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senior cat, health, mental health, grief, loss, wellness
Emma in her final hours of glory.


I have to release this energy from my body. Writing is my therapy. It’s my blog, I tell myself, so I will write whatever the Eff I want.

I'll be honest, my first thought is, why don’t you write a blog post about something else to take your mind off of IT? My other thoughts were: blog about something people are interested in, not ‘it’. The “IT” that I’m referring to is grief. Also sadness. And silence. Mostly, surrender. The past few days, actually the past week, I’ve really felt the weight of the decision I had to make on Thursday.

First I’ll tell you what happened. Thursday I made the choice to put my cat down. It was the humane thing to do. She wasn’t just any cat. Emma was a fat, ornery, soft and lazy animal who stayed super loyal to those that supported her. As a kid-hater Emma had to move in with my mom who was gracious enough to take her when I knew it would be hard for someone random to adopt a senior cat. Emma scratched my 2 year old in the face twice. Sending her away, I felt so awful, as if I was mourning her loss. I remember at the time that I pretended to act like it was nothing to send my cat 4 hours away to my parents house where I would get to spend time with her maybe once every 3 months. My husband is not a cat person, nor will he ever be (so he says). It was easy for him to look at this as an opportunity to get rid of one of my cats that he inherited when he married me--even though he still refers to them as my animals. Fast forward five years, my Mom has been the person to make sure that Emma is okay, trying to fix her hyperthyroid (common in senior cats) for the past 4 (out of 5) years.

Alright, this isn’t supposed to be about my cat’s medical history. Emma the cat was 15 years old, she suffered from failing kidneys and liver issues. Over the past two weeks she dropped half her body weight. Rolling in at a whopping 7 pounds, a weight that she hadn’t been since a kitten. It was time. She had all but stopped eating food for almost a week. Even though she couldn't tell me, you could see that her body hurt to walk and climb up on the counter for a sink drink like she used to. Watching Emma walk in general was difficult.

I rushed down to Connecticut to see her after a brief family vacation in Vermont, feeling frustrated with myself that I couldn’t be there to spend more quality time. I lost it the night before leaving Vermont, acting out around the camp fire with my husband, who comes across as insensitive to my sensitivities and callous to the entire situation rather than being immediately empathetic. I know he doesn’t read minds, but it would be sweet if he for ONCE picked up on the angst, nervousness, and sadness I was feeling over the thought of having to be the ‘decider’ of this creature's life.

We got over the tiff, he understood, he comforted, and I went down to Connecticut. He did not come with me. Long story short, he doesn’t like to be there for a plethora of reasons, not that I believe he shouldn’t have come...I would really have loved his support while there. I had no fight left in me to try and convince him that his presence was needed and why. Writing about him not coming down with me hits a sore spot, so I am not going to dwell.

As soon as I came through the door, I rushed upstairs to find my cat, knowing I needed to see for myself how depleted she became. Turning on the light in the closet, the way she lay there without moving or opening her eyes, tears came pouring when I thought she was dead. Coming up to her face, she did the usual 'annoyed with you' tail wag and opened her eyes.

Mom & I

Still crying, I tried to snag a snuggle with Emma who wanted nothing of it and took off to the back of the closet. At this point, she had no intention of coming out of her safe space, so I left her. Often this is what cats do when they’re in pain--hide. I suppose I do the same. I think a lot of people retreat and go within when they’re in pain (emotionally or physically). For that evening and the next morning, I continued to debate whether she needed to be euthanized. I questioned my decision silently in my head after declaring we would take her for 12 pm. It didn't make any sense until I spoke with my brother. He offered the thought that it was super sad to lose her, but there wasn't anything that could be done to fix her body with any certainty. In fact, it was probably more certain she would die painfully from something instead. We went through with it. My mom struggled the hardest. She dwells. She doesn't surrender. Much of her life she gets caught up in dwelling on the past. It's hard to watch a loved one hurt.

I did not expect to be holding her when they administered the sleepy medicine. I did not expect her to slump in my arms lifeless so quickly. It was so emotional to see life disappear in an instant. I did not expect to have my Mom in the room to watch, though I feel that was very kind of them since COVID-19 rules for this vet have been strictly ONE person in the room while administering.

I am hurt that I had to be the one to make the difficult decision to let her go to kitty heaven, even if that’s where she needs to be. I am hurt that I had to be there alone with the kids, while suffering from my own emotions having to nurture the kids’ emotions. It all doesn’t seem fair that I have to suffer from it all. Suffer. Suffer. Suffer.

What if instead of being upset with what's fair or could have been, I let myself feel the sadness right then? Why do I edge towards stoicism when I’m having these emotions? This weekend, I let the house get messy, I didn’t force myself to complete any of the million to-do-list tasks that have grown a mile long. In fact, I let myself just be. I found the quietness soothing, a warm blanket of peace wrapped around my brain and heart. By Sunday, I had clarity on the whole thing. I forgive myself for what I chose to do with Emma, she’s in a better place. I let go. Life is finite. It all ends at some point physically. I’m giving into the fear of moving forward, the fear of death of one of my closest human peoples, and surrendering my control.

Yesterday I created a mini biathlon for myself, proclaimed Sunday to be mini biathlon Sunday. I completed over 4 miles of biking and 4 miles of running, emptying the last of what I needed. Could I recall any music that I listened to? No. I only recall the intimacy within my thoughts, leaving all the guilt, the sadness, the fears, on the pavement and in the woods.

This isn’t about getting out there to crush it. It’s about letting yourself feel. Don’t be ashamed of how you process your grief, be present and let it happen. Surrender to that grief, however it may be for you. Be free from it, surrender.

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