Scottish Daily Mail

I’ve lost so much AND my cat . . . how will I ever cope?

- BEL MOONEY Hobbies · Family · Pets · Bloggers · Cats · Internet Celebrities · Celebrities · Delia Owens · Delia Matache · United States of America · Delia

DEAR BEL,

I’M STRUG­GLING to cope with how life has changed through loss.

My beloved cat Tommy died re­cently aged 19. He was the com­pan­ion who helped me through the tur­moil of the past few years. Now he has gone.

Nine years ago, my lovely dad died af­ter a short ill­ness, and my dis­abled mum had to go into a care home. My hus­band sup­ported me through this dif­fi­cult time — and then just six months later he also died, three months af­ter be­ing di­ag­nosed with can­cer.

This was a ter­ri­ble time, as I was still mourn­ing my dad and try­ing hard to sup­port my griev­ing mum. I be­came de­pressed deal­ing with my dou­ble loss and started be­reave­ment coun­selling which helped. My son was al­ways sup­port­ive — but my two cats com­forted me most, es­pe­cially Tommy.

The fol­low­ing year Mum also sud­denly died. I re­ally did feel alone, but still found so­lace in my cats and my much-loved job — and con­tin­u­ing be­reave­ment coun­selling.

Life went on, but last year the com­pany where I’d worked for over 40 years closed down sud­denly and I lost my job.

It felt like another be­reave­ment — dev­as­tat­ing, not just from a f i nan­cial point of view, but be­cause it was cen­tral to my life, es­pe­cially af­ter los­ing my hus­band and par­ents.

I missed the rou­tine of work and so­cial contact with col­leagues, and hated be­ing at home ev­ery day.

Af­ter at­tend­ing many in­ter­views (my age was a prob­lem), I was fi­nally of­fered a job, but not in my old pro­fes­sion. I found it very hard to learn a whole new way of work­ing, felt very un­happy and missed my old job and col­leagues ter­ri­bly.

I had my cats to go home to ev­ery night and would see my son and his fam­ily when I could, but life had changed beyond recog­ni­tion.

In the end, I lost the will to strug­gle with a job I didn’t en­joy and even­tu­ally found a part-time role that meant fewer hours and less trav­el­ling time. Af­ter I handed in my no­tice, I be­came re­ally anx­ious that I had made a big mis­take. What was I go­ing to do with the ex­tra days on my own in win­ter?

In sum­mer, I would have no prob­lem: I love gar­den­ing and could go for walks. What could I do with Covid re­stric­tions in place? Then some­thing else hap­pened to dev­as­tate me. Just days af­ter I started the new job, Tommy died.

I now find my­self wan­der­ing round the house ex­pect­ing to see him ev­ery­where.

People don’t un­der­stand how badly I’ve taken the loss of Tommy, say­ing he is just an an­i­mal. But to me he was the friend who got me through the re­ally bad times and I’m finding it hard to come to terms with yet another loss.

Can you help me through this?

ELAINE

Co­in­ci­den­tally, i had al­ready set your let­ter aside for this week when i read about the sad death of lupo, the spaniel beloved by the duke and duchess of cam­bridge and their chil­dren.

nat­u­rally, it struck to my heart — es­pe­cially as i have writ­ten a book about how a pet (a dog in my case) can help you through the worst of times, and another about pet be­reave­ment.

People who say, ‘oh, it’s just a dog’ or ‘What a fuss about a cat’ or ‘Hon­estly, an an­i­mal can’t be mourned like a per­son!’ sim­ply dis­play their pro­found ig­no­rance of two things — even in an aw­ful year like this when so many have lost loved ones.

First, a beloved pet be­comes an es­sen­tial part of the fam­ily and the un­con­di­tional af­fec­tion and loy­alty we can re­ceive from an an­i­mal may even sur­pass our re­la­tion­ships with hu­mans. Sec­ond, the loss of an an­i­mal com­pan­ion can act as a trig­ger to awaken many other buried sor­rows.

Believe me, i know. When my pre­cious lit­tle Mal­tese, Bon­nie, died in novem­ber 2015, it re­minded me of my sad­ness at the loss of a whole way of life when my first mar­riage ended, one year af­ter Bon­nie en­tered our

lives. When my late friend S lost her much-loved cat it reawak­ened the ter­ri­ble grief she suf­fered when she buried the daugh­ter who was still only in her 30s.

We may think we have come to terms with such life trau­mas, but they lie buried i n very shal­low graves.

You your­self f ound on­go­ing be­reave­ment coun­selling very help­ful af­ter the ter­ri­ble ex­pe­ri­ence of mourn­ing three loved ones within three years, but it could only be a stick­ing plas­ter on the wounds.

Then came the iden­tity cri­sis when you l ost your j ob af­ter 40 years, fol­lowed by read­just­ment to a job you didn’t like, then the de­ci­sion to go part-time. All this was a time of ter­ri­ble stress. And then came Tommy’s death. no mat­ter that he was a very old cat, he was the one con­stant in your life — and i ache for you that he has gone.

is your other cat still alive? Your deep­est af­fec­tion was for Tommy, but i hope you have some to spare.

i’m sure you can pre­dict that i will urge you to adopt another lit­tle cat as soon as pos­si­ble. i found a res­cue Chi­huahua-cross, called So­phie, only two months af­ter Bon­nie died and will al­ways be glad i did. She was not a re­place­ment; she was a needy an­i­mal who would ben­e­fit from the love i’d learned at Bon­nie’s mi­nus­cule knee.

Since you are work­ing part-time you will have the time to find a cat (maybe ma­ture, maybe a kit­ten) and start a fresh pe­riod in your life with a new com­pan­ion.

Th­ese dark days are de­press­ing and our spir­its have been flat­tened by Covid in ad­di­tion to per­sonal trou­bles. But we will get through.

You have been schooled in love, Elaine — in other words, by your par­ents and your hus­band — and now is the time to sum­mon the strength that such love gives those lucky enough to ex­pe­ri­ence it.

You have also known what it is l i ke to have the warm com­pan­ion­ship of a purr — and that does not dis­ap­pear. All of it is still with you, believe me, even if un­seen.

Yes, of course you will see Tommy i n the cor­ner of the room — and you will still tell him your trou­bles.

But i think he would want you t o wel­come another cat — dif­fer­ent yes, but still a kin­dred spirit — into your life, to help make it whole again.

Au­tumn leaves don’ t fall; they fly. They take their time and wan­der ... their only chance to soar. From Where The Craw­dads Sing by Delia Owens (U.S. au­thor and zo­ol­o­gist, b 1949)

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