Dealing with the loss of a pet and how it could’ve been so much worse

I am no stranger when it comes to dealing with grief, or so I thought.  The grief I am all too familiar with is that of expected grief, after a long term illness or old age.  Last week our cat Willow sadly got hit by a car and died, this grief took me completely out of the blue and I found that really hard to deal with.  One minute I was letting her out of the back door, and the next one of our neighbours was knocking on our door saying she thought one of our cats had been hit by a car.

When our neighbour knocked on the door and asked if our cats were inside my heart sank. She explained that a cat looking like one of ours had been hit by a car and she thought she was dead.  I immediately put my shoes on and walked to the end of our road with her, hoping that she had got it wrong, but as I was approaching I could see it was one of ours.  They look similar so it wasn’t until I got right up close to her that I could see it was Willow.  My heart sank and I immediately burst into tears. I hadn’t long let her outside and there she was lifeless.  That wasn’t the Willow I knew, pestering for fuss from anyone, roaming the sofas and climbing all over us trying to find a comfy position,  sneaking into our neighbours houses and charming them into giving her treats. Willow was a character, and at times it was like she was human with her intuitive ways knowing when we needed some love from her and knowing when James was upset.

Now I don’t want to make this blog all about how our beloved cat died, I wanted to write about the different forms of grief and how Willow’s death really shocked me.  I am not going to say I found dealing with the deaths of people close to me who had been suffering from long term illnesses easier than dealing with the death of one of my cats, but I came to realise that not all grief is the same.  When you are dealing with the death of someone from a long term illness, or from old age it is often expected.  Although it is heart wrenchingly painful I think you can take comfort in the fact that they are no longer suffering and there can be relief that you don’t have to watch them struggle with life every day.  You can also begin to prepare yourself for life without them which can help their passing be more manageable.

What struck me with Willow was the shock of her death.  There was nothing wrong with her, she was a healthy, happy cat loving life, so to see her being her normal self and then in less than an hour see her lifeless body at the side of the road really haunted me.  When people have died close to me before I have never wanted to see them actually die, or see a dead body, for some people it is important to them, but to me it was important not to have that image etched in my head forever.  However, for Willow I had no choice, I saw her limp body and the blood oozing out of her mouth when my husband and neighbour bravely wrapped her in a blanket and maneuvered her into a cat carrier so my husband could take her to the vets to be cremated.

Now I know Willow is only a cat, but she was part of our family and it got me thinking how difficult it must be for people to deal with the sudden death of family and friends, when one minute they are fit, healthy and happy and the next something tragic has happened. I wasn’t used to being so shocked by death, as it has always been expected to some extent when I have had to deal with grief before. With Willow I didn’t know how to cope with something so sudden, something that caught me by such a surprise and something that turned our world upside down so quickly.

Luckily while all of this was going on James was happily playing in his playroom and he was completely oblivious to the tears running down my face while my husband took Willow to the vets.  He doesn’t seem to have even noticed that he now only has one cat, Blossom, probably because they looked so similar.  In a way I am grateful that we are dealing with this while he is still so young and he doesn’t understand that Willow is no longer with us.  He is still happily playing with Blossom and calls her Bloss, which he thinks is funny.

James and Blossom have definitely given my husband and I something else to focus on.  We miss Willow a lot, but I think it has certainly been easier because we are busy looking after James, and we still have Blossom.  We got Willow and Blossom when we lived in Norway, they came to Lithuania with us and then to the UK, so they have been on quite a few adventures, but Willow’s nine lives were obviously up.  Although we were extremely shocked by her death, things definitely got easier after the first day.  My husband and I did a lot of talking to help each other and the day afterwards we went on a day out to We the Curious in Bristol, after our curious cat Willow.  There was even a dad shouting after his daughter Willow while we were there.

I have found that since her death I have been seeing her name a lot.  She died outside a house called Willow Mead.  I went to pick up her ashes last Friday, which I found particularly traumatic, but at the same time it has given me closure and allowed me to move on.  It took two trips to the vets; the first time I collected her ashes, got home and realised they hadn’t given me the paw print they had also done for us.  I went back to collect it and got caught in awful traffic because some pedestrians had been hit by a car, which put things in perspective, this was a cat that had been hit by a car.   The traffic was awful coming out of the vets too but it meant that I noticed two roads next to each other, one called Willow Court and the other called Blossom Court.  On my first journey home from the vets I didn’t notice this because there wasn’t any traffic, but because of the traffic I noticed this and it made me smile.

At the end of the day things could have been a lot worse, and my heart goes out to anyone who has had to deal with the sudden death of a friend or family member.  It was  a shocking situation we had to deal with and at the time that felt like our happy little family had just been torn apart.  As the days passed, like with all grief things did get easier, and I know she was a cat not a person, so that obviously meant we could move on more quickly.  As with anything that dies, we will remember the good times we had with her, especially her special relationship with James.



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