Tuesday, January 15, 2008


My cat died. Jaeger (say Yay-ger). I knew it was coming, hell you all knew it was coming. I mean a 20lb, 16 year old cat drops to 4lbs, stops using the litter box and starts getting into the shower with you, when you are showering, in a vain effort to get hydrated, the writing is pretty much on the wall.
Before Caleb died I think, no I know, I would have handled it differently.
I probably would have put her to sleep months ago, or at least when she started using the whole house as her personal litter box. I have always supported pet euthanasia and for that matter, I think it's pathetic we don't have a better system of people euthanasia, especially given the fact that a person can actually ask for it, where an animal depends on you to be brave and merciful when the time comes, if nature isn't working fast enough.
I couldn't do it this time. When my other cat, Hennessy, was sick and I knew he would never again be the cat he once was, I didn't even hesitate. It broke my heart and I cried so hard when they did it the vet had to ask "Are you really sure you want to be here for this?" The truth was, NO, I didn't want to be there, but I had to, because I loved him.
This time, I just didn't have the heart for it and I would never have let someone else do it for me. If someone was going to pull the plug on her, I at least owed her my presence and tears when she went out.
After my New Year's eve conversation with my son, I lost all hope of ever being able to put her down. I couldn't stand the idea of bringing anymore heartache into his world. It's not that I suddenly thought she would live for years if I didn't do it, but she had been living like that for a few months without any noticeable further decline and I decided my kids mental health was more important to me than my new carpet and wood floors. So I decided to let nature take its course.
Over the weekend she stopped eating. Tick tock. She still hung out with us so the kids didn't really notice but my husband and I knew she'd probably be gone before Monday.
Sunday, we went to visit new baby Harper. I thought my cat would be gone when we got home. I made her a nice bed and locked her in "her" room and we left.
Seeing the baby was nice. I know I buried a lot of emotions down deep, but I did hold her and smell her and love her for who she is, my beautiful baby niece. To me the hardest part was watching my kids hold her. That ripped at my heart more than I can ever describe. No, they weren't sad, I don't even think they made the same connection as I did. Their faces were filled with the wonder and awe that holding a brand new baby inspires. I stood back and watched and thought to myself, you both should have been able to have those feelings holding Caleb too. You were robbed. So was he. I hate this.

We got home late in the day and our kitty was still hanging in there but she was having difficulty walking. We told the kids that we thought this was it, that she wouldn't last much longer. They both did okay with that, I think. I mean they did the regular Sunday night stuff, but they would give her an extra pat or check on her more frequently. But no meltdowns.
I brought her up to bed with me but she only stayed a little while and then wobbly hopped off the bed looking for a more private place to be. I tucked her away in the bottom of a kitty tower and she seemed content there for a bit but eventually made her way back to her "room". I put her in her bed and pet her for a while, I told her I loved her and that her buddy Hennessy, was waiting for her when she was ready to go. And sometime during the night, she left.
Monday morning I found her. I wrapped her up in a blanket and let the other cats come see her. I am a firm believer in animals needing to know when another housemate dies. The three came in and smelled her, and our female, who we adopted last year, (she came to us knocked up and then proceeded to have kittens on my daughters bed, did I write about that???? can't remember and too lazy to go back and check)...but this "mommy kitty" as we call her, smelled Jaeger, licked her on the head and then lay down right next to her and stayed with her even after the other cats left. It was really touching.
The thing is, and why I decided to share or bore you with my kitty story, how my kids reacted. My son, was devastated but completely shut down. All day. He cried softly in the morning, barely let me hug him and wanted nothing to do with going in to see her or say good-bye to her before quietly leaving for school. My husband said that he cried all the way to school but stopped when they got there, to "tough it out" in front of the guys. My daughter woke up(after the boys had left) and the first thing she asked was "Where's Jaeger?" I told her. She ran downstairs opened the door to Jaeger's room, saw her, fell to her knees and just wailed. She cried hard and I cried with her. I am also a firm believer in the, "No one cries alone in my presence" philosophy. She sat with Jaeger, pet her, kissed her, and stayed with her until I had to drag her out to go to school. While she was looking at her, she asked me when Jaeger was going to go to Heaven. I realized she thought the whole cat would just disappear into the heavens, and here was our kitty, just laying there with nothing happening.
As many of you know, I am not a "God" person, but I have left the option open to my kids, as I want them to be able to make the choice to come over to the "dark side" on their own, after their own research and their own decisions. And I do believe in something bigger than me or us. It just doesn't have ANYTHING to do with RELIGION. So we sat and talked about souls and spirits and I tried my best to explain to her broken heart and her 6 year old brain, where I thought our kitty was and how she got there.
She told me, "I think I will cry at school today, too." I told her to go right ahead. Just to tell her teacher if she felt sad and that she would understand. Which she did.
My mom and my sister came over, made the vet calls for me (side note, pet cremation, WOW, what a racket, worse than funeral homes, and being a dead baby mom, I would know) and then sis drove me and my cat, to the "place". Thanks sis, big hugs for you:)
Between my two kids, I have always seen my son as the emotional one. He is so easily wounded by mere words or by the bigger things, like dead babies. My daughter, albeit, she is only 6, is much "harder". She tends to recover quicker, take things as they are and move on. She feels things and will cry on a dime, but a feeling is felt and then it is gone. My son ruminates, festers, and carries emotional weights on his back, much the same way I do. I don't know if it is birth order, or age, or the individual child, but that is who I thought they were. Opposites of the male/female stereotypes.
Okay so, back to "the thing is". Watching them grieve yesterday really opened my eyes. Especially given my somewhat "removed" state of mind. My son took the news in but would not really let himself feel any of it. He cried, but he didn't talk, he was sad but he hid it. He asked the big unanswerable question, "Why?" to which I gave him my all knowing answer, "It's life and sometimes, it just so sucks." He went to bed as sad as he was when he heard the news that morning.
My daughter attacked her grief head on. She ran into the kitty room, loved her kitty one more time and let all of her feelings fall where ever they needed to. And she asked all of the little and big questions, what would happen, where, when, how. Some I had answers for, some I didn't. And she talked about Jaeger, just like she talks about Caleb, openly, freely, matter of factly. She went to bed the happy child she always is.
And I realized, she isn't harder, she's more open. She feels it all up front, then works her way through it once she has the information she needs to grieve.
My son, he really isn't more emotional, he's just less equipped to deal with the emotions he has. In that way, he is pretty much a stereotypical, I am ashamed to say it, guy. He spent all day yesterday, trying to hide from his feelings. Trying to run from them. He doesn't want to feel them. Which I get, I mean, who wants to feel lousy anyway. But what I also get, is that if I let him grieve like this, if I let him "feel" like this, i.e. not "feel", he will, eventually, emotionally shut down. And become a man. The kind of man us wives spend years trying to get to open up.

I feel like such an idiot. Here I had thought he, my son, was more "affected" by the loss of Caleb because he has the random enormous break downs versus my daughter who drops Caleb's name as easily as she asks for more juice with her snack. When the reality of it is, he has the big breakdowns because he has no idea how to deal with it on a day to day basis. So he buries it and then when the feelings do come up, they are so big, and there are so many of them that he is completely overwhelmed by them and frightened by the feelings and loss of control of them. This only reinforces his belief that he is better off not having them in the first place.
Not so atypical after all. I was just blind to it.

Blogging has helped me be more like my daughter. It gives me a safe place to drop Caleb's name, without the collective gasp, "Ohhhh, she' s talking about her dead baby....run away, run away.". It has helped me feel the things I would have buried otherwise and because of that, helped me start to talk about them with my husband, and my family. I am not where I want to be with it yet, but I am working on it and for me, that's huge. The hard part is trying to do it for someone else too. I have no idea how to teach my son to feel things, a little at a time, to make them, ugh, "manageable".
I feel as though I got halfway up this huge mountain and was just starting to get into a rhythm and someone has called to me from below and said, "Hey, dumb ass, you forgot your backpack."

R.I.P. Jaeger.


missing_one said...

This is very insightful.

I know what they tell me to do with my son is label emotions. Like, when you ask him how he is and he says, "fine" I say, "are you sad (or angry) (or frustrated) (or happy)"
I don't know if this really helps though. Now I have another thing to be worried about. haha...okay, maybe i won't worry too much)

I'm sorry to hear about Jaeger. Loosing another member of the family sure isn't helping any, huh?

Jennifer said...

Oh no... I'm sorry to hear about Jaegar.

"Before Caleb died I think, no I know, I would have handled it differently." We have 3 dogs, one of which is elderly. After we lost our baby I realized that it would totally different with my senior dog now, rather than if she died before.

Blogging for me has really opened my eyes to so many feelings and emotions I didn't realize I had. I guess I just packed them way down inside. BTW, you're not an idiot. ;-) An idiot would have never figured it out. I hope that I am able to do that someday when I have kids.

c. said...

I'm so sorry about Jaeger. I balled my eyes out just reading this. I'm so sorry.

You did a wonderful thing for your kids, by letting them be there for this. You've uncovered a wonderful thing about their personalities in the process. I want to give your 10-year old a big hug because he reminds me so much of my 6-year old boy. I'm so sorry that he is keeping this loss inside and that of Caleb's, too.

And your daugter. How wonderful that she can move through the emotions and actually FEEL them.

It breaks my heart that they have to experience this loss, so soon after the loss their brother. You are so right when you say This so sucks.

And you, my god, how you were able to do this and not be admitted, a la Britney, I have no idea. I almost had a nervous breakdown when our betta fish stopped eating a month after Callum died. I kept saying, I can't have anybody else die in this home. I just can't. And then I proceeded to cut up frozen peas into tiny, fish-mouth sized pieces in order to nurse him back to health.

Having Jaeger euthanized would have been the easy way out. What you chose, instead, was so very brave. XO.

a- said...

Now why'd you go and make me cry? I'm so so sorry about Jaeger.

Oh and I feel ya on seeing your kids holding your baby niece. I wanted those moments so very badly for my boys. I even went so far as to have them volunteer for baby tasks at home because I told them that after they got out of school THAT day, they would meet their baby brother. How arrogant and confident was I? I will NEVER lie to them like that again.

Mighty Morphin' Mama said...

Very sorry to hear about Jaeger, very.
I found this post so insightful. When our daughter died we had two boys, 8 and 5. Our eldest is like your son, he holds most of his emotions inside and broods as opposed to dealing with them.
Our second child is more like your daughter, he deals with stuff head on, talks it out and lets you know what is going on inside. When our daughter died, he would talk about her to everyone. We went to a craft fair to buy a little teddy bear to put in Kalila's casket and he told everyone that it was for his dead baby sister. We bought each of the boys a matching bear to keep for themselves to remind them of her and he would tell everyone about it and take it everywhere. He is the child that helped me to talk about my daughter and not worry so much about how that would make other's feel. He also helped me deal with my own grief and remember my little girl and our hope of seeing her again some day.
It is my oldest that I worried about and he had a hard time for a year or 2 but is now dealing with most things much better, I hope we have helped him to learn a bit about how to cope with his emotions. I hope.

G said...

Ahh, if only I could handle things how your daughter did. It puts joy in my heart just to read how she put an almost perfect spin on dealing with loss.

I am sorry about Jaeger. I am glad you are here though, not only is your blogging helping you, it's helping me too. Thank you.

Coggy said...

I'm sorry about Jaeger too, I don't care what anyone says they are part of the family. The eldest of my two cats died last April I was so upset at the time.
The other day Oskar, my remaining cat was late coming in (he likes his routine), we were both beside ourselves with shear panic. Both of us paralyzed by the thought of having to go through it again post J@cob. I would have lost it. Thankfully he came home.

Your observations on your kids are amazing. I hope they both are able to deal with their grief in their own way and return to a happier frame of mind, particularly your son. I'm afraid boys really are boys when it comes to handling emotions, even the ones that are more sensitive. I don't know maybe it's a hormone thing.

Ashleigh said...

I am sorry about Jaeger. Sometimes it just seems like too much, doesn't it? How much do we have to bear? Or watch our children bear?

I think your children are very lucky to have you. Your awareness of their emotional differences will help you to help them.

charmedgirl said...

you know, isn't it the shit now...trying to figure out how to be the best parent possible to our alive kids? i try so hard to know what the right thing to say and do is, knowing i will f*ck up anyway; determined that now having a dead baby will make me even more aware of what my children need. will it happen like that? doubt it...especially since they've seen more movies since september than their whole lives before that.

i cried when i read about you seeing your kids hold their cousin. i am planning to go over soulmate friend's house next week with the kids and i didn't even THINK about that...the kids with the baby. SHITTTT.

kalakly said...

missing one, there's always MORE to worry about:)

Jennifer, can't wait for our someday:)

C., Seriously??? You cut peas for your fish?? That is some hard care pet loving!!! You rock!

A.-sigh, I know I made myself a liar too, it SUCKS!

MMmama, I LOVE the bear idea, what a great way to connect them to your Kalila.

Coggy, isn't awful, now when ever the slightest "alteration"in our schedules happens, a cat being late, we automatically go to the "Yep, must be dead." place. I hate that!

G- I posted on your blog, I hope you caught it:)

Ashleigh, I wish I knew, how much shit would be enough, but I don't.

Charmed girl, I probably should have saved that for another post, there was so much going on inside me watching them with their cousin. I guess only writing a little about it is my coping or more likely, my avoiding it...damn it.

niobe said...

I'm sorry about Jaeger.

Though your incisive description of your kids' reactions makes me think that, really, I'm a guy. Because my range of emotion -- which was not all that large to begin with -- has narrowed to the point where I find it hard to summon up much sorrow at all.

Except, of course, for other peoples' tragedies. When I think about other people's losses, I can react with sadness and horror -- almost as if I were a real, living breathing human being.

Hks said...

Oh I'm so sorry. It's hard to lose a pet. I hope you can find a way to remember him with love