Pain and Loss

Posted: September 27, 2014 in General
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I am a firm believer that just like most things in life, the way we deal with loss and death is firmly rooted in our childhood.  We can later in life emulate the examples we see, whether that be with hysteria, isolation, coldness, or any other color in the spectrum that grief shows itself.  Exposure to death at a young age is one of the foundational stones as we construct our lives.  Generally, we learn about death by just a few common ways, there are some notable exceptions, particularly given the last decade plus, but discounting war we generally are exposed by the passing of an older relative or family friend of such standing they are considered a relative, or, the passing of a beloved family pet.

DISCLAIMER:  Before I go further I just want to make clear that I am not trying to put the same weight of a loss of a pet as that of a loved on.  That is not the topic I am trying to address, and hopefully the narrative that follows will make that clear.

My first exposure to death that I can remember is that of my grandfather way back in the 70’s.  He was relatively young, only in his 50’s and passed away as a result of some complications from a workplace accident and with the addition of some health choices that were probably in this day and age would not be the best ones to make.  I was 6 or 7 years old and I remember the viewings and the funeral, and the stops at the cemetery to pay respects on subsequent trips as I grew up.  I do not remember much about the viewing other than I was dressed up, spent time playing with my cousins, seeing how my parents handled it and my nana’s grief.

This morning my daughter learned about passing on through the loss of her beloved cat, Smudge.  She has been sick for a few weeks now and nothing was helping.  As things got worse through this week my wife took her back to the vet again where they determined it could be any manner of potentially terminal things which was followed by my wife making a middle of the night trip to the pet hospital emergency center.  Things were not going well and this morning, with my daughter present my wife made the decision to end her suffering and let her go.  On top of all of this I am almost 300 miles away closing out this current chapter of my life completing my retirement, so I was unable to be there for my wife and children while this was going on.

Both my son and daughter possess levels of empathy that they could never have possibly inherited from me.  I would go so far as to say my little girl in particular is an outright empath.  While she may occasionally treat our pets in the irresponsible manner that all children do, each and every one of them is beloved by her.  When she is not running them ragged she lays open her loving and caring heart to them and never holds against them their own nature when they do not always respond in kind.  She is an animal person through and through.

Neither my wife nor I are people who believe anyone or anything should suffer.  It does not matter if it is from illness, disease or personal choice ( this is not necessarily our outlook for consequence of illegal activity or acts of evil).  We have tried to pass this on to our children as they grow up as well.  My son is a little older and has been through it with pets.  Being in high school he has had classmates pass and he has seen me deal with the loss of comrades.  He has enough callous built up that he can continue what needs to be done as he deals with his own grief.

Today, my little princess has gotten the first scuffs on the fabric of her life.  She  has reached an age where she does not forget what happens.  Swiftly approaching double-digit years her memories are being written and cataloged.  The foundation we have been trying to lay in solid bedrock is being built upon and it is my firm belief that in events such as these we can either provide her the tools to build upon that foundation properly or we can completely screw it up and she will end up with a shack where a palace should stand.

We each deal with our grief in different ways.  My wife loved that cat no less, possibly even more, than my daughter.  I know her and she is probably second guessing every decision up to the one to end Smudge’s suffering.  She wants to figure out what she could have done to prevent it and will eventually come to her own conclusions.  I have not yet spoken to my little girl but I imagine she is in her own way trying to make sense of the lessons we have taught her.  Up to now, like most things parents try to pass on, there has been no actual context for it.  A lesson is only words until you have the experience in front of you.  What she knows right now is that she will never get to hold and love the little white ball of fur with the smudge of dark on her forehead.

My regret is that I cannot be there for them in person.  I cannot be the thing they take their anger out on, their shoulder to cry on, or the person to simply hold them and tell them things will be alright.  These are the moments I have missed too many of over the years and why I have no regrets about retiring.  To my wife, my daughter and son, who will deal in his own way, I have nothing to give right now but my ear and my sympathy.  I have never been a cat person but my wife has had quite a knack for picking out ones that I can get along with and have shown no fear with the dogs.  Smudge was a beloved part of my family and she will be missed.

My wife and I over the years have met our fair share of lost souls.  Addiction, depression, disease and the whole gamut of what life has to throw at you, we have known people affected by them.  Some have been able to overcome or come to peace with their conditions while others have not been so fortunate.  We have striven to teach our children that because they suffer a loss they do not have to become lost in it.  If they do so it is ultimately up to them to seek out the resources they need to find themselves.  No amount of intervention will help if it is not received with the intent to use it properly.  Grief is no less a significant condition than any other yet it is no more easy for many to reach out for help to deal with it than the others as well.  Hopefully, how we have taught our children on the subject will help them as they go through life and experience the joys and sadness of it.

Smudge 9/27/2014


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