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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Wading in the Sea of Regrets


Would have, should have, could have. How often have we said those words in our lives? I myself have said them too many times. Tell me one person who hasn’t? Grief in and of itself is all consuming but compiled with regret it can make you physically ill. When letting go of a pet, it’s normal to have deep regrets. It’s an enormous decision to end a life, even when you know that life is suffering and coming to an end on its own. If only they could tell us with no uncertainty, “I’m ready!” Because they can’t, even though we know in our hearts they can’t possibly take any more…some will always question that decision.

I myself am of the belief that when a pet cannot walk any more, cannot go to the bathroom, breathe well, etc., it’s time. That’s actually how I knew it was my cat Patches’ time. She couldn’t hold her bowels, was stumbling and looked just plain awful. The needle was barely inside her and she was gone. So yes, she was ready. Do I have some regrets? Yes, I do. There were things we should have and could have done while she was alive to better care for her. I was young and didn’t know there were signs. We also didn't know what we know now about proper nutrition and the diseases that senior kitties are prone to. But regardless of that, at 20 years old it was her time. And we gave her a long and happy life.

With Alex it was different because she died on her own and it was a shock. Even though she had been sick, she was doing well. I didn’t even have a chance to get her to the ER, she died in the car on the way there. I have PLENTY of regrets where that is concerned and that will most likely haunt me the rest of my life. Even though I know in my heart I did the very best I could for her through her illness, I still have doubts and regrets. My vet even told me she thought I was the best kitty parent she’d ever met and that I went above and beyond for her. It’s still not enough for me to stop that feeling, it’ll always be there, buried inside.

Blaming ourselves is normal and part of the grieving process. Sometimes that part never goes away completely but we learn to live with it or let it go. We have to in order to move forward. This is how we learn of what to do and what not to do next time around. And most of us DO learn those hard lessons. Think of it this way; if we weren’t good pet parents would we even care how good a life they have or if they went peacefully when it’s their time? Not at all. But instead of giving ourselves that moment of solace, we torment ourselves with “what ifs”. In order to love that deeply and strongly, we need to suffer for it. Why that is, I don’t know. It’s just the laws of the universe. But we are blessed with giant hearts and wide open arms that will yet welcome more fur balls into our lives. We cannot live without them and from what I’ve seen of most of my friends, their fur children lead the best lives possible with the greatest care.

Grieve! Do not deny your broken heart the chance to scream out in agony. Because that’s what it is when we love and lose them; sheer agony. But do not wade too long in that sea of regret or it’ll swallow you up. And your heart needs to mend for the next furry one that enters your life. Love yourself and give yourself permission to feel awful! But know you are a terrific parent and making yourself sick over regrets and what ifs will not change that they are gone. A fragile and broken heart should not be beaten to its core but treated as if it were a beautiful vase that can and will be mended. Even with a few cracks here and there, eventually it’ll hold the life of blooming flowers again.  

36 comments:

Laurie D. said...

Lisa, this was beautiful. I am in that battle of knowing just when to let go of a kitty. He seems so normal at times then there are days when I know it's not much longer...and that agony you speak of just not knowing. He still grooms, will play, although not nearly as much, still loves on me, as I on him, but he has picked up uncharacteristic practices that are not instinctual, which I think a lot of what he does is. Don't want to lose him, and like you said, as much as we have loved them, we will grieve them. Someone asked me if I was keeping him for myself or for him. Good question.

IBDKitties said...

Oh Laurie, I am so sorry. This is a VERY hard time for you. #1, because he does seem normal sometimes it's so hard to tell what's best for him. I know you don't want to lose him. I also know you'll let him go when he tells you it's his time. When that time comes, please know you aren't alone and you can write me if you need to talk.

Evangeline said...

Lisa, everything you write shows a lot of insight and a lot of heart.

IBDKitties said...

Thank you Evangeline!

Anonymous said...

This is so beautifully said Lisa. We can experience this even losing a person. What we need to do is give ourselves permission to not be perfect. So much sadness lately for many of us & our good friends. Renee

IBDKitties said...

Exactly and I need to practice what I preach, LOL. I'm not very good at giving myself that permission either.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the lovely post, Lisa. You are right...it is hard to escape that sense of things we feel we should have done or should have done better for our precious animal companions, whose lives are usually so much shorter than our own. Right now I have a sick, but very well cared for and maintained 18-year old who I rescued from under a house when she was a wildly feral 8 week old kitten. We eventually got on good terms, and she's had a life full of love and gentleness. Even though she still eats well, and is very affectionate, the signs are there. I keep asking myself if I should let her go while she is still strong, or risk waiting too long. It's very hard to know what to do. I just pray for the wisdom to know the time. -- Leslie

IBDKitties said...

How wonderful of you to spend 18 years caring for that wild little one. It is hard to know what signs really make it that time. Enjoy each moment while she's still here. She'll let you know, I promise. I had no idea so many of my friends were caring for senior or sick kitties.

Tigger Tales said...

I always look forward to reading your blog posts Lisa. They are insightful and sensitive. Thank you for being there for me during my back to back losses of Bob and Tigger. Having someone understand how I feel, and what I'm going through, helps a lot.

Gina

IBDKitties said...

Thank you Gina, I cannot imagine losing two of my babies so close together. I know you haven't been feeling well and it's no wonder. I made myself sick after Alex died.

WeBeesSiamese said...

Lovely thoughtful and insightful piece of writing, Lisa. Thanks.
I have been there too often..and surely will sometime in the far off future...I hope.

IBDKitties said...

Thank you so much! Yes, I hope it's very, very far off for you.

Shadow said...

Thank you Lisa for this well written from the heart blog.
Not sure what else to say, but thank you,im very scared for that day, and I hope there will be other kitty parents there to get me through this.

IBDKitties said...

I hope that day is a long way off for you Tina. But I can tell you that you will not be alone when that day comes. Those are the times we have to come together and rally around each other. That's the only way to get through it.

Bam teach said...

Regrets......Who hasn't had them?....No one....I didn't regret all of the care and time spent on my Benjamin when he had so many problems. It was the Big C that took him. When the vet said that we could slow it down to give him a couple of more months. I said "NO". I saw both parents die gradually and painfully. I couldn't do that to my beloved Ben. He spent his last few months with us in comfort. When he refused to eat and showed that he was through, it was time. Same with Natasha, her cancer had spread throughout. The vet tech told me to wait one more day. I could see Natasha's system shutting down; she didn't. Poor girl was peeing and vomiting. It was her time. We were with both of these beloved pets while they passed onto the Bridge. We released them from their burdens and future agony. The vet did the biopsy of Natasha's cancer; it was amazing that she held on so long. We are the ones in pain in the end.
You should always hold those memories of them when they were healthy and happy.
Take pictures, play with them, and enjoy every moment that they are here. The sadness of their passing is hard and it does bring some pain and tears even though time has passed. Natasha was the sweetest cat and had her soft touch to help me through some difficult times with surgerys that I had. We help each other......I am glad that we met.
Never regret meeting.....Lisa, your Alex taught you a lot. Your experience with Alex has brought you to places that you didn't imagine. Alex will always be your guardian angel.
Now, go and hug those that need it now.....

Tucker The Crestie said...

Beautiful post, Lisa. I think one of the respondents was correct ... no matter if the lost one is a person or an animal, we still like to torture ourselves with the guilt and the what-ifs. What we have to realize is that we aren't perfect, we aren't omniscient, we're just human, and we have to content ourselves with knowing that we did the best we could, loved as hard as we could, and that in the end, we cannot stop time, we cannot cure a terminal illness. If we love, we will eventually hurt, it's just a fact of life. But this knowledge should not stop us from loving - it's what we are put here to do.

Jeannine said...

Lisa, this is a very well written article and you explain so well about regret. I know I still have my moments after all these years with Mitsy, my first dog, back in 1996 and of course with Romeo - 2008. Letting go hard and yes we go on roller coaster rides emotionally but that is all a part of living. We are human and we feel. I will never forget my babies and I look forward to spending Eternity with them.

IBDKitties said...

This was lovely Sharon, that last part really got me. I would never regret meeting my Alex, she was my angel on earth. She brought me more love and joy than I've ever felt in my life.

IBDKitties said...

Amen Brooke! Amen! We're just human and being content is so hard sometimes but we have to strive for it.

IBDKitties said...

Thank you Jeannine

Jen H said...

Well written and wise blog post, Lisa. Yes, I'm living with this right now. Part of me knows that is all true. But right now there are still some haunting questions. Maybe because my little boy went downhill so quickly, BUT he was still eating well the day and days leading up to it. So I have those lingering questions. Slowly I will come to terms with it. I'm feeling a little better today and went to the Humane Society yesterday. But then those thoughts pop into my mind. Some of them are valid, and then there are things I know I couldn't change. But we have to ultimately accept what is and move forward. As you know, it can be so painful with one who is so embedded in your soul and just your day to day life. They're here with you and you're trying to give them all you've got. Treatments, vet appointments, meds and food and always looking to what will help them. And then they are gone. I was talking to someone about this and maybe one of the lessons these beings give us through all of this is to be able to accept that life is imperfect and we make mistakes and we have to forgive ourselves. And also realize you can't blow things out of proportion; there are limits to what can be done. And like Eva says, hindsight is perfect vision. I'm working on just being grateful to have had this little being with me and the knowledge he had so much love and a good life. That's one mistake I didn't make; I told Gumpy what he meant to me constantly. Thanks for letting me ramble a little here. Your blog is really good, keep at it!

IBDKitties said...

Jen I'm glad you posted. I know that you have a lot of feelings right now, you're baby just left you. I'm glad you feel you can talk about it here. I hope you're able to find more peace in the coming days. I'm glad to hear you like the blog! I wanted a place to do my creative writing and touch on subjects close to everyone's hearts.

Jen H said...

Maybe I overstated eating well the day before. He was still eating the day before and I have a video of him the Sunday before (three day before) where he is eating well, but he can't sit up. So he was still eating well a couple days before. Maybe being a cat who loves to eat and isn't picky can be a curse as well as a blessing, since they may still be wanting to eat even though they're not in good shape. But his kidney values were all really bad, that combined with not being able to really walk and not being able to get into the litter box and little coming out the final days has to mean that he was shutting down. Maybe I could have had a a day or two more, but that's not what happened. Thank you for caring and being here for us during this. I really thought I'd have him with me longer. I have to forgive myself for not doing everything perfect with his kidney issues. I had to live my life and do the best I could to work around caring for him. I hope he and Alex are getting to know each other and having fun talking about their mommies.

OMG, as I was writing this I just got your email about sweet Bella!

543456bc-4114-11e0-80b0-000f20980440 said...

oh Lisa,
I write this through tears as 2 hours ago we held my beloved heart of my heart for the last time as she leapt the light fantastic and jouneyed on.
she was walking around since last night, pacing, pacing, hungry eating a bite of whatever offered, and then not content.
My husband I am worried about...he didn't want to let go. I didn't either, but I did not want her to suffer, and I was worried she was getting to 'suffering'. She was the most at peace i've seen her when they gave her the shot to relax her before the stuff....
I'm tearful....could I have done more...but how? I miss her with all I am...because she's a part of me....
and I will always wish there were more we could do...

on a strange note....the room went very cold, and a lovely, roly poly cat sat in the corner, large wings flapping slowly...out of the corner of our eyes, then she manifested.....
and they were gone.

she looked so at peace.

can't stop crying though. Embarassing at work.

Bellas mom Deb

IBDKitties said...

Yes, the revolving door continues. Bella is there with them now. I had a feeling she would not last much longer. Jen I want to tell you something. I watched my brother-in-law die in the hospital in the course of 2 weeks while in a coma. I saw how the body shuts down and it's not pretty. But from what you are telling me about Gump, that's exactly what was happening and honestly there's no coming back from that. There just isn't. So I know you think maybe you could have had a couple of extra days but I don't think that would have happened. You spared him from a slow and potentially painful process. You DO have to forgive yourself for whatever you think you need to. Kidneys are usually the first to go and with that, all the other organs follow.

IBDKitties said...

You know deep in your heart you did the right thing for her. Letting go is the worst pain there is. But at the same time, it's wonderful you were able to see that look of peace of her face. I'm so sorry Deb.

pcat said...

Thank you Lisa for this, we are all feeling the same things every time we lose our beloved precious gifts from God...none of us know what is right or wrong, but in the end we do what is right for our pets. I now have lost 4 cats, 3 dogs and my daughters rabbit, guinea pigs and hampsters...you know I have cried and questioned every time, but in the end I know if we make that decision it is so much better for them to go peacefully, then to come home and find they died while you are gone and they were alone or were suffering...that happened to me. It is never easy to let go, but from what I have experienced it is so much better to help them go then to wait and have them die alone or in pain. Sometimes we don't have the option, but I know in my heart I did make the right decision to let go even if I have beat myself up and questioned like we all do. One day it just gets a little better, but the hole my heart has and the emptiness never goes away for none of them...but I do know they are at peace.
Remember if you love them you will let them go...we are the ones that suffer and question they do not, they only love and know they were loved. We are blessed to have these big hearts to let in Gods gifts to love us and love them back.

QT's Mom

IBDKitties said...

Beautifully and perfectly said Peg!!! I agree wholeheartedly and yes, it's so hard to let them go but I think it is better to be able to help them go peacefully. That's one thing that will always get me about the way Alex passed. That I didn't get the chance to help her and she was not in my arms at the time.

Deb said...

Beautiful entry Alex's MC. I know it was the right thing to let my sweet Raincloud go, but I should have gone back to the vet's office. I know she did not need to linger any longer as she must have dealt with the pain from the cancer all in her little body, but still... I should have gone back.

I am still thankful we had a nice chat while driving to the vet's office that morning. I always understood what she was telling me.

She never let me know if she was hurting though. She always simply loved me.

((Huggs)) Raincloud's MamaCat Deb

IBDKitties said...

Nothing I can say could possibly make you feel better about that. I know it's the same for me with Alex, many have tried. I've tried, it's just so hard. It's something we live with everyday. Hugs to you Deb!

Brenda said...

Thanks for that Lisa. I have in the last 6 weeks had a very difficult time taking care of my sick boys Dexter and Sigmund. I've been diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, and much more, and have limited use of my left arm and hand. I am able to cope better since taking pain meds. I have been physically unable to take care of them, as that in itself is a full time job, and doctor appointments have been many.

I feel tremendous guilt for not being able to care for them as I had been. I feel the end is near for both of them, but don't want to lose them on account of myself not being that special mom that I have been to them. I've had some improvement in the last day (I can type), and hope I can care for them as long as they need me.

IBDKitties said...

Oh Brenda, I am so very, very sorry to hear this. I'm so sorry you're suffering with these awful diseases! Is there no one else there to help you with the boys' care?

Brenda said...

I need to work on getting help. It's difficult when pilling and feeding is done throughout the day. You know how high maintenance sick kitties can be.

IBDKitties said...

I know that Midnight would be dead if I wasn't here to take care of her. It was difficult to care for her when I was in agonizing pain this time last year. But I did it because there was no one else. I hope you can find homes for your birds and get some time to take care of you for a change.

Heather S said...

Wonderful entry. Thank you for sharing these thoughts I think that we all have when we lose someone.

Timmy Tomcat said...

This post has stirred memories of the little furs I have had pass over some 10 years.
I chose not to help them along as they were not ill but just old. No great loss of function but a winding down. A slowing until there was peace.
Each had veterinary care in the previous weeks and did not appear to be in any distress. But I still wonder, did I do enough, and if not, what should I have done? Should I have helped them to cross the bridge? Did they suffer?
My Inky was about 22 give or take. I thought he had passed several times as he layed on my bed with me feeling every movement, listening for every sound, not sleeping, on vigil. I would think his breath stopped and I would lay him out in the morning and up he got for a little drink. Back on the bed as he had enough energy. A 6 day vigil. Did I do enough for him? I do not know. Can I do this again? I do not know.
I would hope someone allows me the same choices at my end. I pray that someone cares as much.