Saturday, September 13, 2014

It Seems All Griefs Are Different


Nine days ago I lost my little cat, Freya. Silly phrase! I didn't mislay her; I chose to be without her from then on, rather than have her cancer get to the stage of causing extreme suffering. Click here for the story.

Well, duh, of course it's different from losing my husband, you may think. But she was part of our family too: we often referred to her and her brother, Levi, as 'the children'. And she was with me for 16 years, only four years fewer than my husband was. 

'Time to be with your Daddy now,' I told her, saying goodbye.

She was a little more my cat, as Levi was a little more Andrew's, but the affection went in all directions. Levi and I always had lots of chats and smooches, and quality times for just the two of us. We're just having a few more now, as I consciously try to make sure he isn't bored or brooding.

He moped a lot for the first week. There was a bleakness about him. I decided that for his sake I must stick to established routines. That was OK so far as I had control of it. One thing he stopped doing, though, was going outside — a cat who normally loves the outdoors and has favourite spots where he spends hours. In the end, I went out myself on a sunny day and sat on the front veranda, leaving the door open. That worked: he came to keep me company, and since then has been going out of his own accord.

I myself had lots of tearful moments, mentally 'seeing' her in familiar places, in typical behaviours. I sought out Levi for cuddles, as much for my own sake as his. It was not a happy household that first week. Neither of us, we two remaining family members of the original four, quite knew how to go on. I would see him in his favourite sunny spot in the spare room, but instead of sleeping he'd be lying there with head raised and eyes fixed blankly, apparently pondering something. Confronting the fact of her ongoing absence, I suppose. 

Yet after that first week, we seem to have adjusted. I think he is discovering the upside of being the only cat now: the only child, the sole focus of my attention. I am finding that giving him that extra attention is good for me, too. And the stable routines, the ongoingness of what we're used to, albeit with someone absent, have helped both of us. We're calm now, getting on with things; a little subdued at times, yet not unhappy. We're both enjoying this new, exclusive relationship.

How can that be? After Andrew died, we went through great grief. So did Freya, but Levi's grief was extreme. He took months and months; he tore out his own claws from stress. I had to put him on Rescue Remedy for weeks. I have had both of us on it now, but only for a day or two.

For myself, one difference I notice is that, when I cry over Andrew's dying, as I still do sometimes, it's not so much about the death itself as the years of increasing ill-health and pain he endured first. Sure, I also miss him and wish I could still enjoy his companionship in the ways I used to, but the greatest distress comes when I recall the traumas of what he went through and how little I could really help.

He was extraordinary, and still got the most out of life right until the end, overcoming the pain and limitations not by making them go away, which unfortunately wasn't possible, but by focusing on the joys of life despite them. 

It was so much easier with Freya, who, even after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, remained outwardly fit and healthy for another four months. 

But it's early days yet, and I have learned that grief is unpredictable. Perhaps I'm just burying it at present. I do notice how tired I am just now. I could spend practically the whole day sleeping. Maybe I should; it could be part of healing.