This begins the third part of my series on grief. I’ve decided to “write it all out”, defining this feeling and expressing just how hard it is to mourn with small children. Please take a moment to look here for the first part and here for the second part.
And Yet Again
My words took their time forming and reforming in my head. My thoughts weren’t ready to be shared yet. It didn’t come together until last night, when I was awake again as my family slept, sobbing quietly while my brain worked overtime. I wasn’t really able to put into words my experiences until just now, as I pound away on my laptop as the babes nap.
It didn’t make sense to share what I was going through if I couldn’t make sense of it either.
But yesterday I suffered another profound loss. Yesterday, I watched as my sweet, tolerant, loving, fluffy 14-year-old cat died. I watched it happen, literally at my feet, with both my children in the room and witnessing it as well.
All over again, the lid came off my vast cup of grief and the sadness that was poured into it overflowed and washed over me.
It is Never JUST a Pet
I rescued that cat from a stray colony in the swamps of Florida 14 years ago. This fluffy kitten with needle claws climbed my pant leg and mewed at me. I scooped it up and claimed it, this purring ball of fur. It wasn’t until Princess went in to be spayed that we learned it was a he to be neutered. He has lived with me in over a dozen places, been through a couple relationships before meeting and moving in with the BHE, tolerating our parties and our home renovations, enjoying sunshine wherever he could lay in it, being the best snuggle buddy and friend to my other cat, loving to sit on laps, and allowing the roughness and shock of two small children be a part of his life.
A few weeks before adopting Princess, I euthanized my sweet smooshy-face kitty who was only 9 years old but dying of leukemia. Now, I have watched two blonde long-haired cats die. My children were with me this time. My tender-hearted Angel watched as Princess had a stroke and died. She obeyed without question or argument as I rushed to get her and the boy changed and loaded into the car. She didn’t fight or fuss when I carried our sweet kitty outside, wrapped in a towel, to drive us to the vet. She quietly sat on a chair at the clinic as the vet calmly said he was gone before we got there.
The Angel even thought to grab her toy stethoscope so she, too, could listen for Princess’s heartbeat at the kitty doctor’s office.
How to Explain It to a Three-Year-Old
The BHE lovingly picked up my favorite take-out last night then went to dig a grave after dinner. Twice, I had to lift the bundle of quilted fabric with its satin bow to fit him down into the earth. I took the shovel and filled the dirt back in around him. All the while, I had to keep my sobs in check because of the questions coming from my daughter.
“Where is Pin-sess? Why is he still sleeping? What Pin-sess doing, Mommy? When will he come back inside? Mommy, what that sound?”
That sound, little lady, is what we call keening and it is the best I can do to keep the grief in check, to not lose the bit of control I’ve got over myself right now.
Because grieving with small children just isn’t possible. You can’t let it out. You can’t fully express it. You can’t spill that cup of darkness and let the sobs break out of you until exhaustion takes over and the grief becomes more of a silent companion than an ever-present darkness threatening to slap you down.
This morning, as the Angel and I descended the stairs to start our day, she asked like she does every morning if she could feed the kitties. There was just one food bowl, though, just Nicky’s. I had to explain all over again that Princess had died, that he wouldn’t be coming back in, that we wouldn’t need to feed him ever again because he was enjoying the eternally filled bowl of kitty crunchies.
My tender-hearted angel put her hands over her face and cried. Through her fingers and sobs, I heard her say, “I wanna pet he. I miss he. I worried he all alone out there.”
Loss is real to her now. Loss is a thing, not just something witnessed as Mommy cried at Great-Grandma’s and then Great-Grandpa’s funerals. Loss is tangible and greatly affects her daily life. And I have been blessed to receive this healthy, intelligent, loving child and have been blessed to be called to teach her, not just to read and to be polite but to experience and express each emotion. I get to guide her through her grief.
The Cup Overflowed
But, I tell you, I can’t do it again. That is three great losses in less than 10 months. I can’t do it. Every time I close my eyes, there’s this image of a cup the size of a galaxy, filled with more darkness than stars, swirling as more darkness is added to it, three large helpings of loss in a cup barely big enough to contain it all. This cup is tilted precariously and near it is a wide, thin piece of cork that should serve as a lid. The lid is off, the contents are starting to spill over the sides. I can’t take another blow. I have wept so much yet it feels not enough. I have hidden my tears and sobs, I have silenced my grief. I can’t afford to completely meltdown under the pressure and let that dark galaxy spill across my daily life.
Mourning is a luxury I cannot afford with children. Grief has become a heavy companion.