It’s been two weeks since my beloved cat Simone died, and today is the first day I haven’t cried. But it’s only 2 PM, so we’ll see. On the first morning after I put her down, I cried so hard I worried I might scare the kids. “When does this grief pass?” I asked Drew between sobs (he’s lost both parents so he’s more familiar with grief than I am). “If you’re still crying like this in a month,” he replied, “it might be time to talk to someone.”
Well, I thought, if he doesn’t already, my husband’s soon going to think I’m crazy, crying for a month over a cat.
But she wasn’t just a cat. She was more like a life partner, really. We lived together for over 19 years – longer than I’ve lived with anyone else. She’s been with me through everything! It felt like a piece of me died with her and I couldn’t — I still can’t — wrap my head around all the years that lay ahead without her.
In the days that followed Simone’s death, I felt like I had fallen into what I called a grief abyss. My grandmother, whom I was very close to, had died only a month to the day earlier, and overcome with shingles pain (probably brought on, in part, by the stress over her imminent death), I couldn’t make her funeral in St. Louis. I also couldn’t really focus on the emotional pain of losing her. The grief was shelved for the time-being and then when I recovered from shingles, I’d take it off the shelf for a few minutes here and there as I had the strength and time to deal with it.
“I think you’re doing a great job dealing with her death,” Drew said to me a couple weeks after my grandma died while we were walking through Central Park and I was remembering something about her. And I felt like I was doing a good job, too — like if I was going to get graded on processing a loved one’s death, I’d probably get an A. I was appropriately sad, but not messy or needy about it. And then Simone died and my neat and tidy little exercise with grief blew up in my face and I’ve cried every day for two weeks straight now.
One of the hardest parts of the grief, particularly the grief related directly to Simone, whom I shared a home with for 19 years, was the stark disruption between her being with me and then not being with me. Where IS she? I kept wondering. Where did she go?? Is she ok? Is she scared?
A friend texted me a link yesterday to this quote from Nick Cave:
It seems to me, that if we love, we grieve. That’s the deal. That’s the pact. Grief and love are forever intertwined. Grief is the terrible reminder of the depths of our love and, like love, grief is non-negotiable. There is a vastness to grief that overwhelms our minuscule selves. We are tiny, trembling clusters of atoms subsumed within grief’s awesome presence. It occupies the core of our being and extends through our fingers to the limits of the universe. Within that whirling gyre all manner of madnesses exist; ghosts and spirits and dream visitations, and everything else that we, in our anguish, will into existence. These are precious gifts that are as valid and as real as we need them to be. They are the spirit guides that lead us out of the darkness.
On the third day after Simone died, I got a spirit message. I won’t go in detail, but it felt as real as I needed it to feel, and my grief instantly lifted a bit. I still haven’t gotten a message from my grandmother — maybe I never will — but I felt less worried about her. I believe in an afterlife and since my grandmother was preceded in death by plenty of loved ones (including my grandfather), I knew she wouldn’t be alone or scared on the other side. I didn’t feel that same reassurance with Simone; I was her world. Drew, the kids, Miles, and I were her whole world, and we’re all still here, so who was/is with her on the other side? Of course, I still don’t know. I’ll never know. And regardless of what anyone’s faith is, everything after death is a great big mystery anyway. But I did get what I believe was a message that Simone is ok, and that my love — our love — transcends the big divide between us now, and that will have to be enough.
It’s been two weeks. According to Drew’s grief timetable, I have two more weeks to put a bumper on the daily cry fest or I may need to find a therapist to help me. (“It’s ok if you need to talk someone,” he reassures me.) I honestly don’t know if I’ll pull it together or not, and it bugs me that I am no longer acing grief — that I’ve become messy and needy, the things I was actively trying to avoid being, and I worry about what will happen when I experience an even bigger loss. But! But I do feel heartened that I am not alone in feeling this way — that others have and do experience similar grief after the loss of an animal (or the compounded loss of multiple loved ones close together). And I feel better thinking about my grief as a measure of my love, though I think both my grandmother and Simone would probably say, “We know you love us! You can quit crying now!” And I feel better that I received what I believe was a message from the other side that Simone is ok, even if it was, as Nick Cave says, simply my madness willing the message into existence. I’ll take it as the gift it was meant to be, and let it continue leading me out of the darkness.
These spirits are ideas, essentially. They are our stunned imaginations reawakening after the calamity. Like ideas, these spirits speak of possibility. Follow your ideas, because on the other side of the idea is change and growth and redemption. Create your spirits. Call to them. Will them alive. Speak to them. It is their impossible and ghostly hands that draw us back to the world from which we were jettisoned; better now and unimaginably changed.
Have you received messages or dream visitations from deceased loved ones? If you’ve had similar experiences with grief, was there anything that helped you through it?