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Sick with grief and guilt


AJWCat

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We just lost our wonderful sweet 15 year old cat a couple days ago and it was physically traumatic for him and totally horrific. The emergency vet said it was an organophosphate poison.

My vision of his last moments were not this. Maybe being in vet office, calm and in control and getting time to say goodbye (as was the case with my other cats years ago.)

Instead, this was a nightmare and from the time I found him to his death was about 2 hours. We had sprayed Raid on a couple spiders the previous night in the basement but the vet said that was not it. He wasn't sure but he says it could have been days earlier. I am totally paranoid now. I really have not eaten or slept much. I am full of guilt since I am not sure exactly what happened so I am barely coping. We are renting a vacation home so I don't know what he might have gotten into. Can't find anything. Maybe it was a poisonous bug? No clue. He had also lost a lot of weight the last couple months and was hiding a lot so I know he was sick but this was way beyond anything unless it was total organ failure all at once. I don't know.  I have waves of fear and anxiety and overwhelm. I can't believe I let this happen. The whole thing is so traumatic I have not even been able to have normal sadness.

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20 hours ago, AJWCat said:

I can't believe I let this happen.

You don't know what happened to cause this, not for sure.  So how then could you have prevented it?  You are assuming responsibility for something beyond your control.  That said, I know that does little to relieve your feelings of guilt, which are not earned, but are in fact, a part of grief.  Guilt is COMMON in grief.  We often assume we should have been able to protect our loved one, whether person or animal, from whatever befell them, but often are not able to.  It is so hard to accept that we are human and have limitations and that so often life and death are beyond our control.  It makes us feel our world is so tenuous to know that things can happen beyond our control.  And yet things do happen beyond our control, every day.  That leaves us feeling vulnerable.  Death leaves us feeling vulnerable.  When my husband died, it left me feeling like an innocence had been stolen from me...before that time, I took life for granted, afterwards, there was a knowing I'd never asked to be part of, realizing that at any moment things could change forever, just as they had the moment he drew his last breath.

I am so sorry for your loss, I know it is profound.  We form and establish relationships, with people, with our pets, they have a huge part of our lives as members of our family, and when we lose one of them, we miss them always.

Sometimes it helps to establish memorials or perform rituals in their memory.  It helps to pay them honor and give them that place they deserve.  
http://www.griefhealingblog.com/2012/04/nightmares-and-bad-dreams-in-grief.html 

http://www.pet-loss.net/guilt.shtml

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Thanks so much Kay. It feels good to get it off my chest - I am still working, minute by minute on working through my guilt. I know rationally you are right. Thanks for being here for people who need it!! (I loved what you said in your other comment about people who don't have pets let because they don't want hair on the furniture and your dog gets a chair. haha, I love it. I would feed Courage my cat, first too. He was my priority.) 

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On FB the other day someone shared something about "who would feed their pet before themselves", I would!  Mine always eat first, but if I only had food for them or me, it'd be them.  They are my babies.

We know things rationally but that doesn't always make it any easier to FEEL that way.  We have to realize that feelings are not meant to be barometers, they aren't a good measure of reality, and when we get these guilt feelings, it may have no bearing in reality or what is accurate.  Feelings are sometimes just something to get through, and I think guilt sometimes falls into this category.  We have to tell ourselves the accurate story, that we would give our lives for our pets if only we could, and THAT is the reality, not the guilt feelings.

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I am taking two steps forward and one step back - actually two steps back. My husband and I are both still so distraught. We are trying to be happy but we can't. This three month vacation we are on is now ruined. But we are stuck here. There's nowhere to go, nothing to do to distract ourselves. The pain and sadness is really horrible. The only thing I can say is I have somehow managed to stop feeling quite as guilty. 

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On 8/17/2017 at 11:12 AM, AJWCat said:

I have somehow managed to stop feeling quite as guilty. 

That is a huge step!  I hope your healing continues, I know it takes much time just to process our grief.

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Last night was one week since we lost our cat in a way that I never would have guessed. So horrible, his suffering continues to haunt me. Guilt has been replaced with anger and sadness. I hear about people's cats dying in their arms or asleep and can't believe the last hours of Courage's life were so awful. All I can do is rationalize by thinking of even worse fates. I'm eating now but sick most of the time. I act happy for my husband as he can't bare to think about what happened and I still obsess. 

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I don't know that that is obsessing, you are GRIEVING, and we all grieve in different ways.

It sounds ideal that our animals could die comfortably in our arms, peaceably, but that's not how it goes for many of us.  Those last images haunt us, whether in our imagination or actual memories.  I have such memory with my late husband, it has taken years for it to fade.  Imagery is sometimes helpful, so is EFT.
http://blog.healthjourneys.com/update-from-belleruth/emotional-freedom-technique-eft-may-look-weird-but-if-it-gets-the-job-done-do-we-care.html 
http://www.griefhealingblog.com/2010/03/using-emotional-freedom-techniques-eft.html 
http://www.griefhealingblog.com/2012/04/nightmares-and-bad-dreams-in-grief.html

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It's two weeks today. I am so sad still. And mad now. I want to lash out at someone and yet don't want to - obviously that is childish and I know that. I am just so mad now. Feeling cheated. So I pretty much try to stay quiet. My husband is very sad with me but when he gets happier I am both happy for him and mad again. Oh these emotions are so painful. i basically try to distract myself all day long and then get to sleep. I don't dream about my cat but my brain constantly reminds me throughout the night almost so I don't wake up and forget. I hate mornings.

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13 minutes ago, AJWCat said:

my brain constantly reminds me throughout the night almost so I don't wake up and forget. I hate mornings.

I can understand that.  If you do forget for a moment it hits you afresh when you remember they're gone, it can be a rude awakening all over again...until the moment when that no longer happens and it sinks in that they're truly gone, then there's a sadness inside of you that you carry, even through happier times, it's still there...coexisting with grief.   (((hugs)))

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So right Kay. I'm not usually one for "anniversary" dates but yesterday at 2 weeks was heartbreaking. I cried so much. I then had awful dreams. Hopefully today will be better. I saw someone post that it had been two weeks and they were still struggling and it seemed extreme, now I fear how much longer I am going to be like this.  

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It's a gradual getting used to, but along the way it hits us in waves.  We might feel we're doing better at getting used to it and all of a sudden it hits us afresh.  It's been nearly 15 months since I lost Miss Mocha...I no longer expect her to appear at the door or sleep pushed up against me, but thoughts remind me of her and I miss her so much.

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Awww I can imagine. I can't even go to those kinds of memories - all of our sweet rituals yet. I look forward to memories of happy times. Sorry about Miss Mocha. You have been through so much yourself w/ animals and your husband.

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Yeah, but with losing Miss Mocha, people think, "It's just a cat."  No, she was my family for 10 1/2 years, I knew her through and through, I loved her for the unique being she was.  We mourn them like others can't imagine.

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It's yet another Saturday. Three weeks as of tonight. All last night and this morning I obsessed over what got our sweet cat. My husband I have not really functioned for the last three weeks. We are "on vacation" and literally have done almost nothing. We were going to go on day trips, rafting, cave exploring, wine tasting. What a disaster. How I ironic we were so fortunate to plan this and make it happen and lose our cat here. On top of it, everything on the news with the people in Houston losing everything (maybe even their own pets) and I am ashamed. My husband admitted he has moved into the anger phase. We looked up the 5 stages of grief and I told him it's not linear and it isn't. This loss, so sudden, is the worst. My only consolation is to come here and try to help someone else because I understand. (I need to follow my own advice sometimes.)     

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2 hours ago, AJWCat said:

On top of it, everything on the news with the people in Houston losing everything (maybe even their own pets) and I am ashamed.

Don't be.  Knowing other people are suffering doesn't make your loss feel any less significant.  It's all the harder knowing so many others are also suffering, but your loss is very real and your feelings are very valid.
The 5 stages of grief were meant for something else entirely, for terminal illness, it's not intended for loss of someone.  We can experience many emotions, some of them conflicting at the same time.  We might experience all of the stages or none, our grief and how we go through it is very individual and our feelings unique, even though we might notice some commonalities with other.  Just know that whatever you are feeling is normal.  Also, men and women sometimes handle their grief differently.

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It's four weeks today. Obviously I have turned this into an online journal of my grief. Does it get better? Yes. But if I think about my sweet kitty's death for too long I go right back there and relive the horror of it. People move on quickly even with people's deaths... so it's no surprise that no one has any idea how sad I still am. I am pretty much on the verge of tears at any time. I am still so mad about being in this place where he died. I hate it. We came here for this wonderful trip, he died, and then we will leave and this will all be one horrible memory. And when we finally leave I know it'll feel like we are leaving our cat for good. Which is of course silly. But I have gotten used to not having logical thoughts now.

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AJWCat,  I have been reading your posts and I am sorry for the pain you have. It is extremely hard when we lose our pets. Were you able to have your sweet cat cremated, so you can take the remains back home with you? I do not know if that was a possibility wherever you are on vacation at. If this was not a possibility, your cat's spirit will follow you wherever you are.

Not to offend you, but I don't feel people move on quickly after a person's death. It depends on the relationship, of course. My husband has been gone a little over a year, and I am no where near moving on. There is no such thing for me. I handle my grieving on a day to day basis. I function the best I can. 

You are grieving the loss of a cherished cat and it takes a very long time to adapt and carry the loss in your heart.  Sending prayers to you.

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21 hours ago, AJWCat said:

People move on quickly even with people's deaths... so it's no surprise that no one has any idea how sad I still am.

People don't move on quickly that have had a deep relationship.  Sometimes they may appear to move on, but we don't know what is going on inside of them or when they're alone.  Some people are not "pet people" so they don't realize what a great attachment that we develop, and that our pets are family to us.

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@KayC - yes of course. That didn't come out right at all. (I actually messaged KMB on this!) I meant others/the people around you move on. The people closest... of course not.   

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Yesterday night was tough. I allowed myself to really think about our cat, feel him, see him, remember all the snuggles and rituals. I miss him so much. Still have some serious anger about what happened to him. Other times I am fine. And still other times I can't believe I will never see him again. That knowledge is sometimes overwhelming. It's like a giant wave of realization. Because we are in a vacation rental, I keep feeling when we go "home" he will be there. Just like when we traveled I would look so forward to coming home to see him.   

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I understand...it probably won't sink in as final until you're home and see he is not there.  It is one thing to know with your head, sometimes it takes seeing to realize it though.  :(

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I know. We'll be finding somewhere new to move into so it's not even the same house... it's just going back to the area. Today has been miserable. I thought I was doing pretty good last week and today I am so sad so depressed. Everything feels hopeless. And at this point I think my husband who's been totally sad with me is starting to tire of my emotional swings. Can't blame him. He has health issues too which makes me nervous. 

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As KayC said, try and take care of yourself .I know you  don't feel like it ,but try ,at least for your husband's sake.You have each other. And,in this forum,you're not alone.

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Thanks for the comments. It is five weeks today. I am feeling better. It's hard to explain why I was feeling so awful the other day and today okay. It's easier to remember the good times without so much guilt and agony. I have to be careful not to let my mind obsess over the end - that's when I can get to a dark place and feel terrible.

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4 hours ago, AJWCat said:

It's hard to explain why I was feeling so awful the other day and today okay.

This is the way of grief...it comes in waves, up, down, back, forth, it doesn't need to make sense, it just is.  We learn to ride the waves.  Not to fight it, to let it flow.  I'm glad today is an okay day, we need those.

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I have been on a bit of a vacation, a little distraction for a few days which has been nice. That said, every now and then I have a wave of grief... of a wave of heartache overwhelm me to remember, our sweet kitty isn't waiting for us somewhere. He's not being boarded for a few days, he's not at home... and it makes me so sad. I also emailed our vet a day or two after we lost him and they never wrote back! Which seems so odd. I haven't been able to email our last cat sitter who watched him quite often over 2 years - as we travel a fair amount. She absolutely adored him. She would take a photo every day that she visited and send to me and we'd gush over how cute he was. That said, she knew we were moving so maybe I don't need to email her at all? Thoughts? Am I just sharing pain needlessly? :(  

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I feel your pain and I am so sorry. It's in my heart too. It is good that you went on vacation, to be away from home. It is so hard to deal with the pain on a daily basis, without any distractions. And I think a pain like this has to be shared with all those who knew your kitty, and the grieving too .They were part of his life and yours. It IS odd that the vet never wrote back. Any caring and considerate vet would reply to this. I don't know what to say. I think you should try and contact your cat sitter ,to share your grief, since you both adored him. She has the right to know. Unless this will make you relive the events of that day and make your pain worse. This is the only reason I would hesitate to do it.

 

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When you feel more able, I would let your cat sitter know.  It sounds like she was very much a part of your cat's life.  I, too, think it peculiar that the vet didn't respond.

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It is weird. Maybe I will reach out to the vet again as he had an appt. in November. :( I will let my cat sitter know soon. I know it will be a tough email to write and I will likely cry over it so it needs to be a moment where I am alone and ready for that. Another odd feeling, my friend has been out visiting us and she just left. It is very strange I actually feel a sense of loss. Like this weird sense that something is off. It's strange how losing our cat has made me very unsettled in general. 

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Yes ,do reach out to the vet.Maybe they didn't see your e-mail.                                                                                                                                                                                                        You are right about "unsettled" .It is a general sense of loss and loneliness. I was at a friend's house yesterday .We spent many hours talking and I forgot myself. But when I came home this sense returned. This huge absence, this void . And the knowing that there is nothing I can do to change it ,I just have to live with it. It is so good to be able to share all this here ,with you.

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Yes it is! We all share a similar experience and even the words we use are so accurate. Like, when you said I forgot myself - that is so true. You forget all your troubles and then you remember again.   

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I will. I am thinking I am going to call them in a couple weeks. I have to cancel his appt. for early Nov. :( At least I probably won't burst into tears now. We are back from our "getaway" to our vacation house today where he got sick. I know it must seem like we travel a ton, but we have no house/appt right now.  Coming back and walking in is so painful. Opening my luggage and remember how he would love to roll around and welcome us back. My Mom took the 2nd bedroom and the last remaining sign of him. He had jumped on the bed and made paw prints on the comforter in that room. Thanks for reading my posts and giving me so much support! I really really appreciate it. 

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I know how it feels....their absence is so painful. I wish I could say something that would make you feel better...I am dealing with this everyday too. Though it doesn't take the pain away,  I think it helps that you won't be returning to your old house where all the memories are.

KayC has me covered...We're all together in this.

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We are all in it together. My husband actually suggested what a mistake this all has been and had we not come here, and stayed in our place, our cat would still be alive. I cannot even go there... too much guilt it makes me ill. Then I just get so mad. But then I think, if this hadn't happened, it would've been the greatest summer ever. You just never know how things are going to do. If you live in fear, you do nothing, ever. 

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No we were not meant to live in fear. We always make the best decisions according to  present circumstances .We are not superhuman to know the future. Please don't let yourself fall again down that hole of self-blame , of "ifs" and "should haves". You cannot know what would have happened if you stayed in your place, no one can. Maybe your kitty would have gotten sick anyway, maybe something else would have happened, you cannot know. I know guilt is hard to argue with ,but please remember that you always meant only good for him.

 

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I agree...try not to go down that path.  We don't know what would have been, that isn't what is, we can only deal with the present.  The guilt thing sure is hard to shake, isn't it!  It's part of our grief, as undeserved as it may be.

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The last few days have been challenging, I have had my own health "crisis" this week and still dealing it, so my thoughts have been turned toward that. Then, when I allow myself to think about our cat, I feel so overwhelmed still. My anger has mellowed more and now I am just so sad. What an extra comfort he'd be for me now. He always was. A few months ago I was sick from food poisoning and our cat was so sweet, he followed me around, in bed, out of bed, stuck by me at every turn.  

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