I recently had to make the difficult decision to euthanize my cat, Sierra. She got very ill rather suddenly, and there wasn’t much I could do to help her. She was 17, and I knew this day was going to come sooner or later. I also knew saying goodbye would be difficult, but I had no idea just how difficult it would be.
My greatest fear was always not being there for her when it was time. And it seems like she knew that, and waited for me. She allowed me to spend a final weekend with her, snuggling and hanging out on the bed together. We even had one last long conversation, and she said everything she needed me to hear. I will always be grateful that she always knew exactly what I needed.
I struggled after she passed. A lot. I had a vacation planned a few days later, and I had trouble packing, and wound up bringing anything and everything. While on the trip, I struggled at times to leave the hotel room, and found myself tearing up at random times. I am glad I didn’t cancel my trip, but when I got back home to my empty house, it was excruciating.
As I floundered through the next few weeks, there were a few things I learned about the loss of a pet, the grieving process, and finding a way forward.
Don’t Deny Your Feelings, Whatever They May Be
I felt a lot of guilt over having to make the decision to euthanize Sierra. I guess that’s normal, but it sucks. I saw her decline rapidly before we went to the vet, and the final day I knew she was ready. That’s a huge responsibility we take on with our pets, and while we don’t want them to suffer, it’s natural to wonder if we should have done something more.
I also cried a lot. Mostly at night, when I’d expect her to jump on the couch and watch TV with me. I found myself not wanting to even watch TV without her there. It was painful, but as with any emotions, it’s better to feel them and acknowledge them so they don’t eat us up inside.
Reach Out to Others
I share lots of photos of Sierra online. She even has her own Instagram account. So when I shared that she had passed, I truly appreciated the outpouring of messages from friends, and even those that knew her only through social media.
However, sometimes I felt guilty for being sad. After all, she was just a cat. I cried often in private, and I was having a hard time with those feelings. It was actually a non-cat person who said to me, “we’re your friends, and we’ve been there for you. But not like Sierra was.”
I found a local support group, and found going to talk about what I was going through really helped. When I saw that others were telling me it was OK to have these feelings, I was able to experience them & acknowledge that Sierra truly was a part of my family.
Reach out to others for help, check online to see if there’s a support group nearby (or even an online chat) that might be helpful. Don’t sit at home feeling guilty about your grief!
When I’m home alone, often in the evenings, I notice how quiet it is. I find myself waiting for her to come trotting up the stairs. It’s been helpful to stay busy. I volunteered for some extra projects at work, and extended a business trip to spend time with friends.
It’s important to acknowledge your feelings, but it’s also important to take care of yourself. Don’t get stuck in the sadness and forget to live your life. I’m glad I took the time grieve, but getting back into my routine & spending time with friends helped me step out of the grief and back into my life.
Cherish Your Memories
Watching Sierra decline so rapidly was painful. Even at 17, she was a lively, vocal, sassy cat. Thinking about how sick she was is difficult, so instead I remember the good times. She was a fiercely loyal cat, she was finicky and proud. I’ll never forget how much fun it was to dress her up for Halloween, not matter how much she protested. And she ALWAYS knew exactly what I needed.
I got one of my favorite photos of Sierra blown up, and it’s now hanging in my bedroom. I’m looking for something special to do with her favorite toy & collar. And every day my Facebook memories remind me of something adorable or funny that she did.
There are many ways to memorialize your pet. You’ve got so many great memories, it’s a great way to remind yourself of all the love and fun that you shared together.
Find New Meaning
Sierra has left her paw prints on my heart, and things will never be the same without her. However, I know that change is the only constant in life, and that I need to keep moving forward. I gave Sierra the best life, and I want to continue providing love and care to a cat who needs me.
I recently adopted a new kitten, and it’s been so therapeutic to spend time getting to know another cat. She is a total ball of joy and is sweet as can be. She seems to know how important she is to my life, and I’m grateful I could give a shelter cat a good home. And I always know we have our own furry little angel looking out for us!
I hope this helps you if you’re going through the loss of a pet. Take all the time you need- grief has no time table, and everyone is unique.
If you’re looking for a companion of your own, be sure to check your local shelters. Adopt, don’t shop! There’s a pet out there for everyone.