Losing a Pet

DenaJune 9, 2011

For the past two weeks I’ve been intensely struggling with Mika’s death. Long story short, she was my baby. I raised her from a tiny kitten. I considered her a daughter and not a pet. She was an inside/outside cat. She was a hunter. Sometimes she would go away all day, but she always came back at night. And then one night in October, she didn’t come back. We launched a search for her, put fliers up all over our town and in every mailbox in our area. We offered a $500 cash reward. We got lots of calls but nothing panned out. On the 7th day, we got a call from the deli up the street. She had been hit by a car. He had her body in a box, behind the store.  She was only two-years-old.

Since October, I tend to break down about once a week. It can happen anytime, but a lot of times it happens while I’m driving. It usually hits me from nowhere. The hot feeling surges through my body, then the tears come. Hot tears, eyes burn, sinuses burn. It’s a grief-fire. It’s debilitating. I pull myself out of it because I feel I don’t have another choice.

I’ve been coping with it. When it happened, after the initial grief, when I could form coherent sentences again, I started to rationalize it. I know all about the 5 Stages of Grief and believe that the Kübler-Ross Model is as accurate as the English language can get to sensibly describe loss. I also know all about overcoming negative, irrational thoughts. I’ve survived deep depression, anxiety, and suicidal periods. And, of course, I didn’t just survive it, I overcame it. I teach people how they can overcome it, too.

Logically, I know what I need to do ~ Acceptance :: Forgiveness :: Love & Gratitude ~ Physically, emotionally, and spiritually, however, I am hitting a wall. This is the first time that something has affected me this way, where I feel completely incapable of healing. I feel hopeless, like this is it, it will not get better. For the past two weeks, I’ve been breaking down every day, multiple times a day. Yesterday I cried on my way home from work and then I cried my eyes out again before bed.

I experience all of the emotions that I know to be useless and unnecessary. But I can’t seem to help it.

I experience guilt. Mika & Bella (our dog) got fleas before this happened. We don’t know how. The house was always clean. It’s possible that they came from the neighbor’s dog or another dog that Bella was around. It’s also possible that Mika had made friends with neighborhood cats. She was always outside and there are plenty of them around. We treated them with flea medicine, etc. but they were difficult to get rid of. I think about it and consider myself a failure. Like I let her down, like maybe if she didn’t get fleas, none of this would have happened.

I experience the most useless thoughts of all — the “what ifs.” What if we didn’t let her out before we left that day? What if I had insisted on her coming inside? What if it hadn’t rained? What if I had gone out searching for her that night instead of waiting until the morning? And on and on it goes…

I feel guilty because she was “a cat.” I feel guilty because I’ve cried more over her death than I ever cried over my grandmother’s death. But I talked to a good friend who lost her dog recently. She is an even bigger animal lover than me. She said, “Dena, I cried more when I lost my dog than when I lost my mother.” That put things into perspective a little bit. Most importantly it makes me realize that I am not alone in this.

My fiance lost his father when he was fifteen years old. When we first met a little more than four years ago, he couldn’t talk about his father or his father’s death without losing it. Slowly over time though he began to open up. In the beginning it was so difficult because he had never talked about it before. But after awhile (I mean years) it got easier. Sometimes we consciously, together, decided to push him to talk about it even when it hurt. Now, he can talk about his father and his father’s death with relative ease.

Last night, as I was losing it about Mika (yet again), he just listened to me and let me talk/cry. Then he told me that my losing Mika is like him losing his father. He told me to remember how he was about it when we first met, when he couldn’t talk about it — and then to think about how he is now. He said that I will get there, too.   I just have to talk about it and cry about it as much as I need to.


I have a few thoughts to close this.

First, this is one that I’ve held onto like a life raft during many of my darkest hours: Haec olim meminisse ivvabit. (Latin: Time heals all things.)

Second, this is an excerpt from Tender is the Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald: One writes of scars healed, a loose parallel to the pathology of the skin, but there is no such thing in the life of an individual. There are open wounds, shrunk to the size of a pin-prick but wounds still.

Last, is a little story, I don’t know yet if it’s about hope. When we went to get Mika she was relatively peaceful except for the fact that her eyes were open. There was only a little bit of blood coming from her mouth. We took her home. We wrapped her in a blanket. It was a green blanket that had an Irish blessing on it. It read: May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

We didn’t wrap her in that because of the blessing, we wrapped her in that because it was the first blanket that I found. We buried her at the top of our yard in one her favourite spots. Matthew put stones around the place where her body was below the dirt. Over the weekend I stopped to visit her while I was walking Bella. I noticed that there is a soft, green, leafy plant growing up from where her body rests beneath the soil.

Right now, I can’t tell this story without crying, but maybe someday I’ll be able to.

Comments (18)

  • Amy Lou

    June 9, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    The only answer is time. You have to go through the emotions, no matter how useless you think they are, until the pain eases.

    I can’t tell you how long I cried after my dog died, but I do remember my brother saying to me “You’re STILL crying?” You’re right when you say you’re not alone. Some people don’t get it. Many people do.

    I’ve learned that knowing you’re going to be okay and feeling like you’re going to be okay are two very different things.

    1. Dena

      June 9, 2011 at 4:35 pm

      @ Amy – Thank you. <3 Every empathetic comment I receive, lifts my spirits that much more. xo

  • JR Moreau

    June 9, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    so sad about your cat 🙁

    mourning is hard to do correctly. I’m bad at it and have some cumulative emotional scarring to show for it, but meditation has helped me move past so much baggage in the past year. It sort of just pours out or dissolves over time if we don’t continue to enable its festering.

  • Lou Mello

    June 9, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    Pets are so very important to us and grieving for them is normal and to be expected. Just the process of sharing your story as you have will help a little bit in the healing process. The thing you want to know is that it is fine to feel bad, maybe for years to come; that doesn’t mean it won’t get better because it will, but, there will always be a part of you that will grieve greatly in private moments.

    I was no more than 8 years old and lost a favorite cat, it was bad for a kid to go through, but, it stayed with me a long, long time. I still think about it so many years later although I don’t grieve any more, I just feel sad about the loss.

    Time helps, but, it’d fine to grieve in your own way for years to come….that’s normal.

    1. Dena

      June 11, 2011 at 10:50 am

      @ JR – Thanks so much for reaching out & sharing. Meditation does help, a lot. It’s really powerful to just still the mind that way — what amazing clarity & perspective it provides.

      @ Lou – Thank you for your kind & generous words. Sometimes that’s exactly what we need to hear — it’s okay to be sad. You’re right it may even take years. I’m slowly learning to accept that.

  • James Moffitt

    June 10, 2011 at 7:38 am

    Your post took my breath away. 🙁 We lost a daughter who was 10 years old to cancer. We have lost several pets over the last 21 years. One of them we had to have put to sleep. Grief sucks,but there is no getting around it. It is part of the human experience. Life and death…. The cycle of life that nothing gets away from. My heart goes out to you and yes, time does tend to heal all wounds. The pain never fully goes away, you just learn how to cope and deal with it as time passes. Hugs to you friend.

    1. Dena

      June 11, 2011 at 10:51 am

      @ James – I don’t even know what to say. I can not begin to tell you how much your comment means to me. Thank you — a million times — for sharing, for letting me know that I am so far from being alone in this. You are a blessing to me. <3

  • Lady Marissa

    October 2, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    This post broke my heart.  I couldn’t imagine losing my baby Elvis (he is a dog).  They become a part of your family, a part of your routine.  I truly feel for you, I balled my eyes out reading your post of when she passed away.  “Right now, I can’t tell this story without crying, but maybe someday I’ll be able to.” <- this pretty much sums it up!  Stay strong lady!

    1. Anonymous

      October 4, 2011 at 2:02 pm

      Thank you for being here, Marissa.  It means a lot to me.  xo

  • Naturesgifts

    October 2, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    Hi Thank you for sharing. I SO understand I lost my little man Noopy a cat, my child, in December last year and found it very tough. This poem touched me at the time and gave me hope http://www.petloss.com/rainbowbridge.htm. I hope it comforts you too. Then I read about greif and the dark side of it in a book and it said to savour your pain as this is an open bond between you adnd your cat that will fade in time. An interesting concept. I have also ordered these two books to help me with my continued grief(which for your info is waning but the loss will always be there and I will always miss my boy dearly) I hope they could help you too they are: http://www.amazon.com/Animals-Spirit-companions-transition-afterlife/dp/1582701776  and
    http://www.amazon.com/Animals-Afterlife-Stories-Friends-Journey/dp/0972061304 . I send you much love and understanding from a fellow animal lover who lost her child. I felt the guilt you talked of and cried so much too. Again thank you for sharing it helped me too xo

    1. Anonymous

      October 4, 2011 at 1:59 pm

      Thank you so much for sharing your story and for sharing these resources.  I am going to read that poem right now.  Much love to you, friend.  xo

  • Jeff De Cagna

    October 2, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    Hi Dena, I understand exactly how you feel. September 6 was the first anniversary of my Wilbur’s passing. He was our Forever Dog, and we lost him under tragic circumstances as well. The last 12 months without him have been the worst of my life, and I have cried more tears for Wilboo than for my father, who passed away ten years ago.

    Like you, I’ve run through all of the “what ifs” and the anger of not being able to protect him. Like you, I’m still grieving. I cried last night, and I know I’ll cry again. Like you, my heart is broken. There’s a huge hole where Wilboo used to be. Like you, I fear it will never really get better. I feel cheated at losing him while he was still pretty young.

    Dena, I understand how much you miss Mika, because that’s how much I miss Wilboo. Most people are very understanding, but they don’t really understand. Mika wasn’t a cat to you anymore than Wilboo was a dog to me. To us, they were the purest form of love we will ever know.

    In the aftermath of Wilbur’s passing, one of my good friends reminded me that death ends a life not a relationship. I’ve tried to remember those words over the last year. Wilboo still loves me, and I still love him. It’s not enough, but it’s something. I hope it helps you as well.

    1. Anonymous

      October 4, 2011 at 1:58 pm

      I remember well reading your posts at the time when you lost your Wilbur.  I remember my heart sinking every single time I read something that you wrote.  The intensity of your pain was so obvious to me, even as someone who does not know you well.  Your pain became my pain. 

      There are very few people in this world that have experienced this pain to the extent that I have.  I know that you are one of those few, Jeff.  Yes, she was the purest form of life that I will ever know. 

      I hadn’t previously heard these words — “death ends a life not a relationship” — but there is some solace in that sentiment.  You’re right, it is not enough, nothing could ever be enough, but it is something.  It is the best that we can do with what we’ve got. 

      Thank you for letting me know that I am not alone in this, Jeff.  Your words mean more to me that I could hope to express here. 

  • Roberta31257

    October 2, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    yes thanks for sharing dena…losing a pet or someone you love is the hardest thing to experience….i am going thru it right now with the death of my mother…it’s just so hard…but yours words help

    1. Anonymous

      October 4, 2011 at 1:54 pm

      thank you, roberta.  i’ve been thinking of you & your family often.  ♥ 

  • Anonymous

    October 4, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    thank you, roberta.  i’ve been thinking of you & your family often.  ♥ 

  • Strega_Rossa

    January 21, 2012 at 11:03 pm

    I’m in tears after reading about the plant growing. It reminds me of the book (and Netflix movie) “Where the Red Fern Grows”. Animals love unconditionally and I think that is what we grieve.

  • Mindy

    February 2, 2012 at 8:13 pm

     Right now i am dealing with the loss of 4 dogs and one cat.. I lost our home to a fire, and sadly  lost our beloved pets, with the exception of one our adventurious cat Jasper. Jasper had snuck out on us that night, and as any other time he sneeks out he was under our bedroom window waiting for us to let him in. He was found on the front step trying to get back into the house, unresponsive, and our neighbor gave him mouth to mouth. He had some cinged hair and was dehydrated but OK.

    Our attempts to save our pets multiply times were unsuccessful, honestly I was lucky to get out of the home with my husband and three children. As we begin our journey to new beginnings, i am finding that i am more emotional than i was from the begining of the tradgedy. A friend of mine said to me “Sometimes closure is the hardest part of a tradgedy” she is so right. I realized today that all of my emotions keep going back to my 4 legged children… The sounds of them crying, the yells of their names telling them to come, the screaming of no please no not my dogs from my daughter, my husband saying their gone their gone, i tried i tried, the coughing from the smoke trying to get to them, the darkness not being able to see or reach them, the screaming to the first responder my dogs please my dogs (even knowinng they were gone)… My animals were not pets they were my kids, my family a part of me that will forever be lost. I am afraid of saying good-bye, of letting go, thinking this is what closure is,  fearing will i forget them, will i never wish to hold them again. Closure is not forgetting, or letting go, or never closing your eyes to see them right in front of you again. Closure is finding the inner peace knowing we did what we could, we did what was right, finding them after the fire, we could only find 3 the other two were in other rooms, and a day after the fire, my husband went to find them, and fortunalty was able to find them. They  now rest in peace on the mantel in our rental home, awaiting their return home with us. My children miss the dogs very much, especially my daughter she is 10 and grew up with all of them, so for her it is harder than for her two brothers who are 3 and 2. My husband lost his hunting partner, who lived to work finding the birds for his daddy, and then coming home to show his family how proud he was that he got the bird. We called him our dingle dangler… His real name is Angus, but he had a drool problem and would have these nasty danglers from his jowels. I miss the danglers, even though they grossed me out bad. We lost out oldest dog, Nae-Nae, her real name was Storm E Nite, she started our family she was the first dog my husband and i got together.. She was 12 that month, when she passed, she was gettin old and starting to have issues but none the less i miss her dearly she was always by my side. Then there is my Gatorlicios, his real name was Gator Bait, he was my beautiful white lab, he was a big dopey block head who was such a love… He was my baby, we went on a vaction i saw a white lab feel in love, and came home to find me one. and i did the most perfect loving dog ever. Then there was miss. Tia Maria, my mother in laws dog who was staying with us. She was such a good dog, and was my father in laws baby, we lost my father in law in 06, so losing her was very hard, she was very special to us. From the time she was a pup my daughter could dress her up and do anything to her.. she loved to play with our cat jasper they were like best friends.  And then my Leai Bear, she was the kitten from the little of kittens we had that i was supposed to find a home for but could not cuz she was soooo beautiful and sweet..  She was a scardy cat but loved to snuggle right up with me at night to sleep.

    Our cat Jasper howled for weeks, i mean weeks.. he would just howl and howl.. He has finally settled down and i know he misses them. He would groom the dogs, and nap with them daily, he had never been alone when we got him we had two dogs and two cats then, so to come back home with us without his brothers & sisters had to be so confusing and hard.

    Not a day goes by i don’t think of them, and what if and wish i could have feelings, i am hoping to find peace soom with their loss, so i can move forward and be at peace when we can move back into our home.

    I found the things written to be so helpful in knowing all that i feel is normal and that it will get better. and yes no matter how long the time goes by that i will never forget them or what they mean to me.

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