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Grief may just have nine lives

The journey of grief in the loss of a pet seems to be a long and winding road. Wendy shares a few lessons in this week's Everything King
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It feels like an elephant is sitting on your chest.

Or how I suspect that might feel.

It hurts to breathe.

You cannot put coherent thoughts together.

People are talking to you but you aren't really taking in what they are saying. They ask you questions. You may even answer but you won't recall any of it soon. Your short-term memory is severely challenged.

You can't settle.

You will wander room to room and place to place.

You will cry so hard you will make yourself sick.

Every fibre of your being is going to hurt. Your skin, your hair, your bones.

It's an internal fatigue.

That, my friends, is what the first pangs of grief feel like. I shared with you, recently, that I lost my beloved cat, Otis, unexpectedly just a few weeks ago.

I fear I am in the midst of nine lives of grief.

There was such an incredible outpouring of support through shares of the column published Aug. 6, and through social media since then that I thought it might be worthwhile to share the journey thus far.

Perhaps, there is someone else needing to hear this.

I have been reading a lot about grief as it pertains to animals and what researchers say is basically that it feels exactly the same whether you lose a person or a pet. At least, the emotional pain is pretty similar.

The problem is that while people certainly understand grieving of a human being, not everyone understands how bad it feels to lose a pet.

Unless, of course, they have.

Many experts are saying it's so hard to grieve an animal because you will not feel free to express it as openly for as long.

You fear people are thinking you are weak and overly emotional.

You know some are saying, "It's just a cat."

Well, he wasn't just a cat to me.

He can't be replaced with a new one.  

I look at it this way.

Love is love and pain is pain and I will express mine freely whether people "get it" or not. It is true, though, you don't want to be a downer or make people feel bad whenever they are around you. 

A lot of the really lonely times are going to have to be handled alone. That is just the way it has to be. Nobody can really help. Not really. The thing about grief is it's all consuming. The heavy, dark presence is just everywhere.

For me the worst has been at night because Otis was always with me at bedtime and always right there in the morning. I find I dread sleeping because when I wake up the reality is going to hit all over again.

It's a vicious cycle.

There will also come a day when you laugh again.

Trust me - you will feel exceedingly guilty for that.

How can I be the slightest bit happy? How shallow can I be?

But that is not shallow. That is grace being given to you from somewhere or someone who wants to give you some peace.

If you are suffering some kind of personal loss right now as I am, try this:

  1. I am watching for signs. Signs that your loved one is alright. Signs he is with you still. Watch for shadows. Bells ringing, Feathers landing at your feet. Pictures showing up. There will be sounds. There will be smells. There will be an indescribable something in the air that tells you that you are not alone.
  2. I am making myself do something every single day. I mean, what choice is there really? I am making myself a new schedule so that whenever I feel lost I will do something - walk it off, write something, call someone, something, anything to not feel that awful pain.

I think "emptiness" may be my least favourite word right now because it's all I truly feel.

Angels come in all shapes and sizes and species.

If you are mourning someone or something right now, I wish you peace and your own personal angel.

Mine has oversized paws, a jiggly tummy, long whiskers, a heart-shaped nose and a new job: to watch over me.

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About the Author: Wendy King

Wendy King writes about all kinds of things from nutrition to the job search from cats to clowns — anything and everything — from the ridiculous to the sublime. Watch for Wendy's column weekly.
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