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Grief: The Loss of a Four-Legged Member of the Family

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Grieving for a Beloved Cat

by Sarah Sorgi

Driven by my own current state of loss, I have decided to touch on the subject of grief and loss in this blog.  Should the subject of grief, when dealing with the loss of a much loved animal and family member, be as taboo as it sometimes seems? Can sharing our experience ultimately help with the grieving process that so many of us experience and yet, go through quietly? Should we just get on with it..."oh for goodness sake, it was only a cat!"?

So, here goes...last week, we sadly and suddenly lost our young cat to the road. Safi would have been two in summer, so she was still so young. Having lost her sister to the same, awful, fate last year, Safi seemed to show no real interest in going near the road (that we know of), instead revelling in the paddocks, fields and stables behind our house. There was good hunting to be had, in the form of mice and rats, and she would frequently come home smelling very much of horse! On the morning of the day she died, she brought home a young rabbit, and both my husband and I thought the same thing...oh damn...young rabbits are often spotted in the grass verges at the side of our road. We suspect that later that day, she discovered this fact too. Now she and her sister are reunited in our garden and I am hoping that they are both terrorising the local rodent population in their blissful spirit forms.

Safi's untimely death was a massive shock, despite knowing that her sister had met her fate in a similar way. Having her wrenched out of our lives so suddenly has left us broken hearted. Over the last week we have felt the massive hole that Safi's passing has left in our family. And not just amongst the humans...our poor dog, Gizmo, is also now grieving for the loss of his 'sister' – he waits for her to jump over the fence back into the garden, he is confused that he now has full access to the bed that she monopolised for herself...small cat on huge cushion...the dog on the floor ha ha!

So we find ourselves grieving. 

Firstly, after the shock of being told by a neighbour that our cat had been hit by a car, to the panic of rushing her to the vet, to the realisation she was gone. In this state of shock, we brought her home and buried her next to her sister, with some of her favourite toys and the open packet of Dreamies.

Secondly, and this stage is still very much ongoing, is the fluctuating between anger, sadness, guilt and sorrow. I feel angry that (yet again) some careless person had been driving too fast along our road to notice a black cat. I feel angry that we couldn't keep her safe (I am not a strong believer in keeping a cat indoors, but I accept that for various reasons, people do) . I even feel angry at Safi for going near the road when she usually avoided it. Then all of these reasons turn into sadness and the hole in our lives becomes even more visible yet again. Then I feel guilty...I made a silent vow to Toothless when she died that I would do everything I could to keep Safi safe from harm and loved. She was certainly loved, but I guess I failed at keeping her safe – sorry to both of you. This all then descends into a soul-wrenching sorrow, where I would quite happily sell said soul to have my velvet coated, bristle-tailed, stable-smelling gorgeous girl back with her family again (and that goes for her sister too). And then, it all wheels round again...anger, sadness, guilt, sorrow....rinse and repeat! I am sure that with time, the loss of Safi will become easier, she will never be forgotten. Having lived with cats for most of my life, I now find myself in the horrifying situation of being too fearful and guilt-ridden about getting another cat...especially not here! But is that real, or is it the grief talking? 

Loss of a PetThe process of grief packs a punch. Whether dealing with a sudden, unexpected loss, especially in a young animal, or whether dealing with death that follows the natural ticking clock of  life in an elderly animal...saying goodbye is hard. Struggling to reach the decision, or realising when the time has come to offer our much-loved four-legged companions a peaceful passing, is every bit as traumatic and devastating as having them snatched from you in a split-second.  The grief process remains fundamentally the same. Shock, anger, sadness, guilt and sorrow, rinse and repeat.

The wonderful thing is that by talking about it (especially with fellow animal-lovers, of which ForPaws is amazingly, luckily blessed to have so many) we get to share our experiences of grief and loss with people who can empathise first hand.  These are people who don't think 'it was only a...'. they're people who have their own tales of loss to tell. That in itself is a huge help in dealing with grief. 

I thank each and every one of you for taking time to read this tale, and in essence, taking a part in helping me with my grieving process. If you have your own tale or experience to share, please feel free to share in the comments below. It means alot that no matter whether it is sudden or expected, the grief we feel when we lose the animal hearts in our family, we as their guardians can unite to make the sadness and pain hurt that little bit less but more importantly make the happy memories feel much more special.

Give your animal an extra treat, stroke, play time, we never know when they may be taken from us and in so doing taking a piece of our hearts with them.  We love you Safi!

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