Question : My cat died last week. She was unwell and after a few days of medication I came home from school and she wasn’t moving. She was dead. I was so upset, I couldn’t stop crying and blaming myself. I’m also angry with the vet because she should have known which medicines to give! I could’ve helped her and saved her, but instead I made her die. I can’t sleep and I feel like crying constantly. At first my friends were sympathetic but now they’re telling me to get over it and to get a new cat. I feel so sad and alone, please help me. Teentalker , 13-year-old
That sounds so difficult! We can get so attached to our pets that when we lose them it feels like losing a family member. It sounds like you really loved your cat and really nurtured her like a parent does with their child – so blaming yourself is normal. It’s normal, and yet it feels terrible, doesn’t it? You have done everything in your capacity to take care of her – however I understand that the pain is still real. It feels like you’ll never be able to move past this pain – but trust me, you will. And when you do find the pain lessening in intensity, it won’t mean that you are forgetting your cat or that you don’t care.
Here are a few things to think about:
- Losing a pet is often like losing a family member so it can be very painful and upsetting
- It’s okay to feel angry, blameful and sad all at the same time
- As you adjust to life without your cat, maybe you could write a letter to her telling her how much you miss her or visit her grave frequently
In the meantime though, let’s look at processing some of your immediate feelings. You are probably angry (maybe even helpless) with yourself and the vet. You are also sad about the cat’s loss and alone because your friends don’t seem to understand the pain you are in. Although I’ve said that these are all natural, normal feelings to have after experiencing a loss of a pet, a family member, a friend, it doesn’t just make it okay, right? I think it speaks of a deep emotional capacity to care for a sick animal and that capacity to care comes with its baggage – you will always feel like you could have done more. It’s the flipside of being a nurturing person.
In psychology, we outline four main “tasks” that someone who is grieving goes through in order to start healing again – to accept the reality of the loss, to work through the pain of the loss, to adjust to the new environment after the loss, and to find a way to create memories and a connection with the lost person or pet in what feels like a new life. You can go between these tasks, and it seems like you are currently processing the pain and trying to adapt to life without your cat. What do you think about writing a letter to her, telling her how hard you tried to help her and how much you miss her? I know it seems silly but it can help you release some of the hurt and helplessness. And some people find it really cathartic to visit the place that their pet was buried/ where their ashes were scattered. Creating rituals like these might help you keep your cat alive in your memory while you carry on with life. I know this cannot answer all your grief and helplessness, but I do hope that it has at least begun to do so.
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Expert Teentalk India