Warning: If anyone says ‘kitten’ to my wife, she’s likely to punch you in the nose. Consider yourselves warned.
Fancy, my wife’s cat of 15 years, died yesterday morning. She was at least 17 years old and had been declining in health for some time but still, it hurts. Because of our many shared virtual connections, she’d asked me to “tell the people” so that she wouldn’t have to.
As we all know, there is little more risky than interacting with the world when your heart is so freshly broken. Those who do not know your loss want to talk about whatever else is going on in the world, and you don’t care. Those who do know about your loss want to comfort you, to reassure you, to let you know they are thinking about you. Being loved on at times like this can be comforting. Of course, when it goes badly, it’s like being run over by a car right after being hit by a bus.
As requested, I shared a charming picture of Fancy with a note about her transition. Almost immediately, thoughtful messages began to pour in virtually, and we sat on the couch and looked at old pictures and remembered. It was sweet and sad, the best you can hope on a day like yesterday. A few hours later, my wife said, “If anyone says ‘kitten’ to me, I’m going to punch them in the nose.” Mostly to lighten the mood on my Facebook page, I shared the warning (above).
You never know when someone might feel tempted to extend the inevitable, “Why don’t you just get a kitten?” That is the “at least you can have another child” for grieving parents, the “better now than after the baby is born” for miscarrying women, and the “at least he/she’s no longer suffering” for adult who just lost their parent/spouse/friend after a long battle with a painful disease.
My inner optimist wants to believe that everyone on this planet now recognizes that these types of condolences are inappropriate and painful, and above all else, unnecessary. I want to believe that it never, ever happens unless someone’s cognitive processing has been profoundly impaired by, say… a lightening strike. But, the truth is many people still say things that hurt you because they don’t know what to do when you’re hurting.
Naturally, within minutes of my warning, I was encouraged to get my wife a kitten. Trying (desperately) to squash the conversation early, I replied, “No, we think that dead pet replacement is selfish. We’ll just be with the sadness for a while.”
My wife then clarified, “It’s not just selfish. It doesn’t exist, any more than dead wife replacement or dead child replacement or dead parent replacement, and it’s cruel to suggest it to people who’ve just lost beloved anythings, pets or anything else.”
This kitten advocate explained that when their child’s pet died, the only thing that would make her stop crying was a new one, and that getting the new one was the only thing that made her to move on. If you’ve been reading my stuff for more than six or so seconds, then you may already know where there is headed. Forgive the repetition and here we go again…
Every tear you never cried is waiting for you… and they are heavy.