Friday, August 31, 2007

Love, Loss, and Moving On

My wife has been standoffish toward our other two cats since we had Smokey euthanized. She says she doesn't want to hurt so much when their times come.

My psychologist says that when he was serving his internship, he had a client who suffered from severe grief for years after her dog died. He tried to understand why she felt so bad for so long about the death of a dog, and he tried everything to help her, but to no avail. He finally consulted with his supervisor who surmised that her sense of loss over her dog was really her sense of loss over people who had died or left her in some fashion. For some reason, she had been unable to open her heart to the grief she felt over their loss, but the death of her dog brought all of this unresolved loss and grief to a head, and she just couldn't deal with it. It was too much for her.

Maybe that's how it is with my wife, to a much less severe degree. She never cared that much for Smokey when he was alive. He avoided her unless she called him for a snack, and he competed with her and she with him for a place on my lap. But Smokey's death seemed to hit her even harder than it did me. I suspect that it was because his death symbolized all of the other losses she's suffered over the course of her life.

This reminds me of a funeral I attended sometime back for the father of my wife's cousin's boyfriend. During the eulogy, I struggled like mad to suppress my tears for a man I had met only a couple of times and with whom I had exchanged not more than a dozen words. I didn't know him, and I cared about him no more than I did about any other virtual stranger. At least not while he lived. But at that funeral, I wanted to cry like a baby. I'm sure his death represented other losses for me.

Yet, at the same time I say this, I must also say that I don't believe that if one grieves severely over the loss of a pet, it must be because that loss represents the loss of something more and probably human. I believe that we can truly love our pets almost if not as much as we love people and that we can, therefore, suffer almost if not as much over their deaths as we can over the deaths of people we love. I don't know if this is how it should be. I don't know if we should love our pets as much as we do people. I'm not even sure how meaningful it is to talk about what we should or shouldn't feel as opposed to what we do. But I believe that we can love our pets as much as we do people and suffer as much over their deaths.

I'm sure my wife will soon return to hugging, teasing, and playing with our two remaining cats the way she did before Wednesday. It may take a little more time, but she'll get there. As for me, I've gone out of my way to embrace them with my love and attention. Smokey may be gone, but Tau Tau and Jaidee are still very much alive, and I want to love and cherish them for as long as they're here with me. For, as trite as it may sound, death teaches us that life is very short and, therefore, exceedingly precious. We shouldn't waste a moment of it. Especially when one has already wasted as much of it as I have of mine.

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