Scottish Daily Mail
I’ve lost so much AND my cat . . . how will I ever cope?
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?
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)