Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A few thoughts on grieving - day one

Here they are in no particular order:

1. Hasn't there been enough pain? Now the Thanksgiving feast, the Christmas dinner, the Chinese multi-course sit down meal of grief really begins. This amount of crying should at least burn a hell of a lot of calories. Has anyone studied this? In other words: now the real loss begins.

2. Stay in bed as long as you need to. So what if it's a gorgeous summer day? Fuck the sunlight and the bright blue skies. Fuck the dental receptionist who rings up and wants to schedule a cleaning. Is this a good time? No. When would be a good time? in that chipper, clueless voice.

3. Don't eat; feel the physical sensation of an empty stomach. The least you can do is feel some physical pain. Your heart is suffering, why not let the body suffer, too?

4. Donations. Although you despise everyone and everything today, try to do some good in the world. Something. My good friend Midge made a donation to an animal shelter in Otis's name today. Bless her. She is an amazing friend. This gave me the idea that I could make a donation to Friends of the Animals Foundation in West Seattle --- the rescue organization where I adopted Otis and Sarajevo ten years ago. It felt really good to give back to the people that made it possible for me to give Otis a home.

5. Let others know about the selfless individuals that run Friends of the Animals Foundations. The organization is 100% volunteer. They adopt out kittens and cats through a local pet store in West Seattle and on the web; they capture feral cats and after neutering them, release them back into their colony. In my mind, they are absolutely heroic. And yes, they have a Facebook page.

6. Eat whatever you want. Eat in bed. Eat things that don't go together and are bad for you. Today I have  had: a bowl of cereal, fruit, ice cream, crackers, more fruit. Some of the fruit was in a smoothie.

7. Stay away from people who love you and mean well. I spent much of the day feeling rage (the anger stage) and anyone could have set me off with just one "wrong" word. I felt lucky that I did not have to go to work and try and teach today. Know when you are not fit for human company.

8. Look at photographs, lots of photographs. I think I've looked at almost every picture I have of Otis today. I figured out that I could zoom in on his photos on my iphone and create close ups to look at. I was much more interested in his older, healthy photos than the more recent ones. It felt good to look back over his life. I usually take very few photos -- I'm very glad for what I took. Note to self: take more photos.

9. Realize animals grieve. Yes, they do. My veterinarian verified this --- as if I needed verification.
It's been a very quiet day today. Sarajevo is clearly depressed. Even Duende is sniffing around trying to figure out where Otis has gone. It feels good to know they care, too.

10. Think about some kind of memorial. Sometime next week I will pick-up Otis's remains. I think I want him to be out on the porch where he most loved to be. I'm fantasizing what kind of big plant I will plant him under. It feels very strange, slightly sick, and somewhat comforting to think about this.

In truth, grief sucks. I have made this sound much more light-hearted than I feel at the moment. There is of course no right way to grieve and no wrong way. One thing I've learned in life --- skipping the grieving process just catches up with you later. It's important to live through the pain, the crazy thoughts, the anger, the bad food, the sleepless nights. I wish I had more wisdom on this subject. I don't.


  1. "When cuddles from your cat are loving and true, always remember it was the cat that chose you." (little plaque)

    I understand your grief. I'm so sorry, but I can recommend a can of vanilla frosting to add to your food-item grief list. It helped me when I lost the world's best dog three years ago. I still miss him. People who don't get it have no heart. And there is no such wisdom...nothing makes it better.
    I'm so glad Otis had you to give him a loving home to make him feel loved and unique. Donations are a great idea...great site you posted.
    I suggest unplugging the phone, closing the blinds, darkening the rooms and just let go.


  2. Susan, I admire you. You are so brave to share your grief, to write. After Monet died, I wrote a poem, posted it on my blog with his picture, and then took it down. I couldn't look at it. I cried every day, all the time, for weeks and weeks. I only stopped crying when the tears were spent, and the grief came again, in waves. Do you know that tears contain stress hormones? Crying does provide temporary relief. But only temporary.

    Don't let anyone dishonor your grief. This is devastating. The grief is still as strong for me a year later, but my brain has compartmentalized it, as it's absolutely unbearable to keep grief on the surface forever. In that sense, things get better.

    For me, grief is a longing -- a need for Monet to come back. How can it be otherwise? I've decided to write his story in a book somehow. He makes it into my other books, too.

    You are absolutely right to avoid people who mean well but who do not understand or who set you off.

    For me, part of it was that some people don't understand how deeply we can grieve for the loss of an animal companion. And our culture does not honor this kind of grief, in general. Can we take time off work to grieve the loss of a pet, or do people think we're weird? It's so important to honor him.

    I have no wisdom, only a kind of sister grief to share with you. Sorry this has been me, me, me in this comment, but I'm just telling you that I do understand. I lost a kitty I loved more than life, my closest soul mate, and he even looked like Otis.

    When we love so deeply, we must grieve deeply. I hate it. But there is no way around it, true. But it's still unbearable.

  3. Laney, Kelli, & the Kitty Pets of the Agodon household just made in donation to Friends of the Animal Foundation in Otis's memory. Thanks for the link and thanks for sharing such an incredible organization.

    We all send good healing thoughts and prayers to you and are so so sorry for your loss.

  4. Dear, dear, Kelli,

    Thank you and Laney and the Agodon cat crew so muh. It means the world to me that you've donated in Otis's name today. I am really really grateful to you -- and will be in touch soon. Much love -

  5. And thank you Anjali and Amy for your warmth and good wishes. I am glad to have people around me that get it.

  6. Oh god I'm so so sorry. I just read about Otis on Kelli's blog. I'm going to spend some time with my 2 cats tonight and keep you in mind as you grieve. Some extra time and I'll light a candle on my little shrine for you and that light will be from me to you. I wish you well.

  7. Susan, I'm very sorry about Otis; such a painful loss. We grow so attached to our animals over the years, and they to us. Honor your grief and allow it to take its own course, however it might look. I'm thinking of you and your fur family...