20 November 2020


“Quiet has weight; it has a heartbeat; it carries sounds that once were and amplifies the soft sighs of footsteps now gone. It draws attention to empty corners, little nooks that will now gather dust, and it wraps around memories in a grief-painted ribbon. It echoes at night, steals sleep, and begs to be filled with things fingertips will never again touch.”

 ~Me, at 4 am on one of the many nights sleep evaded me this week

I have an adult-life-long history of insomnia. It’s usually one or two nights of being awake until 3-4 am, followed by several nights of almost normal sleep, but this last week has been brutal. I’m getting roughly 4 hours, and not all at once. I know it’s largely owed to grief; I’ve had pets before and been there as they’ve left us, but I’ve never been hit this hard by their loss.

I don’t know if it’s because we lost Buddah and Max so close to each other, or because it was Buddah and Max, but I feel it so much more this time.

I hear the quiet. I find myself listening for paw steps in the hallway. Every time I go past Max’s bedroom I glance in and I automatically look to the one spot he seemed to favor. When I’m sitting in the living room, I find myself looking to the right, to the other room, to the places he lounged most often. When I walk from the back of the house to the front, I catch myself looking to the top of the Tardis, where I often saw little black ears poking up.

I have no expectation of seeing them. It’s habit. I’m so used to listening for the cadence of paw steps that tell me if Max is heading my way and is fine, or if he’s limping his way to the litter box. Creaks make me turn my head because they sound like Buddah tracking litter-dusted paws across my desk and up the bookcases. And at night, my brain expects the sound of Max in the next room, on the back of his sofa, his paws scraping across the wall, waiting for him to begin singing because it’s night and that’s what he did.

It’s not like I’ve forgotten they’re gone. But the listening is a habit, and one I don’t think I’ll shake soon.

That habit has amplified the quiet. And the quiet has amplified the insomnia.

It’s a process. I’m fine. It’s one of those get through it to get over it kind of things, and I know there’s place I’ll reach where the quiet won’t feel so big.

But…it also makes me dread losing a person, because if I’m grieving this hard over cats? I don’t even want to go there and can’t imagine how completely horrific it is for those who have lost someone especially close to them.

New rule: no one else dies before I do. And since I intend on sticking around until I’m so old I fart dust, they’re stuck here for a while.


Vicat said...

No promises, but I'm trying...

Random Felines said...

I imagine silence like that can be deafening

Milo and Alfie Marshall said...

This post so resonates with me. The thing about grief is, it is accumulative ... deaths close together are harder to handle because you are already lowered and emotionally weakened. And the deaths of beloved animals are just as painful as any other death. It's tough, painful and heartbreaking ... my heart goes out to you. Take care.
Jan x

Hnossa said...

You have lost two close friends in succession and that leaves a big hole in your heart. Right now you’re probably missing Max and Buddah terribly. They were both in your life for a long time, and those decades add to the hurt.

Grief is not species-specific. There are no rules that dictate the amount we can grieve the loss of a pet. If there were, I’d have multiple violations.

Tibetan Buddhism has a word, “sem-chen”. It means mind-haver, and includes both people and animals. Should we care less for the death of a friend because their mind is cloaked in fur?

Grieve your dear feline friends, but do not add to your sadness by thinking you should feel it less because “it’s just a cat.” Max and Buddah were part of your family, and losing family hurts terribly, regardless of the species.

I wish you peace.

Roses said...

Imagine you've sprained your thumb.
It hurts when you move it, so you try to avoid moving it as much as possible. And you tell yourself that when you must move it, you will be ever so careful.
Even though you haven't forgotten that you've sprained your thumb, you use it a lot whether you mean to or not, and dammit, it HURTS.

And, geez, Thumper, you sprained both thumbs. Ouch.

Mark's Mews (Ayla, Marley, and Laz) said...

The idea of "deafening silence" has always made sense to me. My elderly Dad had habit of muting TV commercials and te silence was worse tha the commercials to me. And I sometimes had to take the TV Remote away to stop him (he would fall asleep in the silence).

There is calm of the silence of a deep forest. There is impressive deep-time silence in old rock formations. There is the silence of a small lake in the early morning waiting for activity to begin and you dip a canoe paddle in gently so as not to disturb the natural order more than required. Good silences still have some slight sound.

And then, there is the silence of absence. Absence is utterly silent. No clicking of kitty claws on the wood floor, no slight sound of eating, no sight purr from another room. No nothing anywhere.

Silence is the absence of life, the absence of existence; nothingness.

My cats relieve The Silence. I talk to them. They talk to me. We probably aren't saying anything the other understands, but maybe that isn't really important. We talk. I sometimes think they understand more of what I say than I do of what they say. But maybe it is more tat we pay attention to each other . They "talk" when they want something. I talk to assure them I recognize they want something.

I understand insomnia. I fall asleep slowly and wake up often. I sleep better with a cat or 2 around me.

"It’s not like I’ve forgotten they’re gone. But the listening is a habit, and one I don’t think I’ll shake soon."

No one thinks you have forgotten they are gone. You will be listening for those sounds in the night for many years. Skeeter loved to get under the covers at night. So did Iza. So does Marley. But they each did it differently. Sometimes, half-asleep, I would confuse them. But awakening, I could tell the difference in every cat.

I HOPE you will decide it is right for you to bring a new cat into your life. Kitten, young adult, aged, doesn't matter. I think you love cats enough to take another chance. But that's just me.

Anonymous said...

As weird as this is going to sound I think I actually grieved harder at the loss of my last cat than I did for my parents. We expect the loss of our parents, it's something most of us accept that's going to happen at some point in our lives. But I think pets are different, with all their unconditional love. It took me years to be ready to love another cat again but thank goodness I finally got here! Peace and hugs to you>