One of the things about grief is it is solitary. Even though the whole family loses a loved one, we each knew that being as an individual specific to us. For example, I loved my cat Frankie immensely, and still grieve his loss today. But his loss was earth shattering to my cat Buffy, who had been with Frankie since he was born. They hung out on a chair grooming each other each night. They would hold paws when they slept. I loved Buffy, but I could not love her the way that Frankie did; I was not her sibling. We did not have a shared youth. There will never be another kitten that shared their youth with Buffy. During our eight years of fostering kittens, Buffy has never again bonded so completely with another cat.
I don’t know if this could be because Buffy has closed herself down to allowing herself to be so close to another cat, as this is something that I have seen before. Or is she less accommodating to the new kittens as her days of playing most of the day are gone? Perhaps the loss of Frankie caused her to be less open to new friends. One might think that having such a close and wonderful relationship to Frankie would make her WANT to love again, want to reach out to new kittens, want to be loving. So, the question is, did Buffy make the choice to shut down?
For whatever the reason, are we more open to love when we are young? Do we take more chances? Or do we, when hurt close up like a clam and vow to never love again? Buffy had a hard time as a kitten. She was extremely sick, and she had to get shots and fluids every day. To this day, when people come over to visit, she hides because she fears they will give her shots.
BUFFY knows that there is no one out there that fits the exact being called Frankie. So, she doesn’t even try. In that way, she won’t be disappointed again, by looking out to the Universe for someone that fits in Frankie’s slot. But instead of sitting on the chair canoodling with Frankie or one of the current cats living in our home, she has chosen to sit alone. Until she allows her heart to open-up again, she will forever be sitting alone. We (humans and animals) allow grief to open us up, or to close us down. We can either get bitter or get better.
Even though she is damaged, Buffy is deeply loving as my cat. Now that Frankie is gone, she tolerates the other cats, and sometimes lets Samson, who loves on everyone, love on her too. She is the cat that is ALWAYS in my bed at night, touching my leg. She is thoroughly devoted to me, and I know I am blessed for that. I also know that if I am gone, someone else is not going to be a substitute for me. Her bond with me is essential to her, and essential to me too. None of my other cats sleep with me at night, and it makes me happier to have a cat sleep with me at night. I know that Buffy and I have a unique irreplaceable relationship, and I cherish her because of that.
So, when we lose a family member, each of us loses a different person. You might lose your daily walking partner, or your favorite “eating treats together pal” while your teenager has lost their favorite confidant. Those positions are not easy to fill. Don’t be surprised if you are struggling to create a new normal. Some of us grieve in public, others like to keep a stiff upper lip and choose not to show weakness.
Grief is like a dark cloud, a storm in the soul that sits down on us and doesn’t move. Each of us are in a different storm, one specific to losing the individual specific to us. That storm can even ride down upon us on different times, different places.
The first Christmas that the loved one is no longer there, a glance from a stranger that brings up a poignant memory, a visit from a shared confident, all these things can bring grief raining down on us quickly like an overdue monsoon. Grieving can be inconvenient. But we have to grieve, we must work through that loss, in order to be able to love fully again.