What to do with negative emotions

This week, my eighteen year old cat passed away. I have to admit, I have been a bit of a mess since the event. My Josephine had always been her own cat; she was not a snuggle kitty or sweet natured. She was a curmudgeon all her life, and didn’t like people or other cats. However, she did like me and she was always good company for me when I was writing. She was queen of the house.

IMG_2179In the past few weeks, she had stopped cleaning herself, and so I was brushing her three times a day to keep her ‘neat’.  She was still eating, but suddenly the weight was dropping off her and she was thin and frail. Then, she started to develop a wobble in her back legs, which I put down to arthritis. Unfortunately, in the days before her death, those legs started going out from under her. She fell down the front steps (there are only four steps), but that was enough for me. I made an appointment with the vet.

Waylon is a very nice man. He was as gentle as he could be, but in the end he had to give my grumpy old girl a sedative so he could check her hips. She called him some dreadful names, and I was relieved that I’m the only person who speaks fluent ‘Josephine’. Then the vet said, to be honest, he couldn’t really find anything wrong except for her old age. He suspected kidney failure, and our next step would be a bunch of invasive tests to confirm that suspicion. I knew what Josephine would think of all that testing – she would hate it. And, in the end, if it was kidney failure, there was little they could do for a cat her age. If we did nothing, and took her home, in the next few days the vet believed her health would start to fail dreadfully and my darling would start to suffer. Fluid would start filling up her tissues and she would get ill with toxins. Her organs would start to shut down.

The vet was saying everything but those horrible words “It is time to let her go.” So I asked him straight out … would it be selfish to keep her alive.

What's Monorail Cat got that I haven't got?

What’s Monorail Cat got that I haven’t got?

So, while she was sedated, I held my darling for twenty minutes and told her over and over how much I loved her. Then she was given a final injection to take the pain away forever. As it took hold, her body relaxed. It wasn’t until that point did I realise how ‘clenched’ her body language had become. That she had been in some pain, but unable to tell the stupid human. That I had failed her, in the end, by remaining blind to her suffering. So I felt guilty about that, and at the same time I felt guilty at having her put to sleep. Yeah … and my heart was breaking for the loss of my feline friend. I really, really loved my grumpy girl.

Days later, I’m still half expecting a loud and imperious demand to open the door.

So what to do with all this terrible sadness? I’ve been writing it out. I’m using it to fuel some of the more negative scenes in my narratives. That is what writing is all about. You don’t hide the pain away, you share it. We all suffer from the pain of loss. I’m using mine, and Josephine gets to live on in my work.

Josephine at Eighteen

Josephine at Eighteen

Josephine's Famous Impression of  'Something Washed Up on a Beach'

Josephine’s Famous Impression of ‘Something Washed Up on a Beach’

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15 Comments

Filed under Personal experience, writing, Writing Style

15 responses to “What to do with negative emotions

  1. I truly understand your feelings after reading this post. My dog of seventeen years passed away four weeks ago, and I know the sadness I have felt has been hanging over me like a dark cloud. Thank you for sharing.

    • (((hugs))) Thank you for your kind comment. It is so hard for some people to understand. If I hear, “But it’s only a cat…” one more time, I may commit homicide. Josephine was my friend for over eighteen years, which was three times as long as my first marriage!

  2. Virginia Cerezo

    Lovely words. I went through the same when my 15-year-old cat died. He first went blind suddenly, then started walking slower until it was obvious he couldn’t go on anymore. I’m sorry for your loss, I share your feelings.

  3. That was such a sad and beautiful article, Lynne. (((hugs))) My old cat Boof isn’t long for this world. I’m dreading her final day and making the most of all the funny, charismatic, loving cat buddy days before that.

  4. A lovely essay. We went through a similar experience when our cat Artemis suddenly became very sick a couple of years ago. It was heartbreaking for all of us. We weren’t sure we wanted another cat for a while when quite unexpectedly we had a mother cat and daughter (with one eye) that had been abandoned come into our lives and we felt we had to let them live with us. While they couldn’t replace Artemis, they are a whole new experience by themselves.

    • I’m hoping the Bureau sends me another cat. I’ve had one or two ‘mystery’ cats turn up after the loss of beloved friends. They always turn up when you are ready for a new cat, and they are normally ‘rescue’ cats. Then again, another rescue cat from the pound sounds okay with me, but not just yet. Jo and my previous cat Rebecca were both rescue cats from the pound. Just about all my cats have been rescue cats.

      I love Artemis’ name. I’ve had, over the years, an Aristotle, Athena and Ambrose (named for a Saint who believed animals had souls). All three were outstanding individuals.

  5. I think the best way to memorialise your old friend would be to put her in one of your stories (or several) . Not that she’ll be forgotten anyway.

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