Two weeks ago my favorite cat, Pinky, was killed by a car in front of our house. It was absolutely the very last thing I expected to have happen, which is usually how these things go. She was a small, healthy, clean, quirky and sweet animal and we had her for about five years. So, if I thought about it at all, I assumed we wouldn’t be burying her for another ten years at least. We have a really old cat who just keeps going and going and we have a fairly young cat who is erratic and jumpy. It would not have been nearly as much of a shock to my system if we had lost one of them that day, though I’m glad we did not.
I am not much of a crier because I learned long ago to bottle up the stronger emotions. This feature of my personality is likely a big part of why I have clinical depression. Learning to let my emotions flow in a healthy way is something I work on all the time now as part of my healing journey.
Though she didn’t really look like herself anymore laying there in the middle of the road, I knew it had to be Pinky, and I needed help with this because I knew I wouldn’t be able to pick her up in that condition. I called for my husband and then went back into the road to make sure another car didn’t hit her again. I only had to wave one person into the other lane.
When my husband got there, I said, “It’s Pinky!” and then I just started sobbing. So unlike me. But it was a shocking, overwhelming and very painful event and I guess my typical defenses were stunned into uselessness.
That whole week afterwards the hours and days just dragged by. It felt like I was recovering from something physical like a bad sunburn. I cried every single day. I had to keep reminding myself that it had really happened. The other cats noticed that their friend was gone and they were also acting differently. They became more clingy and hung around me a lot more than usual. Apparently Pinky had been a major presence in our home for being such a quiet little animal.
It’s good that I don’t have the terrible job any more because now I can do everything at my own pace and can keep toxic or draining people at a distance as necessary.
So I slept when I was tired. Cried when I wanted. Sat outdoors every night and just meditated in the dark. I used this time also to do a little more grieving for my father who died nearly eleven years ago. His death was actually the beginning of the serious depression that I still deal with today. I figured it might make sense to bring those thoughts to the surface as well while I was feeling kind of raw anyway.
This week the rawness has settled down for the most part. Life feels pretty “normal” again. I’m talking about the “current normal” of healing from depression, not the “healthy normal” that I hope is possible for me one day soon.
There have been many times in my life where I suffered a terrible loss (not necessarily a death, but quite a few of those as well) and didn’t really know how to grieve. I am convinced that grief which goes underground is a big problem for a lot of people. Even if we don’t think we are feeling badly or we think we “handled it so well” by being stoic, grief can be a huge contributor to depression and other mental illness as well as poor decision-making and not taking proper care of ourselves. For me, thinking that some losses weren’t worthy of such strong feelings of grief caused me to bottle up my feelings as well and to feel some shame about my “weakness”.
Yep, lots of stuff for me to be working on if I want to be healthy. And I do want to be healthy!! Setbacks like this one are difficult but I see that I am able to navigate now and not lose myself in it.