My cat just died... and I'm on vacation abroad
August 7, 2017 8:34 PM   Subscribe

I just found out that my cat died well, the cat my family had for 17 years, I guess she was technically my parents cat) and I'm on a vacation in Europe and I don't get back for another week. I just feel so depressed and I don't want to do anything. How can I enjoy my vacation? I just feel awful.

This just feels surreal. I feel like an awful owner, I've been living with my mom (she's been with the cat) ever since my dad died and i knew everything the cat seemed "off" and I should have taken her to the vet before I left, but I had planned to take her next week once I got back. My parents never really took her to the vet regularly, so I was planning on properly taking care of her. Ugh. I feel so bad.

my mom has her own issues and I'm not and now I just feel like I have nothing to come home to once my vacation is over. I used to have my dad and our cat and now I just have I feel so fucking lonely and miserable... on vacation!

I've drawn th curtains if the airbnb room I'm staying in, it's only the early evening where I am, Hutu I just bought a bunch I feel junk food and I'm laying n bed with my iPad and typing this. I was supposed to spend the next few days exploring the city I'm in and I just don't want to do anything.

Can I save this vacation? What should I do? I just feel so profoundly alone. And guilty.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (15 answers total)
It is ok to not do anything tonight. Whatever you're feeling is right, and ok. You just lost someone very special to you. Take some time to try to take care of yourself. Do you like warm baths or long showers? This might be a good night to climb in the shower. Some junk food wouldn't hurt, either.

It is really sad that you lost her, but she lived a long life at 17. It is not your fault that your Mom didn't take her to the vet - whatever you do, please try not to fall in the trap of blaming yourself.

For the rest of your trip - I would take it one day at a time. Don't try to make yourself enjoy something you don't want to enjoy, but try to find little ways that you can take care of yourself, whether that is a walk (or a few walks), or finding places to have coffee, or look at beautiful scenery.

posted by arnicae at 9:06 PM on August 7, 2017 [9 favorites]

My sincerest condolences. ASPCA says the life expectancy of an indoor cat is between 13 and 17 years. I had a poodle when I was a kid; he lived to be 18, and when he died I felt like it was my fault. Pets live until they die, and it feels terrible, but it's not your fault.

I guess this isn't so much an answer to the question 'how can I enjoy my vacation'--just a reminder that feeling guilty is a symptom of grief, and is not an indicator of actual guilt. And again, sorry for your loss.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 9:08 PM on August 7, 2017 [10 favorites]

Your cat was 17. That is old for a cat. Even if you had taken her to the vet, I doubt that this was the sort of thing that could be fixed or cured. So, it is OK to feel sad but you don't need to feel guilty.

For now, I would give yourself a day to do just whatever you feel like doing - don't worry about the vacation right now, let yourself feel the grief at losing this loved companion. Then after a day to yourself, re-evaluate where you are and what you feel like doing.

Also, try to focus on what is going to happen when you get home. Stay focused on the now - what you want to do today and let tomorrow take care of itself when you get home.
posted by metahawk at 9:10 PM on August 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh gosh, this was my nightmare during every "old pet" stage I've gone through. I'm so sorry.

17 is an excellent run, and more than most cats get. And frankly, most cats don't even get a life with a roof and snacks, so yours won the lottery even if you are besieged with guilt right now.

But it sucks. And I think what you do right now is eat your junk food and wallow. Cry and snack and remind yourself of the good times, especially when the guilt washes ashore again.

Tomorrow, go out and make a token gesture. If you can find some kind of animal charity, give them a little money. If you can't, just pick a place or person who wants money and give them a little. Do something kind. And then do your best to compartmentalize until you get home. Because you're going to have to wallow again when you get home anyway. It can keep.

Your cat doesn't know she's gone. Even if she did, she wouldn't require that you have a shitty holiday on her account. It's not dishonoring her to pick up and carry on, like cats do.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:18 PM on August 7, 2017 [22 favorites]

Oh, I am so sorry for your loss. This is so sad, with you being away from home.
Okay, you know the drill... cats and dogs do not live as long as people do. They hit adult years and start having litters when humans are barely toddlers, so their old age is in our teens. That is the natural span of their lives, and we cannot change that.

So... your cat had a good life, with people who cared, and was not farmed off to the equivalent of an old-folks home. No horrendous diseases or futile efforts to stave off the inevitable. Just... peace.

And that's the best any of us can hope for in this uncertain life.

Now about you... grief and loss and second-guessing are normal, but this was an outcome that was natural and inevitable. The point is that you were good to your pet when you had the time together, and that is the important thing. You gave love. You received love. And your cat got the best of outcomes... a long, happy life.

This sucks. It really does. And no one is expecting you to just "get over it." Feel your feelings. Be good to yourself (vacation, remember?) Do what feels right.
Me... I might find a no-kill animal rescue and spend some time hugging cats, and leave a donation. That is, if I could keep from getting detained at the airport with my meowing luggage -- I'm serious. Getting attached might be an issue at an emotionally vulnerable time.

Psychic hugs.
posted by TrishaU at 9:34 PM on August 7, 2017 [8 favorites]

The Rainbows Bridge Poem

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

Author unknown...
posted by jbenben at 11:18 PM on August 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

I hope the poem helps.

I want you to wake up tomorrow and go outside. Tonight, it's OK to cry like the world ended.

Here's a few things you don't know... 17 years is long enough that I swear to you upon a thousand suns that your cat is still with you, and always will be. Likely, if you want this and when you are ready, your beloved furry family will magically lead you to a new furry family member. This is guaranteed. I know, because that's how it works for me and everyone I know that has been through this. This is A Thing.

You can create a ceremony and perform it tomorrow, or wait until you get home. There is time to grieve, and time to enjoy the rest of your vacation. Enjoying Europe does not mean you do not love your family. Your kitty wouldn't want you to miss out on your vacation, honest.

Block out a few days to grieve when you get home.

Please please feel no guilt or shame! Vets are not magic, 17 years old is a very respectable age for a feline to pass away, you were not a bad caregiver. I think felines are pretty difficult to diagnose, IMHO, and even the best vet care won't change much. Honestly. I swear. All of my cats that lived longest had fairly minimal care. The one who passed earliest (10 yrs) had prescription food and then meds, the meds had side effects that caused his early demise. I'm not against vets! But mostly they do a lot of guessing where cats are concerned because feedback from cats is hard to come by once any remedy is being administered. You hope, but you never know for certain. You did not fail your cat. Promise.

Truly, please feel no guilt. Grieve now, grieve a lot more later. Be the flow. Watch the sun come up. Say a prayer. Be well.
posted by jbenben at 11:40 PM on August 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

I am so sorry for your loss.

You don't have to be conventionally "happy" to have a meaningful vacation. Let Europe be a contemplative backdrop for all the complicated feelings you have right now. You are under no obligation to be or feel a certain way while there. You're not wasting the trip or your experience, you're just doing it in a way that is authentic to what you're going through.

Requiring the perfect emotional circumstances for travel is tempting, but ultimately this is your life and your trip, and you don't have to be artificially chipper about it if you're not feeling it.

This might sound melodramatic, but I would honestly turn your thoughts away from the artificially high expectations of tourism and think about the many past and present Europeans who live complicated lives in the very spots you're visiting. People went to those churches to grieve, and still do. It's a perfectly valid way to inhabit and experience those spaces.

People who went before you in all those scenic places had heavy hearts, too, and they were no less qualified to visit them and experience them in their own way. It's part of being human in the world.

My best to you. Take it easy and go at a comfortable pace.
posted by delight at 11:51 PM on August 7, 2017 [16 favorites]

I was literally bawling at the airport after hearing from my mom that our cat was very sick and had to be put down. This was as we waited to board our flights for a beach vacation. Oh, it was also our de-facto honeymoon. It helped a lot that I had someone with me; I could talk to husband about the cat and how much I would miss X, what her personality was like (he didn't know cat very well), and how smart she was.

I cried a lot while telling him these stories, but it helped me feel like I was honouring her memory and remembering her not just as any random cat but one that I knew well and loved. In the absence of a vacation companion maybe you could write down your favourite kitty stories, or tell yourself those stories while crying on a park bench somewhere. (You'll look weird but who cares, no one there knows you!) Give yourself permission to feel all the emotions - be sad if you are feeling sad, cry if you need to, but also allow yourself to feel happy or neutral if maybe you forgot about the bad news at the moment and just had a really amazing meal. You don't have to be 100% sad , or 100% happy either.

I told myself a vacation's purpose is to get out of my day-to-day environment, and there is no requirement to be completely happy (or, in the case of a honeymoon, completely focused on sex). So as long as I was out of my daily routine, I didn't feel like I was vacationing "wrong" so didn't have to deal with vacation guilt on top of grieving.
posted by tinydancer at 3:49 AM on August 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

I feel like I've seen the flip side to this question asked a lot - someone is on vacation, terrible but non-human-death tragedy happens, family at home has to decide whether or not to tell the person on vacation, potentially ruining the trip. And you see advice in both directions -- if the person on the trip can't do anything to change the outcome, a lot of people say, don't tell them. Wait till they get home. And others say, if it were me, I would want to know. It isn't fair to the people not on vacation to have to suffer alone, and it isn't fair to the person on vacation to have to come back and only then find out, when everyone else has already processed their grief.

I don't know where i stand on the hypothetical - both answers have awful drawbacks. But from where you are, right now, would you have wanted them to not tell you so you could have had a better, more full vacation? If yes, then you can try to process the grief by putting it in a box - tell yourself that no one has told you yet, try to go through the end of your vacation as if it hadn't happened. Compartmentalize your grief to occasional moments of solitude. It's hard, but people can do it. And if you're someone who would rather know, then be glad your family knows this about you, and understand that part of why they told you is to show they understand and share your love for this extra family member. Chances are, your mom is grieving too - calling home and talking with her about it every day might be just what you both need.

I wouldn't blame yourself - taking a cat to the vet can be traumatic, and you weren't putting it off because of neglect - you were putting it off because she didn't seem sick enough to warrant it. I suspect a vet visit might have prolonged her life through your vacation, but not significantly lengthened it. There's never a good time for a beloved pet to die, but grieving on vacation is probably easier than grieving while stuck having to function at work or school. Could your reaction be worse because you also lost your father fairly recently, and this is just compounding the sense of loss or guilt? Does thinking that she is now there for him, help?

Was she the sort of cat who sat on your laptop, knocked over your stuff, or otherwise demanded attention in anti-social ways? If so, she managed to intrude on your vacation - her final demand for appreciation at an inappropriate time. In other words, you can grieve and still have a good time - it's not insulting to her memory. I would set aside a little bit of time and imagine you took your cat with you on the trip. What would she have been doing in that hotel room, or on that beach, or museum? Imagine she's with you, now. And all the content and possible aggravation that would bring. And realize that by leaving you while you were leaving her, maybe she was trying to make this easier on you in some way.
posted by Mchelly at 4:39 AM on August 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

Definitely take the pressure off yourself to have fun on this part of your vacation. If you want to explore the city, do it, but if you want to go to the movies, or drink quietly at a bar, or sit in bed and binge-watch Netflix shows on your iPad, that's OK too.

I'm very sorry about your cat, and I'm sorry about your ruined vacation. This sucks. For what it's worth, it's not going to be the end of the world if you don't see all the sights in Munich or Porto or whatever.

Do what works for you right now.
posted by mskyle at 5:17 AM on August 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm so sorry.

Things I've done when someone (pet or human) suddenly died and I was stuck somewhere: walk around noting particularly beautiful things and taking pictures of some of them on my phone. The point being to sort of slow down time and think about the departed and giving the thoughts some kind of concrete form. There's a picture of a tree that I now connect with my father's last day. I also love the idea of doing a kindness for someone, making a donation or just giving someone who needs it a bit of money.

Sit down with a notebook and a pen and write all my thoughts about them. A plane is a good place to do this.
posted by BibiRose at 6:24 AM on August 8, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'm sorry for your loss. Something that has helped me when a person or creature whom I loved has died is to think of things this way - one of the best ways to honour the past existence of a beloved one is to make the most of your own existence. Grieve, but also know that enjoying yourself and taking full advantage of all that life has to offer is its own hommage.
posted by analog at 9:07 AM on August 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm so sorry. My Dad died when I was in my late teens. We had a family cat my Dad adored, despite the fact the cat was a weird little bugger and had some behavioral problems. Still, he was affectionate in his own way, and he definitely had affection for my Dad, and myself. We were the only ones that could hold him in our laps without him squirming. I remember, the day my Dad died, going and finding the cat and holding him and just bawling. I couldn't cry to my mother because seeing me cry was too painful for her, and I felt guilty. But I had the cat, and I held him and I cried and cried alone while my family went to the hospital. I had lost my Dad, and I was his little girl, but I still had the cat, and that was some comfort.

And then, a few years later, the Cat stopped eating, and we went to the Vet and he basically said that it was probably kidney related and there wasn't much point prolonging his life. And it felt like my Dad dying all over again. And I felt so guilty, like, maybe I should have gotten tests done on his kidneys, maybe I should have waited a few more days? He was a weirdo, but he was my weirdo, and he was irreplaceable. But the cat was 18, and he'd had a good life, and I knew I was second-guessing because I missed him and I felt guilty.

And now my Dad was gone, and my cat was gone and I was so alone.

But I wasn't alone. I did have my Mom, even though we had our issues. I knew she loved me, even if we never 'clicked' like my Dad and I. But also, I had me. And it sounds freaking weird, but that night when I cried in bed for my lost kitty-- the kitty my Dad loved, I imagined giving myself a hug. I imagined my inner self enveloping me, and I imagined the warmth from that, filling me. In that moment I felt safe, because no matter what, I got me. And I love me. I don't know, typing it out it sounds really freaking stupid, but it was an immense comfort to me. No matter what, I had my own back, and I fell asleep focusing on that, and it gave me some solace.

The next day, things felt awful, but... the day wasn't as bleak, and things felt a little brighter. I went for a walk, and I looked at beautiful things and I tried to look outside myself, and focus on nature and life. And any time the gloom came over me, I just kept reminding myself, I was here. I wasn't alone at all. And as time went on, I was less alone. I had friends. I had people online, even. I had a lot more than I knew. But I always had me.

Again, it feels kinda silly confessing, but, it helped me immensely to frame it that way. I hope you know you aren't alone at all. I hope that this helps you somewhat.

Lots of hugs your way.
posted by Dimes at 10:43 PM on August 8, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'm so sorry about the loss of your father and your cat. Sometimes life just comes at us, and these things tend to compound.

It's been a couple of days so I don't know how you're doing, but I just wanted to say that I think you should give yourself the space to do what you feel like, even if it doesn't match a conventional vacation - but you should make time every day to spend at least 20-30 minutes on the phone/facetime with a really good friend. Can be the same friend or different friends, but it may help you feel connected to who you are and the people who love you.

Something I read was that feelings aren't truths. Just because you feel guilty doesn't mean you are guilty, just because you feel like you should have done something before you left doesn't mean it would actually have made a difference.
posted by Salamandrous at 8:02 PM on August 11, 2017

« Older So, um, what's the worst thing that could happen...   |   Digital contact sheets - need a new workflow Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.