Jump to content
Grief Healing Discussion Groups

Another Difficult Decision


Recommended Posts

A little preface to this dilemma:

I've seen my new grief counselor just once so far, and on the same day at bedtime, I really broke down about Nissa's passing after finishing a book that ended with a poignant account about the death of one of the author's animals, that really got to me. It was a 'breakthrough' in that my counselor agreed that I've still been mainly in numb mode for the last 2 months because Nissa's loss has been such a huge loss for me, and so I've been unconsciously protecting myself from the pain. I sobbed so hard though, that night, that I thought my nose and heart would explode from the intensity. So 'good' in one sense, but very frightening in another. In those moments, I could finally, definitely tell that yes, THIS is what I'd been unconsciously avoiding, and no wonder! Since then, I've been a bit more numb again.

I've also had more visits from some cats around here, who I don't even know if they have homes around here or not, as they're all new to our neighbourhood. One of the them absolutely SCOFFED some left-over cat food I still had, then came inside our house and made her(?)self right at home one afternoon. We had to put her back outside when we were leaving home and she didn't come back once we finally got back home. But it made me realize quite clearly that there is NO WAY I'm anywhere near ready to open my heart in a good enough way to another little soul. It was nice to have someone furry to touch a bit and yak to, but I really only want my girl and no one else. I AM worried that any of these newer cats might need assistance and a home, but it tears me apart because I don't have the energy to be the one who'd have to do all the checking to see if they have an existing home or not, or to find them a new home if they don't. BUT I sit here wondering if Nissa's actually sending some furry friends my way on purpose...as usual, for my personal growth, but in what way, exactly, I'm not sure yet...or if it's not her sending them at all.

This brings me to my most recent dilemma. Our neighbour's son asked my H yesterday if we'd look after their cat, whom I've known for 15 years, over Christmas holidays (4-5 days' worth). My H had told him "Probably," but said he'd have to check with me first. Apparently, he'll be far less worried about his cat if I'M his caretaker, over their other choices. The son knows we just lost Nissa and says he's also always worried about his own cat because he, too, has kidney disease (to what extent I've never been sure, as the son's mother is too lazy to worry about this) and is now about 17 yrs. old and emaciated-looking (basically slowly starving to death from the low-protein prescription diet)...unlike how Nissa looked. The son is away at university during the week and his cat is missing him terribly. And yet, here they all are (son, daughter and mother), planning to go away at holiday time, as they ALWAYS have...and then he'll have about 6 days here before heading back to school. Their dog, as usual, will be boarded while they're away. If I were to do this, I'd much prefer to just bring their cat into our home, so he'll have more company and attention and a sleeping partner if he wants, plus save me having to run next door several times/day.

However, I have to consider my OWN needs in this, too. For one, I'd wanted to leave our schedule more open, as I'm likely to be a basket-case for much of this 'first' Xmas in 19 yrs. w/o any kids at all. Two, we hadn't decided yet if we're going to go to a hotel for a couple of days, and if so, when. Three, I don't know if having another cat around, even one I know, will make me feel better or worse...and I might feel guilty getting ANY pleasure from someone else's company, when classically, I've always allowed myself to 'wallow' in my losses during holiday times, and will likely feel like I'm not honouring Nissa's memory by 'diverting' my attention away from her memory and placing it onto another cat. Plus, seeing this cat's condition might be very distressing and a painful reminder to me of Nissa's failing kidneys. Fourthly, the whole care routine makes me frightened - it's a return to the feeding, etc. that I've been having to get used to NOT doing anymore, PLUS, it would mean a return to worry about if anything happened to this cat during this time...I'D be responsible for any emerg. trips or what-have-you and I sure don't need any more guilt, should something go awry. Fifthly, it might be more upsetting for this cat to be taken out of his home...even if he knows us and our YARD, he's never been inside our actual house, so that might even cause something bad to happen to him. And yet, if I DON'T do this, NOW I'll be worried about him anyway, knowing for sure that they're away and he's getting little attention over there ( we've noticed how little time is spent with him, from these other people they've 'hired'...and the son said he feels compelled to phone every day to find out if they've done everything they're supposed to for him ).

So I'm in a real quandry and am wishing he'd never put me in this position, even though I know he's thinking that I'd welcome the company....but now I have to make a decision. Even though he's not my cat, I worry that this may be his last Christmas and I would hate to think it's another really lonely one for him. (I don't even think they buy him presents) So I know I could be of good service to him, but for one, what about MY feelings, and two, why should I take on the responsibility and worry that properly belongs to our neighbours....just so THEY can have another good time, while I'M here suffering the worst Christmas I've ever had so far???? I KNOW this is going to go in circles in my aching head, between caring for myself but knowing that part of who I am IS a compassionate being when it comes to all the animals. Which part of me do I listen to???

If anyone has any thoughts and ideas, I'm willing to consider anything that might help me make up my mind. Please help if you can!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm not sure if all members know how to use the "View New Posts" feature on the board when they first return to the board on each visit, but I'm finding some of my posts keep getting quickly 'buried' under other threads, so am posting under my most recent thread again, to bring my latest post visibly back 'up there', as I sometimes wonder if that's why I'm not getting much of a response at times. I could very well be wrong about this, but just in case.....

Link to comment
Share on other sites


First i have to tell you that you are a wonderful person, you love your furbabies so much. i am the same way, i have 2 human boys but adore my four legged babies. my sons think of them as their siblings. my mom gave me this love of animals, she adored them. she would of thought the world of you. she said you always knew if someone was a good person if one of our cats went to them. she was always right.

I lost my wonderful best friend Spanky (our dog) on sept 22, we had him for 14 wonderul yrs. Not a day goes by that i don't miss him, he sits in my bedroom with my parents ashes. i look at it everyday to believe it is real. well my husband thought it would be nice to get another one since our house has been so DEPRESSED since mom died in july and then spanky in sept. we went to our local shelter (we would never buy a animal to many unwanted ones already.). we found Shane, he is black and white (like Spanky) he is border collie mix (spanky was a corgi/beagle mix). well, i am not sure if i was ready for him. i compare to much, we have had him almost a month and i want to really love him but am a afraid to let go. he is also a handful and my cats HATE him. he was a cruelty case taken from a home, he has been through alot. well he has alot of learning to do and i have to pray to have patience with him. now that i have him i could never give him up, he really loves us and the boys and husband love him. i am still working on that. i care for him . of course who do you think he loves alot---- ME. i think Spanky would be so happy that i save a life like we did with him. he also understands that it is hard for me. what i am saying to you is when you are ready for one get one. don't hold all that love you have inside give it to another so they can have it. you have alot to give. i think your furgirl would be so happy.

about watching the neighoors cat. i work for a vet . if you are not ready for it just say no. i don't think it is a good idea to bring the cat to your house. cats don't adjust to well and if she has kidney failure you don't want her to stop eating due to stress. they like to stay in their enviroment. also if the cat is that sick maybe they should talk to their vet about leaving her there since she may need medical care. i wouldn't want you to take her and them something happens and you feel bad. i know you would. be honest with him and tell you are not ready for it. if you deciede to do it, leave her at home and go spend time with her there. make sure they leave you permission to take her for medical care if needed. think hard about it before you make a decision.

Keep me posted. lori

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My first reaction upon reading your post is that you have to do what is best FOR YOU, and not for others. I know that you are having trouble deciding what that is, but it sounds like this might not be the time or the cat to take on, even if only for a few days.

When I read Lori's post, everything she said made perfect sense to me. Especially leaving the cat at the vet since he has medical issues. No, he won't get the attention he wants/needs, but it seems to me, he'd be safest there. If not, then keeping him at his own home makes sense to me too, and having you visit him when you feed him.

I'm sorry you had such a hard first grief session and I know how hard and scary that was for you, but I think your therapist is right. Only by realling feeling and releasing this pain will you begin the slow process of healing.

Good luck in your decision.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My dear Maylissa,

As I read your (as always) carefully thought-out post, it seems to me that you already know the answer to your questions, and you just need someone outside yourself -- someone who's more objective and not emotionally involved in your situation -- to validate what your perfectly sound intuition and common sense are telling you already.

First, as the excellent care giver that you are, I’m sure you know that your primary responsibility is to take good care of yourself -- especially given the fragile condition you're in right now. Otherwise you have nothing left to give to others. As you yourself have observed, you've barely emerged from the shock and numbness to begin your current grief journey, much less completed the hard work that you must still do in mourning the loss of Nissa. Where will you find the energy to take care of this other aging kitty, for whom you are not even the one responsible?

Second, just because your neighbor's son has asked this (huge!) favor of you does not mean that you are obligated to do it for him. He asked out of his own self-interest, because he knows you're an excellent care giver, you know as much about caring for geriatric cats as the local veterinarian, and he knows you'd take better care of his cat than anyone else he could find. I suggest you take that as a compliment and accept it as such, but still feel okay about saying "no." Unfortunately, in situations like this, people don't make it very easy for us to say "no." Perhaps when this young man asked the favor he could have added, "I know you may not be ready to take on this responsibility because you're in the freshest throes of mourning for Nissa, and please feel free to say 'no.'" Such a statement might have helped you to feel accepted and understood, and it may have made it easier for you to decline, but even in the absence of such courtesy, you can still respond with something like this:

Thank you for asking, and I really appreciate your confidence in me, but so soon after Nissa's dying, I'm just not comfortable taking on that responsibility right now.

You are under no obligation to apologize, to offer any further explanation, or to say anything further unless you want to, Maylissa. And if you're not comfortable delivering this simple message yourself, perhaps you can ask your husband to deliver it to your neighbors for you.

I find it telling that on the evening of the day you met with your grief counselor, you finally allowed yourself to experience the pain of losing Nissa. As I'm sure you already know, much as we humans want to avoid it at all costs, it is in moving toward the pain -- pain in all its dimensions: physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and spiritual -- that healing occurs. The experience you describe (the sobbing and crying so hard you feared that your nose and head would explode) is a signal that your grief is demanding your attention. It is a reminder that you need to give yourself ample time and space (free from external demands) to do the work of mourning: to slow down, to turn inward, to surrender to your helplessness; to sit with, contemplate, experience, and work through your pain.

I also think the part of you that is tempted to take on the responsibility of caring for the neighbor's cat is the part of you that is drawn to the role with which you are most experienced, most familiar and most comfortable: that of care giver to geriatric kitties. This is partly because, now that you're without Sabin and Nissa (who helped define who you were), you're left with the profound question that all mourners one day must face: Who will I now be, without my loved one to help me know who I was?

You also wonder if Nissa is sending furry friends to you "for my personal growth, but in what way, exactly, I'm not sure yet." This wondering, this not knowing, this hunch that it has something to do with your own personal growth, this search for meaning, is another indication that you've begun the real work of mourning.

Give yourself time to struggle with these big, important questions, Maylissa. You have the rest of your life to find the answers.

You are right where you need to be in your grief process, and you are wise to avoid taking on any additional and unnecessary responsibilities. As Alan Wolfelt says, "The grief journey requires contemplation and turning inward. In other words, it requires depression, anxiety, and loss of control. It requires going into the wilderness. Quietness and emptiness invite the heart to observe signs of sacredness, to regain purpose, to rediscover love, to renew life! Searching for meaning, reasons to get one's feet out of bed, and understanding the pain of loss are [part of the process] . . . Experience has taught me that it is the mysterious, spiritual dimension of grief that harbors the capacity to go on living until we, too, die."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you SO much, Lori, Serl and Marty, for answering my pleas for help with this personal dilemma!

As I've thought more about it and pondered your caring replies, I've pretty much decided to decline doing this service, but might suggest instead that I drop in on this cat every now and then over the few days, just to check up on him a bit and partake in a half-selfish/half-unselfish activity with him...namely, playtime. A friend of mine suggested that what I need for myself right now is to experience the "good" stuff with other animals and avoid the burdens of responsibility until I'm more stable, and I think that's correct, at least for me. She also suggested that perhaps my H could provide the basics to him at his own home, while I just tagged along for the company whenever I felt like it, and although we worked it this way once before (when Nissa was requiring more care), at this point he's not interested in doing so, so they'll have to get someone else to come in and feed him, etc. And should we happen to notice anything awry, we could always just call the family and let THEM deal with the provider directly.

If I can simply visit on my own terms, then at least I'd be able to bring him some treats and toys, turn up the heat in their house so he'd be warm enough (they classically turn it WAY down when they go away, despite him being a kidney-cat who feels extra cold!) but not have to feel like his life was totally in MY hands. Again, sort of sticking to the more pleasant aspects and satisfying my desire to be of service to our furry brethren, yet not taking on the entire project. I could also ask about whether he thinks his cat might want to come over just at bedtime, so he'd have someone to sleep with overnight, whenever we're home to provide this, so that's possibly another option.

Leaving this cat at a clinic is not something I would ever suggest, though, as they will all be closed anyway during the holidays (for the most part), his particular vet is quite a bad vet as far as I'm concerned and he would be much more at ease at his own home (and not caged and frightened), even if he's alone most of the time. I wouldn't do that to any animal of mine either, so it's not an option I'd even think of for another furry soul. While he's not in great shape, I don't know that his condition is currently dire anyway...I just don't want to be the one around should it suddenly turn that way, with no recourse but to deal with it.

Thank you especially, Marty, for taking the time to come up with specific phraseology to include in my response to this young man. I really appreciate that, as my head is so foggy to begin with right now that this relieves some of the internal pressure to have to think straight! And strangely, your concern over making myself my primary responsibility echoes something Nissa herself supposedly said in a recent after-crossing communication I'd had done (haven't written about it yet as I'm still wanting to cross-check its accuracy with more communicators before deciding if it was truly valid)...she talked about treating myself with the same amount and quality of love as I'd showered on her...so I'm glad you reminded me of what she, too, said. And even if I don't listen to anyone else, I have to listen to my girl! ;)^_^

Another person also suggested that I might talk to this young man about the age and condition of his cat, the fact that he does miss him so when he's at school and that this could be his cat's last Christmas and so even he might benefit himself from foregoing the annual Xmas vacation this one time and stay home himself with his cat, and what a gift that would be for his cat! Since he's already expressed to me how afraid he is of his lifetime buddy dying, perhaps this would be timely advice for him to consider, before it's too late, since we all know how regret for things not done eats away at us after the fact. As far as I know, his cat would also be his first major loss in his family. So I'm thinking about including that in my response to him. If anyone has any thoughts (or suggested phrasing!...hint-hint, Marty! :rolleyes:) on this, too, that would be a further help to me.

What really resonated with me was what you said, Marty about giving myself the space to grieve:

"It is a reminder that you need to give yourself ample time and space (free from external demands) to do the work of mourning: to slow down, to turn inward, to surrender to your helplessness; to sit with, contemplate, experience, and work through your pain."

I immediately cried when I read the "(free from external demands)" part of this sentence, and truly felt internally the pressure that this request was putting on me...and knew that if nothing else, I had to listen to and honour this part of my process. To me, this speaks to the honouring of both Nissa's memory as well as giving myself that time and freedom during this dreaded 'first' Christmas to really feel the utter loneliness that her absence will create. In short, yes, I NEED the freedom to immerse myself in all of it, even if I'm dreading it. And having another being to look after 24/5 would take that freedom away from me. So I just can't do that to myself, as I really and truly know I deserve some down-time from that kind of responsibility and anxiety. It's just been too long a haul in the last 6.5 years to not take a break from it as much as possible.

And if I really want to help our neighbour's cat, I also now realize that if I'm actively grieving, and he's already missing his family, my 'vibes' of sorrow won't be helping him deal with his own feelings, either. So it's probably best for both of us if I stick to just visiting if and when I'm feeling a bit more up-beat over the holidays.

So thank you, everyone, for all your thoughts and input and any additional thoughts you might add. You've all given me one of those soft spots to land in during this unexpected situation and I so appreciate you all for it! IPB Image

IPB Image

Edited by Maylissa
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Maylissa

I feel your heartbreak. It's been nearly a year since Zephyr passed and there are somedays I still cry ... I miss him terribly. However I know it's all a part of the healing process and the pain will eventually go and I'll be able to remember all the wonderful times we shared together.

Taking a sick cat out of it's comfortable environment may stress it further and you're already dealing with your own grief and loss. I think the suggestion to go and visit the cat in it's own home is far better. As a pet sitter I find most pets are far more comfortable in their own environment and less stressed by the change.

I do take in occasional dogs ... but they've all known me since they were puppies and the view my home as their second home. So when I lost Zephyr and I had the opportunity to pet sit Emily, Cavan and Maggie during those few weeks before we got Cadence it was truly a healing process for hubby and I and a way for Odin to get over the loss of his life long companion. Normally I wouldn't have done it but these dogs were like my own and fit in well with our daily life style.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Thanks for your reply, too. Yes, I know that most cats, especially, prefer to stay in their own homes and that's why I was worried about that aspect, and also why I ended up thinking that if I just pop in on him (while leaving his care to someone else) would be best. I even highly doubt his boy would think that taking him to our house (only) overnight would be wise, but I might ask him anyway to see what he thinks. Seeing as this cat knows me (and comes to me to yell at me to be let inside their house if they've left him outside too long and just left home themselves...and btw, I surely don't agree with doing this!!), I suppose it's possible he might prefer to have someone at night to sleep with...so I'll ask. I won't get to talk to this young man until the wknd and then only if he comes home then.

While thinking about this, I wondered if I might feel differently if I had a healthier cat to sit for...but after pondering that, too, I don't think that's the only issue for me. While at least I wouldn't have to worry so much about illness, and especially the same illness that Nissa had, it would still take away from thinking about HER and I'd still have to do feedings and litter, etc. and that would ALL hurt too much at this point. So if I only visit and may actually even check on his basics to see if they've been done properly, at least it wouldn't be ongoing every day. I'm clearly just not ready for more of a commitment than that right now, especially since I'm already struggling to NOT stay numb as much. I'm also hoping that even a simple visit might just bring out more sorrow that's stuck, while not subjecting my heart to the worst of the painful memories all at once.

I'm also sorry, but understand, that you're still grieving some about a year down the line. When I lost Sabin, I was in terrible shape for much longer than even that, because it was very complicated grief/circumstances. That basic MISSING them is the hardest thing, in my opinion, and that's something that usually doesn't ever really abate completely, even after it becomes liveable or bearable overall. That's why I'm considering it SO important to try and maintain my relationship with both of my kidlets, even beyond their crossings...but I've barely begun with that, except for keeping on talking to my girl a bit every day. I've just been reading Sandy Goodman's "Love Never Dies" online (it's now free to read as a pdf file) and it's helping to show me that I'm on the right track/path, just as she discovered for herself when she lost her son...except that I'm already ahead of where she started (yeah), so I'm hoping it won't take me as long. All I know for sure is that I absolutely CAN'T lose my relationship with my kidlets, no matter what. Otherwise, there truly will be no reason to keep living, and even dying will be meaningless if it weren't to continue from at least that point.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...