Our 15-Year-Old Cat Taught Me Something about Grief

cats sleeping together_grief_lessonsBy Judy Brizendine

Max and Molly were inseparable. They spent their entire lives together – until Molly became sick with an incurable form of cancer. Soon afterward we had to put her to sleep. Then Max was alone, without his sister, for the first time.  And surprisingly, Max our cat taught me something about grief.

You will never convince me that animals do not grieve. Max has struggled over the past six months since Molly died. Our little guy who was always a ‘chow hound’ lost interest in food. Our nosy little fellow who had to be right in the middle of everything now wants to separate himself and be alone. Our fifteen year old who acted more like a toddler than a mature cat now seems old. The changes we’ve seen in Max are startling.

Max’s response is really not so different from our tendencies when we experience a major loss. But what my husband and I realized is that we can’t just ignore Max’s behavior and let him do what feels natural. We love him too much for that!

Instead of allowing Max to go off by himself for extended periods of time, we started picking him up and bringing him to wherever we are. We devise games to entice him to eat. We look for ways to pamper him. We talk to him. We give him special attention.

An amazing thing has begun to happen. Max is beginning to come back to life again. He’s starting to seem more like himself. Instead of having to bring him to wherever we are, more frequently he’s coming there on his own. He’s climbing up on our laps again. He’s cuddling up beside us. We’re catching glimpses of our ‘old’ Max and his boyish personality. Our coaxing is working!

You just never know when or where you’ll learn an unexpected lesson.  I learned something about grief from Max.

Often folks get busy with their lives and forget about someone who is grieving. Or else they’re uncomfortable because they don’t know what to do or say. However, when we care about someone, we look out for them. Our actions can make a huge difference in a loved one’s healing. Sometimes people need to be encouraged and ‘loved’ back to life! And sometimes they need a little push to do something that is for their best.

Grief is hard. Being on the receiving end of tender loving care is a priceless gift. Your gift may be the one that truly makes a difference.

© 2014 Judy Brizendine

Related Reading:

Animals and Grief – (article from PetMD)
Pet Loss: Is It A Different Kind of Grief? – (article from Grief Healing Blog)
Understanding and Managing Grief – (a collection of articles from Grief Healing Blog)

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2 Responses to “Our 15-Year-Old Cat Taught Me Something about Grief”

  1. Robin Botie says:

    This is so beautiful, Judy. A little extra thought and care for the grieving works for both kitties and humans. Thank you for this.