when it's time to say goodbye
Last week we talked about how to get your furry loved one through the sad times, especially if they’re going through Seasonal Affective Disorder (a type of depression that comes during the Fall and Winter months — read the last post for more information), or have just been feeling down lately.
Sometimes though, the depression comes from a very real and painful place.
We’d be in serious denial if we didn’t talk about the fact that one reason a cat could be going through depression is because their loved one —a pet sibling or a much loved human, has died.
Whether there was time to prepare for the end, or if it’s the very first time you’re experiencing the loss of a loved one, both of you are going through the grieving process together — and to be honest, both of you will need all the support you can get.
Photo by Thales Protázio via Flickr.
goodbyes are hard, and necessary
Grief brings major shifts in personality. Your super shy kitty starts wanting extra attention, or your outgoing furbaby is nowhere to be found. The most heartbreaking part will be a time where the surviving pet cries while looking everywhere for their missing loved one, and the search that leads to nowhere can go on for weeks.
If you think you and kitty are up for the task, you might want to consider allowing your cat to say goodbye by allowing them to see the body of the pet sibling that has died. Whatever their reaction (getting closer, ignoring it altogether, etc.), should be thought about as normal. The pain will still be there, but so will closure.
Stages of Grief
Humans stumble through the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) when going through loss, and there isn't a whole lot of research to suggest cats go through similar phases, but pets also have to work through a period of time before moving forward. Some furry friends take a lot longer than others, but so do some humans too — we all have different times we take to say goodbye.
What can I do?
This part of the life journey is awful, but you can do a few things to make it a little easier — for you and kitty:
- Talk to Them: Acknowledging what we’re going through eases the worst of the pain, because we get to hear out loud that we’re not alone in our sadness. Telling kitty “I know what you’re going through is awful, and I’m sad too” might not translate literally, but they will pick up on your emotion and start feeling a bit better too. Try not to get into the habit of babying them, that can train them to act depressed.
- Play Lively Music: music from a harp is especially nice, but any upbeat tune that reminds you both of the good times is a great change of atmosphere.
- Talk with your Vet: If you think kitty might need something stronger like antidepressants, reach out to your vet to discuss different treatment options that could include supplements or medicine. Whatever the vet’s orders, follow them closely, and follow up if you have more questions!
Photo by Pavel Medzyun via Flickr.
- Give Yourself and Kitty Time: One day, you can remember a happy moment without the wave of sadness knocking you off your feet. You can clear away their things without feeling like you’re betraying their existence. You and kitty will get to a place where the memories will be there without so much pain. All these and other things show up eventually, “eventually” being an accumulation of little healing steps taken one moment at a time. It’s okay to take the time you both need to heal.
Do you have any suggestions to help kitty get through loss? Let us know in the comments below what the process has been like for you, and what really helped get you through the worst of times. We can’t make the pain go away completely, but we can help each other through it.
Photo by Liz West via Flickr
Writer. Pet Enthusiast. Ambivert.