How do I overcome the grief from my cat's death
October 10, 2014 11:23 AM   Subscribe

What books/activities/other resources will help me get past this horrible sadness.

On Wednesday I got home from work, said hi to my cat, then went to go get his food. I suddenly heard horrible loud meowing, so I ran back to him and he was collapsed on the floor, but still conscious, and looked to be in agonizing pain. He was struggling to breathe. I panicked and tried to rush him to the vet but he died on the way over. I feel like I failed him by making his last moments so much worse than they needed to be... I should have just stayed at his side and let him die as peacefully as possible instead of cramming him into a crate and forcing him to die there. And I try to think about the good life he had, but all I can see is his terrified face. I have lost many pets before but I have never had to actually witness it. I failed him when he needed me the most.

Today I am back at work and I am having this existential terror of how is it possible for everything to still be so normal when something so horrible happened? My job is still the same, everyone is the same. It makes me think that nothing really matters... I can't get past this empty feeling of just going through the motions and knowing that nothing matters.

Tonight I have to go back home after work and be in my empty, lonely house that is still full of cat toys and cat things that will just remind me of the horrible suddenness of his death.

I am looking for something to help me move past this, books or whatever suggestions people have for coping with pet loss.
posted by Librarypt to Pets & Animals (39 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I suggest making a memory book for him, with photos and stories about his life. It'll help you think more about his good life with you, and make it more immediately visible and concrete.

I'm so sorry, it's so hard.
posted by dlugoczaj at 11:32 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh my goodness! I'm so, so sorry.
It truly sounds like a very different experience to go through and I'm thinking of you.

First things first - you need to allow yourself time to grieve. I don't care what ANYONE says, a pet is very much a part of the family. My kitty is my baby and I don't care what anyone else says. Take as much time as you need to grieve the loss of your loved one.

Secondly, please don't dwell on the sudden ending to his life or blame yourself for any perceived suffering that happened. You did what any cat-parent would have done and tried to get him help. You were being responsible in the way you handled the situation.... imagine if your kitty had remained in agony for hours while you stayed at home - you'd always be asking yourself "What if I had taken him to the vet??? would that have made a difference?"

Thirdly, once you've grieved his loss, put pictures up, remember the good times and, if you ever feel ready, don't feel guilty about getting another cat.

I'm so sorry for your loss :( Kitties are really the best
posted by JenThePro at 11:34 AM on October 10, 2014 [13 favorites]

I'm so sorry. You had no way of predicting how things would go, and you did what you thought was best for your cat in the moment.

It hasn't happened to me yet so I have no recommendations for coping with pet loss. Just know that you acted out of love so don't beat yourself up.
posted by misseva at 11:34 AM on October 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

I had something very similar to this happen to me with my own cat, many years ago. I'm so sorry. It's an awful thing to have to experience.

You did not fail him. You did the best that you could. He could just have easily have been suffering from something treatable, which the trip to the vet might have helped. You had no way of knowing. You made the best possible call. You did the right thing. You did the best that you could.

Tell yourself that over and over again. Say it aloud if you need to.

Do you have a trusted friend who lives nearby? Have the friend come over, put all of the cat things into a box while you wait in another room, and then take the box with them. Don't have them throw it out -- you might want to have these things later, it's too early to know -- but there's no reason to have them sitting around your house making this experience even worse than it has to be.

When it's done, take that friend out to dinner somewhere, and treat yourself to a comforting meal. Get out of your house for a few hours. Breathe. Talk about what happened if it helps. Don't talk about it if it just makes you feel worse.

When it's been long enough for the shock to pass, then yes, I totally agree with dlugoczaj -- make a memory book, or something similar.

But above all else, keep telling yourself: this was not your fault. You did the best that you could.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 11:35 AM on October 10, 2014 [9 favorites]

Oh, I am so sorry. You didn't fail him at all. You did your very best to get him emergency medical care, which makes you a conscientious and loving owner. You had no way of knowing the seriousness of his condition or that he was going to die so quickly.

Losing a pet is always difficult, and having to witness them in that kind of distress is terrible. It's some of the hardest stuff I have ever been through in my life. In my experience the only thing that will really ease the pain is time. But it will get easier, I promise.

Please take care of yourself. You did everything you could and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. You loved your kitty and he knew it.
posted by something something at 11:35 AM on October 10, 2014 [6 favorites]

Oh, I am so so sorry for your loss. Keep reminding yourself that you did the best you could with the information you had, that you were hoping to save him, so of course you tried to take him to the vet rather than let him die, and if you hadn't at least tried to get him to the vet, you'd be second-guessing yourself about that now.

Time. It takes a lot of time. And sadness and anger and guilt and all the things that go into grieving. But mostly time. It took me a year and a half to get to the place where I could consider having another cat, and that was what worked for me -- time, and adopting my two current kitties.

This book, How to Roar, looks awful, but it was a real help to me. It will help you bring to the forefront of your memories all the good experiences and bonding that you and your cat had, and hopefully that will make the moment of death fade.

Also, the SPCA in my town has pet bereavement group meetings. I only went to one (I was starting radiation for breast cancer at the time, so my ability to do other things was limited) but it was really really helpful. Being around other people who are feeling the same way you do is really comforting.

Take good care of yourself. Try to remember the good times and think about whether your kitty would have wanted to suffer a long time or die quickly. You might decide his end was a blessing in a way.

Also, a friend gave me a hot water bottle with a tuxedo cat cover and that was like my special blankie for quite a while. It's a simple thing but it helped to have something soft & warm to hold while I cried.
posted by janey47 at 11:36 AM on October 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm so sorry about the loss of your companion.

I'm a vet tech and I've been with a lot of animals when they pass. But none of that prepared me for the lost of my first cat.

I would suggest that you let yourself feel your pain. I wouldn't torture yourself with thoughts of what you could have done differently or better (you did everything right), but let yourself experience the loss. When my cat died I spent like, a year, trying to ignore my emotional pain and it was the worst thing I could have done for myself. This is a real loss and all your feelings are legitimate.

I spoke with an owner recently who lost her 20 year old cat a few months ago. When I asked her how she was doing she told me that it hurts all the time, but every day it just hurts a tiny bit less. She misses her baby, and the missing part never changes, but the hurt is slowly starting to recede. I hear this from a lot of owners and have experienced this myself. Time helps you heal. So let yourself cry and hurt, but know that it will get easier.
posted by OsoMeaty at 11:47 AM on October 10, 2014 [8 favorites]

I will also add, that this happens with pets. I've worked in an animal emergency room and several times a week we would have an owner come in with a pet who had passed on the way over. Frequently the pet had become acutely ill and they rushed it over. They all felt a lot of guilt and would ask "What did I do wrong?", "What did I miss?", "I am a bad owner?". I think it's natural to question everything when you experience this kind of sudden loss.

You loved your cat and give him a wonderful life.
posted by OsoMeaty at 11:51 AM on October 10, 2014 [11 favorites]

your decisions are properly judged in light of the information you had at the time. your cat sustained a medical crisis and you rushed it to the vet, which is such an eminently defensible decision that it doesn't need defending.
posted by bruce at 11:53 AM on October 10, 2014 [9 favorites]

Omg, Librarypt, how awful. Can you stay with a friend tonight? Just don't go home. Borrow a night shirt and get a toothbrush, a bottle of wine, and just don't go home. When you do go home, let yourself sit on the floor and howl. If someone hears you, fine, don't hold back, tell then the whole story, just really let yourself grieve. You can apologize later if you feel you must. Get it all out.
Your kitty's last few moments do not define his life or your relationship with him. You did your absolute best for him, sitting there holding him would not have made his death much better, all the years you've spent loving him is what is important for him, not a few miserable moments at the end.
I am so, so sorry for your loss.
posted by BoscosMom at 11:54 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry for your loss.

The expectation that you will in any way be over this or past this when it just happened yesterday is not reasonable. Grieving takes time and you need to allow for that.

The sum of your cat's life is not the end of his life, it's all the years you were companions. Don't forget those because the ending was less than ideal. Lots of them are and you are not alone in this. It's one of the risks of loving a creature of a different species. It's worth it for both of you.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:58 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

With every fiber of my being I promise you that you were the best human your cat could ever have hoped to have in his life and you did right by him from the day he became yours to the moment he passed (and beyond). You didn't do anything wrong, and I am certain that if he could, your buddy would praise you for being his champion and working to rush him to the place that could help him. So many hugs to you. He was obviously a wonderful, wondrfil kitty.
posted by Hermione Granger at 11:58 AM on October 10, 2014 [12 favorites]

My heart hurts for you. Know that you did the right thing heading to the vet. If he'd died at home in your arms, you would wonder if taking him to the vet would have saved him. You are second guessing yourself with the benefit of hindsight. That's not fair. You did the best with the information at hand. Any loving pet parent would have made the same choice.

While no other pet will fill all the same places in your heart, getting another pet can help. It gives you a being to focus your nurturing on, fills the silence, and gives you love. No two pets are ever the same, but they all are wonderful in their own ways. If it feels too early to commit to a new family member, fostering may be a good bridge. Be kind to yourself. Your sweet boy wouldn't want you to dwell on the sad ending to his beautiful life.
posted by cecic at 11:59 AM on October 10, 2014

You did a good thing bringing your buddy to the vet. Your pal knew you pretty darn well and I know that he was scared but he was also next to his best friend and he trusted you so much that I know he thought you were doing the right thing too, even though he was scared.

This sounds very traumatic. I would suggest doing super-kind things for yourself. Make sure you take care of yourself as you grieve. A pet is a best friend and a family member and I am so sorry you had to experience this. There will always be questions. If you had stayed home I think you'd be here asking, "Why didn't I try to get him to the vet?"

You might want to invite a friend over to help clean up the toys and stuff. They can take some to a local pet store to donate it. My local store has a program for this and they donate things to shelters. I would not want to do this alone. If you live near me I am happy to come help.

Maybe make a donation to a shelter in his name if you can.

Take care.
posted by sockermom at 11:59 AM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

So many wise comments above. What else could you have done? Nothing. You weren't to know what would happen - and if your cat was in such immediate pain and distress, there was no other option but to try to relieve that pain by taking him to the vet's, which is exactly what any caring pet owner is supposed to do. You didn't force him to die in his crate - you did the only right and proper thing which was transfer him to medical care in it. Something awful was happening and you did the best you could with the information you had.

I have lost cats and it is very hard. My heartfelt condolences.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 12:06 PM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also, death is an event but life is a process. There's a lot of "why" surrounding the death of anyone we love. His death was traumatic but his life was not, it was full of kibble and snuggles and toys and love. You gave him the incredible gift of a good life. That's not meaningless by any stretch.

Sometimes it helps me to remind myself that nothing is permanent and that all life includes suffering. Nothing lasts, nothing is ever finished, and nothing is perfect. Reminding myself of this is a good way for me to accept things that are just downright awful. I hope it brings you some comfort as well.
posted by sockermom at 12:07 PM on October 10, 2014 [7 favorites]

You gave your cat a wonderful life. Don't beat yourself up about his brief death. You were trying to save him! That's a good thing.

I would gather his favorite toys and the things that remind you of him and save them somewhere special. Look at them from time to time and think of your lost friend. You might cry, and that's OK.

Make a donation of time or money in his name to a good no-kill shelter. This will help other good cats as well.

This will sound crazy, but I'd get a new cat as soon as you can. When my last wonderful cat died I didn't want to think about getting another one for at least a year. My SO's dad died within a week of the cat, though, and she was so full of loss she needed something to take care of. She saw a kitten on the SPCA web site a few days later and fell in love with it on the spot. I felt guilty at first, but it actually really helped get through a difficult time and now we have another awesome family member.
posted by Blue Meanie at 12:20 PM on October 10, 2014

You didn't fail him. You gave him a great life and a loving home. That certainly won't be outweighed by the fact that he had a sudden death and you did your best to try to save him. He could've just as easily died alone without you there. You were there trying to help him and acting in a loving, caring way toward him. It's nothing to feel guilty about.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:44 PM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Sorry for your loss. Everyone second guesses what they did when they loose a love one. Everyone. If you'd stayed home and he'd died, you'd be beating yourself up worrying if you'd tried to take him to the vet he might have lived. What ever you had done, you would fine a reason to blame yourself in a situation that is no ones fault. Please be kind to yourself & don't add the stress of grieving by second guessing yourself. You made the best decision in a horrible stressful situation.

There is no secret unfortunately to making grieving easier, except to let yourself grieve. It sucks & will suck for a while, and then one day it won't suck quite as much. If there is something symbolic that would mean something to you I highly recommend doing it. Be it getting his remains cremated to keep/bury. Making a donation. Lighting a candle, what ever works for you.

Is there a friend or family member you can get to go into your house before you tonight & clear up things like toys/foodbowls etc so you don't have to see them. They can put them in a box out of sight until you are ready to face them.

If you need to cry, cry, sob your heart out & cry. There is nothing wrong with feeling sad for a loved pet passing.
posted by wwax at 12:49 PM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

I hope the wise words above are helping you not blame yourself for your valiant effort to help your dear cat friend.

If you can, tell someone you trust at work that you're mourning a sudden death. It may help a bit with the sense of alienation and meaninglessness. Also, find a safe place at work where you can go to cry.

Is there someone you can ask over tonight, or an online friend you can Skype with? Ask them to comfort you or not comfort you in whatever way feels best to you. Tell stories, look at pictures. Have boxes of tissues onhand.

Maybe make a little shrine out of his bed and toys, and put food there for a while. Think about somewhere beautiful to scatter his ashes or put a stone to remember him by.

In days to come, be gentle with yourself. Give yourself kindness, comfort, and unlimited permission to feel whatever you feel. When the tears come, let them fall. Someday soon, may you think of him and smile.
posted by ottereroticist at 1:03 PM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Posting here is a good first step. Getting the reassurance that the grief you feel is real and normal and has been felt by so many others is important. I lost my heart cat very suddenly, also while trying to rush him to the emergency vet. The details are unimportant, but it was similar in that I was away, returned, and as soon as he saw me, he started to crash. They *do* hold on to see you again.

I know I'm repeating things that have already been posted in this thread, but more sympathy is never a bad thing.

I second what janey47 said about finding a pet bereavement group. I found it enormously helpful to be with other people who were feeling the same way - and sharing the story with people who I knew would really listen and sympathize felt cathartic.

If it was just you and your cat, you're going to feel especially alone. No cat can ever replace the one you lost, but fostering for a rescue or shelter is a good way to not feel alone, without feeling like you've rushed out to get some sort of replacement.

Good luck. It will get easier, although it will never get any less sad.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 1:17 PM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

It sounds as if your cat hung in there until you got home to say goodbye. His loud meow was just that, a way to say thanks for being my partner in crime. goona miss you. You did the correct thing in trying to get to the vet.

Take comfort in his memories and his fare thee well.
posted by 724A at 1:19 PM on October 10, 2014 [7 favorites]

I also remembered while I was thinking about you and feeling so sad for you that I used the resources of the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement. They have online bereavement counseling and chat sessions, which I was unable to use at the time, but they seem like good people.

I also put some of his fur in a locket made to hold pet ashes and had a custom pendant made with photos of him on each side and wore both of those every day for more than a year.

I cried so much at work that everyone knew why I was sad and everyone was very kind and thoughtful. One friend told me that if I ever needed to stop crying for any reason, I should drink water, because you can't cry and drink water at the same time. Sometimes it was helpful to know that.
posted by janey47 at 1:27 PM on October 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

My family recently lost our 7-year-old cat suddenly. He died of blood clots, and every decision my family made was agonizing and we were totally uncertain if it was the right choice. I think trying to get your cat to the vet was the right choice -- what if, undisturbed, your cat had lasted for an hour or two? You would be blaming yourself for not going to the vet because you "might have been able to save him."

What really helped my mom was knowing what our kitty passed from - the symptoms sound similar to what your cat went through. In our case, my mom spoke to a vet (family friend) who basically told her that there was nothing she could have done. Our kitty had heart disease, but because of the type of disease he had, it is symptom-less until it's much too late. The only way it would have been detected beforehand is if he had happened to be at the vet the week before (with no symptoms) and the vet had done an ultrasound of his heart. But in actual fact, there's no way that would be done on a seemingly well cat. And in any case, by the time it manifests in any kind of detectable late, the kitty has a death sentence. For some cats that's a couple years, for some it's a couple hours.

So truly, believe that you gave your kitty the best life possible and that you were not the cause of his sudden illness or passing. Grieve, but don't feel guilt. It's exceedingly unlikely that any different decision on your part would have saved your cat.

Second... I know what it's like to suddenly, inexplicably lose part of your family. Our kitty was the best kitty, and seeing him suffering and in pain was absolute torture. He was loving and gracious and everyone in the neighborhood loved him, and of all the cats in the world he didn't deserve a short life. It's been a month and it's really hard for me to come to terms with the fact that he's gone, but my family's other cat (13 and not-so-lovely) is in good health as always. It's just not fair.

So I don't know, it's a hard thing. Your kitty was loved, and he was your family. It's a huge loss and you probably won't feel normal for a while. Let yourself grieve like you would if you'd lost a blood relative - you were probably closer to your cat than you are to some of your relatives. When our cat passed, I was exhausted from being up all night at the emergency vet (plus I live ~half hour from my parents), and had class the next day. I was pretty much a zombie for the rest of that week. I wish I could have taken the week off but with school you can't really... Do you have sick/vaca time? Getting out of your normal environment for a few days could really help, especially as you won't have the constant reminder.

I also posted a memorial to our kitty on Facebook, and the outpouring of love and support from family and friends was really touching and really helped us deal with our loss.
posted by DoubleLune at 1:42 PM on October 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

I am so sorry. I lost my cat in a similar way 2 1/2 years ago and I still miss him (teared up reading your question)--the main difference being that he became ill in the middle of the night, and suffered for several hours. In particular, I struggled with whether I did the right thing at the end--I, too, still feel guilty for cramming him into the box he hated to rush him to the vet and having him die on the way instead of just holding him and letting him die in my arms.

Afterward, I literally felt like I was not going to be able to live with the pain--and I've lost family members! It sounds crazy, but the only way I can think to explain it is that my cat was with me all the time, and I did not live with other people I've lost.

I would have gotten another cat soon after; unfortunately, my life went kind of crazy after that and I've yet to be in another situation where I have been able to get another cat. For me, that definitely would have helped the most with my grief. If you aren't ready for another cat, look into fostering (unfortunately, my current living situation prevents me from doing even that). I still miss him and I still feel guilty, but it does get better. I guess the main point I have to make is that you are not alone and what you are feeling is normal.

I am sure you gave him a wonderful life, and you did all you could for him with the information you had.
posted by tiger tiger at 1:59 PM on October 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

Oh shit that sounds traumatic. I would also be a total wreck. However I don't think you failed him AT ALL. You made a totally sound decision during stressful circumstances based on available information. It's exactly what I would have done.

I know it's hard but try to focus on the fact that you gave your kitty a really good life. You sound like a loving pet parent and he was lucky to have you.

Honestly although it was traumatic for you to have him die so suddenly, it actually sounds like this was a lot better than a long, drawn-out death with lots of tests and vet visits.

One thing that helped immensely for me after our Corgi died earlier this year was cleaning the fuck out of the house. Fortunately my fiance was up to the task so he just went to town on the place. I took the car to the car wash to get the dog hair out and then took our other dog to the park for a while. Is there someone who can come over and help you clean? Or can you hire a cleaning service?
posted by radioamy at 2:09 PM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

How beautiful that he waited for you to get home to say good bye to you before passing. You're so very lucky.

Eventually you live beyond the grief. But no, it doesn't ever leave. You just get used to it, or something similar.

I honor your dear friend's passing.

PS - just cry your eyes out as often as necessary. No way out but through, so to speak.
posted by jbenben at 2:14 PM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm so sorry. When my dog died, I did a lot of writing about her. I wrote about her death-- like you, I did some second guessing about how it happened. (I dare say more people do second guessing than not.) Then I wrote down tons of impressions and memories from all different times. It was a way of staying in that parting moment but also, in a certain way, having it all written down made it seem possible to move on. Not then, but at some point.

Someone sent me flowers, and I put them near her spot on the living room floor. It was comforting for some reason to have that and to pick out a memorial statue.

Please take gentle care of yourself.
posted by BibiRose at 2:55 PM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

You didn't fail him, you did your utmost. Not knowing the nature of what was happening, the best thing to do was get your cat to the vet as quickly as you could. And you did.

If any of your friends also knew your cat, you could have them over, and have a sort of wake – light a candle, have some light food and drink, and talk about the nice memories you have of him. Something like this can really help. Even alone, you can make an exercise of remembering some nice times you had with him.

This happened very recently so of course you're still feeling raw. I lost my 20-year-old cat last month. I miss her terribly, but I know from experience that two things happen after a cat dies: you miss your cat, but you also miss the presence of an animal in the house. My solution is that I am fostering a nice cat for a local rescue group. She's not my cat, but it's just more normal for me to have a cat dish in the kitchen and paws scampering around. Maybe something like this will work for you when you're ready.
posted by zadcat at 4:29 PM on October 10, 2014

Animal shelters and/or animal hospitals often host pet loss support groups -- you might check yours for a local option. You are experiencing a very real grief, and you don't have to do it alone.

It is a beautiful thing that you and your cat had each other. I am so sorry for your loss.
posted by Boogiechild at 6:16 PM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

There are many great things about cats and dogs and there is one absolutely terrible thing: they do not live long enough. Knowing this, knowing that there is no remedy for it, you still chose to give an animal a good, loving home. What would have happened if you did not? There are so many homeless animals who are cast out or put down for lack of a home. Your buddy loved you as you loved him and you did right by him, all through his life and through his dying. I've had three cats that died and with every one, I tried so hard to save them and then tormented myself that maybe I could have done something else. I don't think my vet or yours would agree with that line of thinking--it is the way we have of assigning importance to their lives, our sorrow at their deaths.

Give yourself time. You honor his life with your grief but you will honor it even more going forward to also allow yourself to remember the strange sweetness he offered, the comfort he took in your care and the joy you had together.
posted by Morrigan at 6:24 PM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

It is so, so hard. I'm so sorry. My kitty died earlier this year. I'd known she was sick for a while so it wasn't a complete surprise but even so it was devastating; I can only imagine how much worse you must feel with the suddenness.

It's not your fault. Everyone's said it but it bears repeating. You did the right thing. You weren't to know that the end would be so quick, the vet was exactly the right place to take him, even if he did die on the way. You were there for him. They give us so much for so little. I think this is the price we pay: we bear their loss.

Things you can do: don't be alone. Hang out with other humans, or other animals if it's not causing you too much grief. Mourn him. Give yourself permission to grieve. Do something special in his honour. I got my kitty cremated and found a beautiful manekineko jar to put her ashes in, with a red satin cushion to sit on. She sits on my bedroom windowsill and I still talk to her and tell her how much I miss her. Do whatever seems appropriate for you to remember him.

It's never easy, and you never forget. But gradually the meaning does start to come back, as you do things that make meaning. You loved your kitty and he loved you. That's the all-too brief meaning. My condolences.
posted by Athanassiel at 8:12 PM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh, I'm so very sorry for your loss.

I understand why you feel bad about his death. For whatever it is worth, I was in a similar situation and I *didn't* rush my pet to an emergency vet, he died in my arms, and the guilt and grief is unbearable. While I don't think he would have lived if I had taken him in, I'll always wonder if he would have had an easier time if I had taken him to the vet, and I just feel so, so, guilty and awful about it.

But even though I took the other path and regret it deeply, I think I have some appreciation for how awful you feel. Losing a loved pet is aways terrible, but when it is sudden like this and happens when the pet is alone with you, I think it adds another layer to the trauma. So many people seem to be able to give their pets a "good death", and when this doesn't happen, it just makes everything so much worse. Do try and take some comfort in the fact that you were with him, and you were trying to do all that you could to help him (and from what I've read on pet loss websites, even those who do manage to give their pets a good death end up feeling guilty about ending their pet's life).

In my case, not much has actually helped, to be honest; a good friend of mine told me to expect to feel bad for a long time, and she has been right. But here are a few things that I have done that you may find useful:

1) if you google "pet loss hotline" you will find a number of free services that you can call at specific times. They are usually staffed by vet students. I preferred to talk with a few of my good friends who are animal lovers, but the world moved on so quickly, and people soon got tired of talking about it with me (especially since I said the same thing over and over). Having an outlet like this was helpful.

2) I did attend a pet loss grief group in my city; it was comforting to be around people who were going through the same thing (but, in the end, it actually made my guilt worse so I stopped attending).

3) Seeing a counselor; since my pet died six months ago and I'm still crying everyday and having intrusive thoughts, I eventually added an antidepressant.

4) Distraction. While I think you need to feel your feelings for however long you feel them, it can get overwhelming. So I tried to build in some distractions into my life (such as an engrossing TV series on Netflix)

5) Reading books on grief in general pet loss in particular.

6) Having a family member come in and remove the most visible reminders of my pet. Note: people really differ on this, so just do what feels right to you. Some people are comforted by having the pet's things around, but it makes others feel worse. Try to avoid making irrevocable decisions about throwing things away until you've given yourself some time.

7) Getting out and going on long walks.

8) Changing my routines. My pet played a big part of my day-to-day life, and I found it helpful to change things up a bit so that I wouldn't keep thinking "OK, now it is dinner time" or whatever.

What didn't help me:

1) Getting a necropsy. I thought it would bring closure, but it just raised more questions.

2) Researching the suspected cause of death

3) Being around other people's pets.

4) Talking about it with people who just don't understand.
posted by girl flaneur at 9:50 PM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

I wish I knew how to get over cat death grief because six months after my own cat's death I'm still grieving pretty hard. But while I don't have any advice, I just wanted to let you know that what you're experiencing is normal. Don't let anyone tell you "it was just a cat." You're grieving the sudden loss of a close family member and that will always hurt.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:40 AM on October 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

About a year ago the same thing happened to me. It was, and still is to some extent, horrible. Henrietta had seen me through some tough times and I thought we would be together for longer than her four years. She died in fear and pain and I wasn't there for her and I still feel like I failed her. This may not be for everyone, but what helped make my grief a little more bearable was adopting kittens. It was, to a certain extent, the type of rash (and expensive) behavior people make when mental functions are not at 100%. But it worked out. The folks at the shelter were so kind, they listened to my story, and let me cry. Having two adorable eight week old cats helped to balance my grief. I love them but not as hard as I loved Henrietta. I still miss her and still cry.
posted by superior julie at 10:13 AM on October 11, 2014

Oh, I am so sorry! How traumatizing and sad. :(

The one thing about cats is that they forget things and move on pretty quickly. Ever see a cat right after coughing a hairball? It's like it never happened! For me, one thing that might help would be to imagine him having come home in spirit, been let out of the box, and having long forgotten about the box trip by now. I don't know if I believe in spirits, but even if they exist only as a receptacle in our imagination for the very real love we still feel, that has a reality of its own. That moment was always going to be a hard one, and if you made it a little harder for him, well sure, you probably had to make things momentarily harder for him plenty of times as his guardian. With the information you had, you did the right thing. Your intent was to get him help, and had it succeeded, he would've long since forgotten that moment. He is, in fact, not remembering that moment now. He does not feel - and also would not have felt - cheated out of the way that you now wish you had treated him. You did the very best you could for him out of love, and I'm sure he knew how much you loved him.
posted by slidell at 12:50 AM on October 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have nothing to add to the excellent advice above. I just wanted to add to the chorus - you did the best you could with what you knew.

It's so hard to lose a beloved pet, but I promise it does get better. I still get teary eyed sometimes when I think of my sweet Zeke, who died 15 months ago, but mostly thoughts of him put a smile on my face. Getting new kitties a few months later also filled a void in my heart and life and emptied two cages at my local shelter.
posted by Wet Hen at 6:35 AM on October 12, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks everyone... the cat stuff has all been put away in a closet, which has helped a bit I think. It still hurts tremendously but every day seems to be a tiny bit better. Sigh.
posted by Librarypt at 8:58 AM on October 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

My cat Cotton died suddenly Sunday night after 12 1/2 years of a wonderful life. I was going to write an AskMe like this one. All the comments here are helping me as well. Thanks.
posted by Rob Rockets at 4:25 PM on November 18, 2014 [6 favorites]

« Older dentist filter! What can I do?   |   Vancouver-themed cycling jersey? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.