CW: Pet Loss, Grief
I don’t know anything about grief. I’m really bad at it. I’m one of those supremely lucky people who hasn’t had death in their family beyond the natural course of grandparents and both times I was in such shock and denial that I avoided everything there was to avoid, figuring I’d learn how to “process” death eventually. Eventually came when my cat and only companion of 12 years had one kidney problem too many and passed away in early April. I don’t like the term “Rainbow Bridge” and I’m sure she’d have rolled her eyes at it, too.
While I actually did take about three days to allow myself to feel painful, terrifying grief, I was super proud of myself the first day I felt functional again. I thought I did the grief good, and that I’d be okay moving forward. While I am for the most part, things sneak up on me. Things you don’t think about until they’re in front of your face, reminding you that your arms are empty. Here’s what I still do for absolutely no reason at all:
Avoid making loud noises of any kind. I put away my dishes as if they’re wired to explode.
Immediately look for her when there’s a loud noise outside to tell her it’s okay.
Save bits of twine and tissue paper from online shopping deliveries.
Avoid allowing my feet to breach the lower righthand quadrant of the bed, lest I kick her.
Mute movies until after the lion has roared.
Avoid “her” places when spraying Mrs. Meyers air freshener just in case it gets in her eyes.
Turn the sound off on my phone whenever there’s a dog video with an awoo.
Leave a throw blanket across a chair I never sit in because it’s more comfortable than the plastic seat.
There are other things, things I could never do that I was able to once she died. I can have a bath mat now, that’s cool. She never didn’t piss on one. I can leave the toilet lid up because I’m not afraid of any tomfoolery happening in there. I can open my windows, that’s huge. I’m on the fifth floor and was always terrified that she’d crawl out on the ledge then fall off and die because one time she almost did and I’ve never know fear that acute. I don’t clean up poop or vomit anymore—both of which she enjoyed doing on floors—I’m enjoying that. I buy whatever kind of flowers I want because nobody’s going to get poisoned by them. And I can sit down without anyone in my lap. You’ll think this one sounds bad but I want you to imagine never sitting down alone in 12 years before you judge me because that’s what it was like sweetheart.
I’m moving in a month and a half. I like to think the change of scenery will help with some of the moments when I’m slapped in the face with a reminder of her. She’ll never have lived in the new house, and that’s a comfort to me. I hate the absence of her. I hate crying if I remember her too long. I don’t feel home without her. I don’t want to hold her one more time, I want to hold her a thousand more times, and there’s a difference. People don’t send you flowers when a pet dies, did you know that? Next time it happens to someone I know, I’m gonna. Pet loss is a lingering heartbreak, one that flares up in the strangest of behaviors.
Sometimes I don’t know why I write things. Maybe there’s something that can’t live inside me anymore, like a crab needing a bigger shell. They almost write themselves in a way. It’s like my brain and fingers are in cahoots and they leave me out of things, on occasion. A piece of twine that an eight-pound Swiffer duster with eyes never got to play with shouldn’t upset me so much, but one came in the mail yesterday and I can’t get rid of it. It’s just the sort of thing she likes.
Shani Silver is a humor essayist and podcaster. You can read all her Medium essays here.