Monday, February 20, 2017

Grief

"There is such a thing as good grief. Ask Charlie Brown." - Michael Scott, from "The Office"



There's your one bit of humor for this post, so buckle in.

My sweet Sasha cat was euthanized on Wednesday. She had stopped eating and drinking completely. Even turkey, which had always been her favorite food. She used to run into the kitchen every time a package of deli meat was opened. I got to hold Sasha as our vet administered the shots. It was so quick, and then she lay lifeless and heavy in my arms. I sobbed. I wept uncontrollably for about five minutes, and then I left. I picked up my son from my husband's school, I picked up my daughter from her school, I came home and took a shower. Because I kept hearing my friend Brittnie's words in my head: when you are grieving, you have to do the next normal thing until you start to feel normal again. She wrote it in reference to the loss of a child, so it feels silly to compare. Still, grief is grief, and when you've had a pet for over 13 years, it hurts so much when they are gone.

Knowing that someone is going to die is both beneficial and stressful. A year ago, when Sasha first went into renal failure, I started explaining to my kids that animals don't live as long as people do. I told them they didn't need to think about it all the time, but that Sasha may not be around when Brooklyn started kindergarten. August rolled around and she was still here, so I told them Sasha may not be around at Christmas. Christmas came and she was still here, so I told them she might not make it until Brooklyn started first grade. I never knew if I was talking about death too much or not enough. There's a fine line when dealing with death and children: you don't want to surprise them, but you don't want them to obsess over it either. Last week, I let them know that Sasha was going to die soon and we needed to say goodbye. Everyone deals with grief differently.

Brooklyn, tender-heart, started crying. She put on a mask and pulled a jacket over her head so no one  could see her cry. We talked about how it was alright to cry. No shame in it. She drew a picture of  Sasha to help her grieve.
I love Soshu. She is gowing to diy.
She spent the entire night on Tuesday asking me if she could come with me to the vet. She asked for details about how Sasha was going to die and she wanted to be there. I couldn't imagine it being healthy for a 6-year-old to see her family's cat put to death. I told her no, repeatedly. I held her while she cried until she fell asleep. She drew another picture the next day at school, and her teacher wrote me a note about how sad Brooklyn was all day about Sasha. She cried Thursday morning when I offhandedly mentioned that I thought LB (our other cat) was looking for Sasha. Brooklyn can go from joyful to tearful in a matter of seconds.

Peyton, copy-cat (no pun intended), pet Sasha and told her goodnight and goodbye without a single tear. While laying in bed with me Tuesday night as Brooklyn cried, he fell asleep on my other shoulder, crying and saying, "I don't want Sasha to die". He never shows sadness unless Brooklyn shows it first. He's four. It's hard for me to know what is genuine sadness, what is him just needing a nap and being a brat because of it, and what is him copying his sister in what he thinks he should be  doing. Thursday, he asked to hold  a picture of me and Sasha while we were in the car. He stared at it so intently, solemnly, and then held tight while glaring out the window. Who knows what thoughts were in his head.

Me, cat lady, fought back tears all week. My heart was in my throat every time I came home, woke up, or walked around the house after being in the same place for too long. I just couldn't bear to look for my cat and find her dead somewhere. I kept close tabs on her and had to focus my energy on keeping my anxiety at bay. I pet her, I held her, despite her stench. She was dehydrated so she couldn't clean herself, and her kidneys had all but stopped functioning, so toxins were just building up in her body and pouring through her skin and breath. All the way to the vet Wednesday, I talked to her. Do cats have memories? Who knows. I don't know how animals brains work, and if they remember people, places, or events. Nevertheless, I relayed some of my favorite memories back to Sasha- how she got locked out of mine and Chelsea's apartment in College Station, how she scared Buddy at my parents' house in Plano, how she got sick in Houston and hid from the vet on my shoulders in my hair, how she and her first cat buddy Latte used to play around in Build-a-Bear houses, and how she rode home when I first got her in my purse. She meowed at me the whole time I reminisced, like we were having a conversation. I had read sometime before that animals can sense our stress, so it's important to stay calm when they are being euthanized so they can be calm too. I have never practice so many breathing exercises and prayer techniques in my life. I talked to the vet about her life. I talked to Brandon. I told stories to my kids. And here I am writing about it.

Brandon, logical husband of mine, stayed strong for me and the kids, but showed his sensitive side by posting a collage of old photos of him and Sasha. They bonded in college, and she's really the only pet he's ever had. Still, rather than cry, he remains reasonable, reminding me that it was the right thing to do, that we loved her and gave her a good life, but we didn't need to draw out her death.

Forget that this is all about a cat. Do you know how you grieve? I never used to believe in love languages, but now I get them. Maybe there are grief languages, too. Some people are like me and Brooklyn, who need to digest sadness through words, pictures, tears and memories. Some people are like Peyton who only show sadness when others do first, who feel emotions, but don't wear them on their sleeves. Others are like Brandon, who, instead of grieving, see the reason behind everything and spend their time making it all make sense, rather than crying. It's interesting to see it play out, and I'm learning how to deal with each person in my family in a time of grief.

So, if you made it to the end of this post, thanks. There are no profound thoughts or words of wisdom today. I'm just processing the loss of a friend.

Sasha and me, 2003

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful words about a sweet pet. I love that picture of you two. I'd recognize that heart decorated day bed anywhere.

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