack of understanding of just how devastating losing a beloved cat can be. Many of us find comfort in the thought that eventually, we will be reunited with our cherished cats, a thought so widespread that it gave rise to the well known phenomenon of the Rainbow Bridge. In Heavenly Headbutts: Reflections of Hope about Cats and Eternity, Allia Zobel Nolan offers photos, scripture, quotes, affirmations and anecdotes that support her belief that we will see our cats again in the afterlife.Continue Reading

A Tribute to Binga

binga-tortoiseshell-cat

It’s always sad when a friend’s cat dies. My heart hurts for what I know they’re about to go through as they mourn their loss. We’ve all been there, and even though everyone grieves in their own unique way, we all know how hard it is. Late last week, Janiss Garza, the human behind Sparkle Cat, Featuring Summer, Therapy Cat and Kitty on the Go, had to make the sad decision to let Binga go.Continue Reading

A Tribute to Hi-Dee

Hi-Dee

It’s always sad when a friend’s cat dies. My heart hurts for what I know they’re about to go through as they mourn their loss. We’ve all been there, and even though everyone grieves in their own unique way, we all know how hard it is. And when the cat is one I’ve come to know and love, I feel the loss, too. Continue Reading

A Tribute to Squirty

cat-in-basket

It’s always sad when a friend’s cat dies. My heart hurts for what I know they’re about to go through as they mourn their loss. We’ve all been there, and even though everyone grieves in their own unique way, we all know how hard it is. And when the cat is one I’ve come to know and love, I feel the loss, too. I always had a soft spot in my heart for Squirty, my “feline nephew.” He lived with my friends in New York City for 18 years – New Year’s Eve would have been his birthday. He passed suddenly and peacefully on Christmas Eve morning.Continue Reading

When a Client’s Cat Dies: A Tribute to Belle

Belle

As a Reiki Practitioner, I rarely work with young, healthy animals. Most of my feline (and canine) clients suffer from degenerative diseases. Some are terminally ill. Reiki can help bring healing and balance to these animals by reducing stress, providing pain relief, alleviating side effects of conventional treatments, and strengthening the immune system.

Unfortunately, working with older animals also makes it inevitable that eventually, I’m going to lose these clients. Continue Reading

Remembering Buckley

Buckley relaxing

It has been four years since Buckley’s passing. She died on November 28, 2008, which was the Friday after Thanksgiving that year. Rather than observing her anniversary on the actual date, I will always mark this event on Thanksgiving weekend. Even though I still miss her every day, after four years, the sadness is tempered by appreciation and gratitude for the amazing changes she has brought to my life, and, through her book, to the lives of so many others.

Without her, I might not have become a writer. Without her, The Conscious Cat might not exist. Even though Amber inspired this site, its original purpose, in addition to sharing my passion for and knowledge about cat health, was to build a following prior to publishing Buckley’s Story. Most importantly, without her, my heart might not have been opened to the many wonderful lessons she taught me during her brief time with me.

Those of you who have read Buckley’s Story already know Continue Reading

A Pet’s Loss Once Removed Is a Loss No Less

cat-at-window

As a Reiki Practitioner, I rarely work with young, healthy animals. Most of my feline and canine clients suffer from degenerative diseases such as arthritis, kidney disease, or diabetes. Some are terminally ill. Reiki can help bring healing and balance to these animals by reducing stress, providing pain relief, alleviating side effects of conventional treatments, and strengthening the immune system.

Reiki can be especially beneficial for animals suffering from a terminal illness. I even offer joint treatments for pet and guardian. Often, animals will not allow themselves to transition because they intuitively feel that their person is not ready to let them go. Joint Reiki treatments for the pet and his or her person can help both through this difficult time by enhancing the bond and allowing a gentle transition.

Unfortunately, working with older animals and hospice patients also makes it inevitable that eventually, I’m going to lose these clients. The experience of losing an animal client is unique. It’s different from losing my own cats, but it hurts nevertheless.Continue Reading

Coping with Unexpected Loss: A Personal Journey

Amber The Conscious Cat

When I had to let Amber go after a brief, sudden illness last May, I wasn’t prepared for the depth of my grief. It hadn’t even been a year and a half after I lost Buckley. Here I was, faced with grieving yet again.

It’s not like I hadn’t experienced loss in my life before. Most of us who’ve reached the age I’m at have had to deal with loss. I lost my mother in 1994 after a brief illness. I lost my soul mate cat Feebee in 2000 after a valiant seven-month battle with lymphoma. I lost my office cat Virginia in 2002 after a brief decline following a fourteen-year-long life with FIV. I lost my father in 2004 to heart disease and cancer. And as those of you who’ve read Buckley’s Story know, I lost Buckley after she was diagnosed with restrictive cardiomyopathy and given a very poor prognosis that she outlived by a considerable amount of time.

I had lots of experience with grief, and I survived all of these losses more or less gracefully. I learned that there is only one way to deal with grief, and that’s to go through it. There is no way around it. You can’t run from it.  I learned about the stages of grief. I learned that you don’t go through them step by step, but rather, that you sometimes cycle through them over and over, until, at some point, mercifully, you may find that you’ve reached the final stage, acceptance. But even reaching acceptance doesn’t mean that you ever really get “over” a loss.

So you’d think that with all this personal experience in grieving, I would have been better prepared to handle losing Amber. The force of my grief over losing her caught me completely off guard. And I realized, in the middle of the shock, the tears, and the pain, that I had never lost a loved one as unexpectedly and suddenly as I lost her. Twelve short days, from the time that she was mildly ill to the time that I had to let her go. I never expected her to not get better when I agreed to hospitalize her. I always expected her to come home.  Come home she did, but not in the way I would have wanted her to. Because of her poor prognosis, after four days of intensive care, I made the agonizing decision to stop treatment, bring her home, and spend the afternoon with her before my vet came to the house that evening to help her with a peaceful transition.

As with all my losses, there were commonalities. Despite the incredible outpouring of love and support from not only my ”real life” friends, but also my online friends,  there were times when I felt alone in my grief, disconnected from the world around me and normal everyday activities. I was physically exhausted most of the time – grief takes a toll not just emotionally,  but physically. I tried to take care of myself as best as I could, by trying to eat regular meals, getting some exercise, and staying connected with friends.  But it was hard.  Going out into the world was challenging – how could life be going on when my world had changed irrevocably?

In The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood, author Nadine M. Rosin, after losing her nineteen-year-old dog Buttons, writes:  “…being out in public felt totally bizarre, as if the world had come to an end because of some horrible disaster, life as we’d known it on the planet was over, but I seemed to be the only person who knew about it.” I’ve rarely heard this particular emotion of feeling out of synch with the rest of the world expressed better. I limited social engagements to activities with friends who understood my grief, and I’m fortunate that most of the people in my life are animal people, and they do understand. I simply didn’t have it in me to make polite chit-chat with those who didn’t.

I knew I’d make it through, just like I made it through all my other losses. But one year later, I also realize that this loss left me forever changed in ways the others didn’t. And perhaps it had to do with the suddenness of the loss.

With all my other losses, I’ve always had time to prepare for loss. While anticipatory grieving is difficult, I believe that it does help in the end – you have time to get used to the idea of eventually having to go on without your loved one. But Amber was a healthy, happy cat who had rarely been sick in her life. There was nothing that could have prepared me for this.   It was much harder, much more painful, and much more complicated than my other losses. With the others, I rarely second-guessed myself. I didn’t rail at the universe for having my loved one taken from me so quickly. I didn’t blame myself for decisions I made during Amber’s last two weeks.  I just grieved.

A year later, I can finally say that I’ve found peace. And I learned this, yet again: grief is a process. It requires being gentle with yourself as you go through it. It requires allowing those who understand to support you, and staying away from those who don’t. It requires courage to face the pain, rather than run from it.

Grief can be a transformational experience.  It rips your heart wide open, and you’ll never be the same. It’s up to each individual whether they’ll choose to let grief destroy them, or whether they’ll do the challenging and difficult work that will ultimately allow it to be transformed into personal growth and expansion.

To honor Amber, her love, and all she has brought into my life, I didn’t have any other choice except to let something good come from this devastating loss.

In loving memory of Amber, one year later

Amber The Conscious Cat

A year ago today, I had to say good-bye to Amber after a very sudden, brief illness. I was devastated. Nothing ever prepares you for unexpected loss. In hindsight, I’m grateful that she got to spend her final few hours at home with me, and that she died peacefully in my arms. At the time, those things did not bring much comfort.

A year later, the pain of losing her has dulled a little, but I still miss my beautiful girl every day. She was in my life for ten years, and they were some of the best of my life so far.

My love for Amber grew slowly. Unlike all of my other cats, it was not love at first sight with her. I had lost my first cat, Feebee, to his battle with lymphoma in April of 2000. He had been with me for almost sixteen years. I didn’t think it was possible to hurt as much as I did after he died. I had had other (human) losses in my life before, but nothing was as painful as losing him. There were days when I wasn’t sure I’d make it through.

What saved me during those dark days was my work at the animal hospital, my office cat Virginia, and the daily contact with all the feline patients we saw every day. But coming home to an empty house night after night was becoming increasingly difficult. 

A few weeks after Feebee died, Amber and her five kittens were brought to the animal hospital by a client who had found the little family in her barn.  Despite being emaciated and scrawny-looking, Amber’s eventual beauty was evident even then.  She was a dark tortoiseshell color, with an amber-colored heart-shaped spot on top of her head, which became the reason for her name.  Her kittens found new homes in fairly rapid succession. 

However, nobody was interested in the beautiful mommy cat.  She spent her days in the big adoption cage in the hospital’s waiting area, but with the constant inflow of homeless kittens that is typical for spring and summer, nobody wanted to adopt an adult cat. 

One weekend in July, I decided to take Amber home, “just for the weekend”.  I thought it would be a good way to try and see what it would feel like to me to have a cat who wasn’t Feebee at my house. I also wanted to give her a break from the abandoned feral kitten we had placed with her after her own kittens had all found homes.  The kitten was a rambunctious six-week old grey tabby, and Amber was becoming increasingly exasperated with his constant need for attention.  As far as she was concerned, she had done her mommy duty with her own kittens. 

After living in a cage for all these months, Amber was initially a little overwhelmed by having access to an entire house, and she spent most of that first weekend near or under my bed.  By Sunday evening, she had relaxed a little and started exploring her new environment.  I liked having her gentle and peaceful energy around the house, and I decided that she could stay a little longer. 

The wound from Feebee’s passing was still raw. I wasn’t quite ready to acknowledge that she was home with me to stay, so I told everyone that I was “just fostering her”. I had flyers all ready to go to advertise that she was available for adoption. Remember flyers? This was in the dark days before social media!

Somehow the flyers never got distributed. Three months later, I finally realized that she wasn’t going anywhere. 

My love for her grew over the years in ways that I never would have thought possible. She was my heart and soul. She reflected back to me the limitless possibilities my life could hold if I opened my heart and allowed things to unfold. She was my inspiration for so many things, including this site. She was the original Conscious Cat.

There are so many things I miss about her: the way she would curl up in my arms each night and sleep there for most of the night. The way she’d purr if you so much as looked at her. The way her tail would twitch when she got excited about something. I miss her gentle presence and peaceful energy.

Allegra came to live with us about five weeks before Amber died, and she was a great comfort to me during this past year. Her joyful, kittenish presence and her quiet love helped my heart heal. Now that Ruby has joined our family, my heart, and my life, are expanding once again.

And Amber’s gentle spirit and eternal love are never far from me.

What Not to Say to Someone Who Is Grieving The Loss of a Pet

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As a society, we are not equipped to handle grief and loss, and many people don’t know what to say to someone who is grieving.  This can be compounded when the loss is that of a pet.  Even people who are genuinely sorry and want to express their sympathy often don’t know what to say to comfort the grieving person.

It is difficult to know what to say, and as a result, people often, without meaning to, say the wrong things that, rather than providing comfort, only serve to upset the grieving person even more.   Sometimes, the best thing to say is to simply acknowledge the loss – because the only thing worse than saying the wrong thing is to not say anything at all.   As I’m dealing with my own grief about Amber, I’m once again reminded of how much some of the things people say hurt, even though they’re offered with the best intentions.Continue Reading

A Tribute to Amber from The Boomer Muse

Guest Post by Layla Morgan Wilde

Cat Saturday – In Memoriam
This edition of Cat Saturday is dedicated to Amber, a beloved cat born on July 29, 1998 and died on May 13, 2010. Amber lived with her human mom, Ingrid King near Washington D.C. The beautiful and wise Amber graced our pages as a Cat of the Week #55. She will be deeply missed by her many fans at her blog Amber’s Mewsings at Ingrid’s website The Conscious Cat.

Photo quote de jour

There have been several kitty deaths in both my actual and virtual families in recent months. Every death feels like a sucker punch to the gut. Nothing can prepare for the moment when a beloved four-legged friend dies. This time, the death of Amber treads a little too close for comfort. With Coco and Domino’s health scare, I’m steeling myself for a kitty funeral in my own backyard. Maybe it won’t happen for months, maybe years. In the meantime, I savor every moment and can’t take enough photos of my three. Today, when happily shooting in the garden this morning, I had no idea, Amber was dead but is it possible my cats, through some psychic cell phone knew bad news was in the wind and posed accordingly.  Merlin posed by the peace sign. Those old blue eyes knew something.

Coco was especially meditative in the herb garden. She sends condolences of a heavenly sort.

Domino, Amber’s cyber-soul mate, her long-distance Romeo will have to wait to meet and marry his Juliet. Amber loved her “tough guy”. He’s used to danger and death, and but maybe his heart is little bigger having known love.
 
Link of the Week
Lightning-strike.com – a wonderful pet loss support resource.

Time with our beloved fur friends is fleeting.  Enjoy yours.

All photographs © Layla Morgan Wilde, used by permission.

Layla Morgan Wilde is a writer, photographer, and intuitive life coach.  She shares words and images designed to inspire and amuse on her blog, The Boomer Muse.