This is a raw post from my heart. In the last 3 months I have lost both my 17 year old cats. Felix, we decided to have euthanized a few months ago due to his declining health. I am still trying to come to terms with this, when we were faced with the death of our precious Amber yesterday.
Traumatic Day In Our Lives
Our day had started off really well. Amber who was just over 17, but sill in incredibly good health, apart from her hearing which has declined in the last few months, was in high spirits. She had caught a huge rat and brought him inside to share with us, as cats do. She had played with the rat and then we shooed both of them outside. Later she had a huge bowl of food, her milk and curled up on my bed in the sun for her morning sleep.
Our day was busy and fun, it was my six year old son’s birthday party, and we were busy, I shut my bedroom door so that I knew Amber would be safe, and not disturbed by all the children.
Once all the guests had left I let Amber out and she had a good roll on the driveway in the sun. She was partially deaf, and her coloring was Grey, so she blended into the driveway, we were always on the lookout as we knew she was slow to get out of the way of cars.
Sadly my friend came driving back in to drop something off and did not see Amber and drove over her. Fortunately our son was inside and did not see the accident, but before I had even fully taken on board what had happened, he realized that Amber had been driven over.
Coping With Trauma
My husband managed to lift Amber and lay her in a box so that she looked like she was sleeping and he gave her a wipe down, as our son desperately needed to see her. In my blog on helping children cope with grief, I discuss how this helps younger children. He would end up imagining the worst if he had not seen her looking so peaceful, I am still amazed at my incredible husband for being able to make Amber look like she was sleeping.
We then headed off to the old Oak Tree to bury Amber, next to Felix, who we had buried here less than three months ago.
Dealing With Our Son’s Emotions
Our son is devastated, he sadly says his party now made him feel sad as we lost Amber. He loved her, she was an incredibly gentle, friendly and highly vocal cat. He woke up this morning in tears, and has been asking questions, talking about his feelings and trying to process losing both his cats in such a short space of time. I had actually taken “The Invisible String” book out of the library on Thursday, to read to him, as it is an amazing story of love and always having a string that attaches us to those we love. I did not realize how relevant this story would be, and we ended up reading it at least twice before he went to sleep.
If you have a child who is grieving, or even suffering with separation anxiety, I would highly recommend reading this book to them.
When we lost Felix, we had a chance to explain to our son what was about to happen, he had a moment to say goodbye, and again say bye when I brought Felix’s body home. With Amber suffering a traumatic ending it has been totally different for him and a lot for one six year old to process.
He is also associating her death with his party which is so sad, and really hard to deal with. I have let him talk about his feelings and gone with the flow of his thoughts, while trying to explain that his birthday party was great and that Amber would be sad to hear him say he now did not enjoy it. This appears to have helped him separate the two events in his mind.
Traumatic Death versus Euthanasia
When we said goodbye to Felix, I thought making the decision to have him euthanized would be overwhelming. However, this was easier to deal with than I had anticipated. Firstly we realized for some time that he was old and not in good health so we would more than likely have to make this decision. I had mentally being saying goodbye to him for about a year. When the day came when he could not stand and I could see the end was near, it was in a way a relief, as I knew his life was nearing its end and that by having him euthanized we were saving him from a likely painful death. It is also a more peaceful, pain free way to end his life with us. He was with us for 17 years and I am now still coming to terms with my aching heart when I look for him and he is not around. Wikipedia describes this type of grief as anticipatory grief, as you have a chance to start the mourning process before the actual loss of your pet.
Losing Amber in such a tragic manner has brought a whole new range of emotions, totally different to what I experienced with Felix. The first one that has taken me totally by surprise is my anger at my friend for driving over her, I thought I would feel more reasonable about this, come morning, but I am still struggling with this emotion. I know I am not being reasonable as she would never have wanted to drive over Amber. As she is my friend I am unable to let rip about how she should have driven slower, and watched out for Amber, as I was always asking everyone to do. Instead, I find myself annoyed that she is looking for comfort from me for her guilt at driving over my cat. Right now I cannot give that to her, but I know and understand that she is my friend and that time does heal. I am, also, aware that I am in a very emotional state and am I placing a large part of this on her for riding over Amber.
I normally process my emotions really well, however, I have not been able to shed a tear for my sweet Amber, and I believe this may still be due to the manner in which we lost her, shock, and my anger at our beautiful cat’s life being ended so tragically. This type of grief is described as disenfranchised grief, and often occurs when the loss of a pet in tragic circumstances is not taken seriously, and we have not had time to process our emotions.
I headed out for a walk this morning to Amber’s grave to have a chat, and that has helped slightly, as has writing this blog to share with you the different range of emotions my two cats deaths have brought on. I know the floodgates will open eventually and I will shed many tears over both my cats, but probably more over Amber as she should never have lost her life in this manner. I also know I will have many happy memories of her, and will use these to help myself and son heal.
For now though I am screaming, I cannot start the grieving and healing process until I let go of my anger.
If you have lost an animal in traumatic circumstances, it helps to understand that the grieving process will be harder than making a choice to have a pet euthanized. This is understandable and hopefully time, the great healer, will help you to cope.
Amber was a sweet, loving little girl. If she could talk she would have. She had a different meow for everything and was not hesitant in sharing her thoughts with us. Often when I was working at my computer she would lie on my desk with her face on my hand, she was never far from me, and loved to show us how much she loved us. Anyone who has the impression that cats are aloof should have met Amber, the children loved her and she them. This is my goodbye to her, and I hope if you are facing the loss of your pet you find comfort in my blog, if not comfort, an understanding of what you are going through, and know that you are not alone.
I have written a blog on dealing with our emotions when we have to face euthanasia, you may want to read it here.
If you have any stories to share with me, or suggestions on how to deal with the trauma of losing a pet in a tragic manner please leave me a comment.
I will leave you with this poem, author unknown as far as I am aware.
Sending you pet hugs