Sudden traumatic loss can make the grieving process much more complex.
(Q) My cat was sadly killed on a main road recently. He had been a part of my life for a very long time - recently, he became deaf and blind in one eye and had begun heading for the road. I am finding it extremely difficult to cope and I find myself in a really low mood. I'm sure you can imagine what this feels like, however, it has left a deep gap in my heart.
Grief counsellor Sue Dawson answers: I am so very sorry to hear of your cat's death. He had been an important part of your family and life for a long time and your reaction to his sudden, unexpected death is understandable.
The low mood you describe is grief, a normal reaction to losing someone we love and care about. Of course knowing this is not helpful as the intensity of distress may well feel unmanageable at times as you adjust to his loss and the circumstances of his death. Sudden traumatic loss such as you describe with your cat's road traffic accident can make the grieving process more protracted and complex, in that you may experience unwanted thoughts and feelings about his death at times you least expect it or feel able to cope.
You may find talking about these thoughts and feelings is helpful. Blue Cross offers confidential pet bereavement support by phone (tel. 0800 096 6606, 8.30am to 8.30pm seven days a week) or email [email protected]
Talking with friends and family who understand how important your cat was and still is in your life may be helpful. Pet bereavement is what is known as a disenfranchised loss (i.e. unrecognised as important in society) and this can push our grief underground, which is not helpful. When we lose a loved cat, and particularly in such traumatic circumstances, it can raise feelings from other past losses of previous cats or people we have loved in our lifetimes.
Experiencing grief in relation to your cat's death is not pathological, it is normal and unfortunately the cost of love.