How to grieve for a pet from afar
December 1, 2016 12:12 AM   Subscribe

My ex texted me yesterday to let me know that one of her cats -- whom I referred to as my step-cats whilst we were together -- was hit by a car yesterday. I'm devastated, though I haven't seen said cat for nearly a year, and I don't know how to process it properly.

I texted back and sent my condolences, and asked if there was anything I could do (lame, sure, but I didn't know what else to say). My ex said she texted me because I was the only person who loved that cat as much as she did.

Step-cat was a troublemaker, with lead feet that always seemed to find exactly the wrong place to stand on her humans. She was a hunter, but didn't know what to do with things once she'd brought them in. She once brought us an entire adult moorhen, which was nearly as big as she was. She liked to hide, but hadn't figured out that her tail was not invisible. She was an asshole, but a lovable asshole, and I miss her dreadfully.

I don't want to reach out to my ex because, hey, we broke up, and it's clear that she's over me or at least doesn't want anything to do with me and that's fair enough. This has highlighted for me that I'm probably not over her, yet, but I'd figured that out already (which is why I'm making a point of remaining single).

What can I do to process this. I realise that it's only right that I mourn my step-cat, since her passing is obviously affecting me. It also coincides with one of the local toms, who had become a pal of mine if not actually my pet, no longer visiting me -- I'm worried about him and this just brought it home.

And also, honestly, I'm worried about my ex. We broke up near Christmas, and she told me I'd destroyed Christmas for her, and now this. And yes, I know, not my business any more, but I don't know how to put to one side the concern that I'm feeling.

I feel like I should be able to at least see clearly my path through this, but I suspect I'm oversimplifying things. Suggestions about how I can deal with this, and what I could do as a practical memorial to my estranged step-cat, are welcome.
posted by six sided sock to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Donate to a local trap neuter release/vet care for strays charity ? That would help the community the tomcat comes from.
posted by Mistress at 2:23 AM on December 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


There are a number of concerns/issues presented here, don't approach them as one event, you're feeling overwhelmed and you don't need to be . Deconstruct this, prioritize, address them one at a time. A donation in your step-cat's name would be a nice gesture.
posted by HuronBob at 4:35 AM on December 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


I am so sorry for your loss.

If it helps, at all, my ex (of over 10 years ago) called me when the last of "our" cats was deathly ill, and let me come over to visit with her one last time. I still cried and was incredibly sad, even though I hadn't been a part of that cat's life for 10 years - I had been for the 7 years previous!

I agree with Mistress & HuronBob - maybe donating to a local shelter, or somehow providing for the local outdoor kitties would be something tangible you can do.

Be kind to yourself.
posted by needlegrrl at 4:37 AM on December 1, 2016


I would print out a nice picture of the step-cat, frame it and set it in a cosy spot. Then I would light a candle, set it near the picture, raise a glass of wine towards the picture and say something like:
"Step-cat, you were a troublemaker, with lead feet that always seemed to find exactly the wrong place to stand on your humans. You were a fierce hunter, but didn't know what to do with things once you'd brought them in. You once brought us an entire adult moorhen, which was nearly as big as you were. That was very cool and I'm still impressed. You liked to hide, but hadn't figured out that your tail was not invisible. You were an asshole, but a lovable asshole, and I miss you dreadfully. You have a place in my heart forever and I will not forget you."
Then I'd drink the wine, and cry as much as needed.

You have my heartfelt sympathy. It's tough.
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:47 AM on December 1, 2016 [32 favorites]


Yeah, all the crying. Seconding picture of cat and reminiscing about cat. Cat hugs (volunteer at shelter, hug cat you own if applicable, get cat and hug that cat if possible, hug cat of friend).
posted by sacchan at 5:20 AM on December 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


Cry for the cat, talk about the cat, write about the cat, mourn the cat, watch for the tom, hope for the tom's safety, maybe go to a local shelter and volunteer some time with the cats there.

Don't conflate the cat's death with your breakup.
Don't conflate the cat's death with not being over your ex.
Don't conflate the cat's death with Christmas.
Don't conflate the cat's death with your ex's well-being.

When your thoughts wander from the cat to these other things, bring them back. It's awkward at first to say to yourself "self, you are mourning cat, not ex, stay on task here." Acknowledge that you still need to process the end of your relationship, but keep it separate.

"Self, now is not the time for that; give cat your attention."
"Self, ex's Christmas is not your concern - focus on your own Christmas."
"Self: cat, remember?"


You will likely have to do it many times. But it gets less awkward as you begin to disentangle your various losses and give them each their own space.

As far as a practical memorial, I'd suggest a framed picture on a shelf somewhere. BUT: if you didn't feel the need to have a framed picture of the cat around during the past year since the last time you saw her, then be sure you are really asking about a memento of the cat and not of the relationship.
posted by headnsouth at 5:58 AM on December 1, 2016 [10 favorites]


This is common and you're not alone. In the last 8 years, my ex-husband has only contacted me 3 times, each upon hearing of the death of one of our shared pets. We laughed and reminisced and cried.

Cry it out, write more words like the lovely remembrance you wrote above, find an old picture and put it on your phone. Someday, when you get a cat of your own, give it your old cat's name as its middle name and nuzzle it.

I'm sorry for your loss.
posted by kimberussell at 6:58 AM on December 1, 2016


I'm going to disagree a bit here...

Instead of donating to a cause, can you contact the vet directly and pay off any balance? I don't want you to enmeshed with your ex, so I don't know.

Otherwise grieve privately. It's been 17 years now and I still cry. It's OK to cry.
posted by jbenben at 11:12 AM on December 1, 2016


:'( I'm sorry for your loss.

How about making a 'farewell scrapbook'?

You can put in photos, a short paragraph about what they meant to you, and a thank you note with 10 of your favourite memories with them.
posted by Crookshanks_Meow at 1:03 AM on December 2, 2016


Thanks for all your replies. I've made a donation to the local cat shelter in stepcat's memory, and cried more than I thought I would.

The hard part for me is not so much thinking about the loss of my stepcat, but rather thinking about my ex, and how devastated she must be. As headnsouth suggested, I'm just working on redirecting my thoughts. Even though it feels awfully selfish, I know it's the right thing to do.
posted by six sided sock at 2:39 AM on December 4, 2016


… And I'm pleased to report that local neighbourhood tom, AKA this grumpy little shit, reappeared just now after over a week's absence. He's got broken claws and scuffed pads — classic signs of a cat-vs-automobile — and he bit me when I tried to stroke his back. So, into a cat carrier and off to the vets with him I go. Not taking any chances.
posted by six sided sock at 4:32 AM on December 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


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