Stephtastic
My husband and I just had to say goodbye to our beloved, 12 year old tux cat, Max on Friday morning.  We just got married and everyone keeps asking us how "married life is" and all we can be is sad and cry.  We found out he had metastasized cancer a week after returning from our wedding and it was only 2 weeks before we knew that the "months of time" we had been quoted was not our reality.  His eating went from "steroid driven eat all the food" to nibbling, to licking, to nothing. He lost so much weight and could barely get around, but still managed to climb in his basket or cat house to nap.  He wouldn't cuddle with us anymore and stopped waking us up in the morning.   

We had made the appointment to say by Friday at 3pm, but by 9am it was clear he was not going to make it.  We let him go out onto our patio one last time (his favorite place).  While my husband was showering, Max started to seize on the concrete.  I was crying and yelling for help.  He got out of the shower, we swaddled Max in his favorite shirt and rushed to the vet.  In the car, he was making horrible noises, peeing all over me.  It felt like 100 years even though it was less than 10 minutes.  

We got to the vet's office and were rushed to a room, where Max continued to crawl and howl and gasp for air.  He stood up and threw up blood (he had barely eaten for days so there was nothing to throw up).  I screamed for the vet and he came running in as Max lay in what looked to be a coma but still alive.  He swiftly and caringly euthanized as we cried and talked to Max.  It was over very quickly.

I am haunted by these last 30 minutes.  If only we had left earlier, if only my husband had taken a faster shower, if only the vet had rushed in the room as soon as we got there, maybe Max would not have suffered. Maybe I would not replay the howls and seizing and vomiting in my mind on this horror loop. 

I try to watch TV or read or knit, but it plays over and over like background music.  I feel horrible.  I am trying to think of 12 years of good memories but my mind keeps going back to the last 30 minutes every time. 

Does anyone have any words or advice to help me retrain my brain, or does it simply take time?  A cat behaviorist friend of mine said "all we can do is love them and ask for their love in return" which has become my mantra, but does create public crying scenes.

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Memories_of_Marmalade


My Dear Stephanie,

I am heartbroken to read of what your beloved Max and you and your husband experienced. I recently adopted a TUX kitten that I rescued from the street that I named "KID", after the Charlie Chaplin silent classic movie about an orphan. The kitten has a mustache so I named him KID as he was an orphan and has a mustache like Chaplin.

As you know TUX cats are supposed to be very smart and "magic." KID came into my life 2 months after putting my now near legendary cat down "Marmalade." He was an orange & white Tabby cat who had been the KING of a colony of stray and feral cats I came across in the high desert country of New Mexico, 850 miles from my home in Los Angeles. I had to put my Marmalade down too unfortunately. He was believed to be around 11 to 12 years old.

Stephanie, one super crucial piece of information ALL of us have learned here on the forum i: "No matter what choice we make, whether to begin or prolong treatment, facilitate palliative care, or put our pets to sleep? we are going to STILL experience guilt, regret and remorse." It doesn't matter which choice we make. The feelings and emotions we experience after they are gone, are part of the grieving process. The evidence of the above is posted hundreds, if not thousands of times here on the forum.

You and your husband chose to try and treat Max. To save him. To prolong his life. Cats can and do live to the age of 20 + years, so you hoped he would have more years. But what many do not know or realize is cats are biologically designed and engineered to only live on average 2 to 5 years in the wild (or on the street.) We prolong their lives by adopting them. We cheat nature. We cheat death. We do so by providing them with shelter (from weather / the elements and natural predators), by providing them with fresh water and regular food, taking them occasionally to the vets (where they can receive treatment and medication) by giving them love, affection and companionship, which is important for well being.

I had also had Marmalade treated with a steroid and he ate very well his last year. But then his symptoms returned. Could I have opted to continue steroid treatment and kept him alive? yes possibly, but he no longer wanted medication or to be handled, examined, tested, prodded, poked and operated on. He had had 2 surgeries. He was becoming a shadow of his former regal, dignified, tough as nails Tom-Cat self. Steroids, as you experienced can wear off and become ineffective. Same with antibiotics. Steroids are both a miracle drug and a horrific drug. They can cause diabetes and liver damage, but they can also save lives. It is a roll of the dice to continue treatment, treat for their demise or end their lives by putting them to sleep. 

You and your Husband were faced with a daunting challenge and you did your best. There was no way for you to know when the sands in the hourglass of your Max's final days or even hours or minutes would begin. It was impossible.

You need to remember, something else that is very, very important that we have all also learned here on the Rainbow Bridge Forum..."The final moments of ANY pet's life do not add up to the cumulative hours, days, nights, weeks, months and years that they lived. All the wonderful and memorable times that they had. All the love, comfort, safety and joy that they experienced." Especially when they have truly become part of a real "family." Like Max experienced when he was a part of yours. Just look at how cozy Max appears sleeping with you in the photo you just shared above? He appears so content, so comfortable, so content. All cats should be so blessed to have experienced even that single moment in their lives.

Soon the better memories will come to the forefront of your mind. Yes, it will take time, but they will come. Your mind will re-boot. I am walking proof of that. It is my testimony here. I'm 6 months in from having my boy put down. He was my best friend, my son, my brother, my comrade in arms, my only remaining friend and family, my love and my light. He saved my life from suicide countless times. When all others abandoned me, including my supposed friends and family Marmalade refused to leave my side. Even when he was encouraged to do so by me, even when he had many opportunities. Even when I could not provide him with shelter or food. He was loyal, dedicated, steadfast and true. These enchanting, loving, kind little animals, that capture our hearts and minds. How blessed are we that our paths crossed with them? How humbled and grateful should we be, to have encountered such unconditional and nonjudgmental love in our lifetimes?

Max would want you and your Husband to remember all the good times you shared with him. Not those final tragic moments of struggles, due to a health condition that neither Max, you nor your husband could control. Max fought valiantly to live and you did what you had to do to show him mercy in the end. The three of you did your absolute best. Deaths can and often are very painful. That transition can be agonizing for all involved. It is the same when we are coming into this World. Giving birth, the birthing process is painful. Leaving, departing this World is also painful. The transition is painful. It is a part of life. Max is now at peace. His suffering and pain has ended.

Kind regards & my sincerest condolences,
James
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StephanieW

Steph,

My heart aches for you. I am so sorry.

Enduring loss and it's accompanied feeling of grief is the trade we make when sharing a deep connection of love with our companions. The trauma associated with loss is a cruel and unrelenting force. It's obsessively intrusive and seems to pollute every precious memory we have by reminding us of our pain. I promise, it gets easier. Manageable. You will find warmth again when thinking of your beautiful friend Max. His quirks and habits will not forever be shadowed by that horrible traumatic Friday. Those 30 minutes or even those weeks and months of restless worrying can never define twelve wonderful loving years.

Like you, I also struggled with the loss of my very best friend, who I grew up with. There's so much I wish I could change. All my thoughts revolved around regret and the awful imagery of his life leaving me. Seventeen years suddenly summed up in one horrific moment. For days it was like that. His death was pedestaled above all things. Every day I would find a new anguish and I would learn that my heart could be broken a little more. It was one week after being without him I realised that each time I did this, I was coming to terms. I noticed that along side the pain was this immense gratefulness. "I was there with him so he wasn't alone." I'd think. More thoughts bounced around amongst the horrible finality of it, "I ended his suffering", "I got to hold him one last time. I could feel his fur. The warmth of his body against mine." It would stretch further and further, to places where it was harder for grief to extend it's reach and sink it's claws into. Remembering our last amazing day together, feeding him turkey from my plate on thanksgiving while he licked his whiskered face. Looking up at me, expectantly waiting for my extended giving hand. Then to the time when he was just small enough that I could fit him into my housecoat pocket. These were leaps and lengths of time I could journey to. Although the sadness still firmly griped me... I was also enveloped with a strong assured happiness. So thankful that I could have Frinks in my life. For years, months, days and even minutes. That I got to love him and care for him to the very end means so much. Max and Frinks have gifted us such unique lessons and forms of love that have a depth only we are sure of. I believe when we love to our fullest, the pain we feel later is a reflection of it's intensity. Unfortunately as often as it is said, it is completely true: healing takes time. I've found that what has replaced that final painful day and although it is still part of our story...it is how I am so full of gratitude. 

Here are some things that helped me: You might not want to eat but you must try as it can make a huge difference in your mood. It is also so important to verbalise your pain if you have a support system that will listen. This means sharing in tears and memories. For some, discussing details of your goodbye can bring some peace and understanding. Relying on those who knew Max and your relationship would be best suited to confide in, assuming they are emphatic and sensitive. I think making tiny changes to your daily routine can lend aid in avoiding triggers. You must take special care. Try to listen to yourself and prioritise your needs. Leaning into your grief is sometimes a necessity and can service you greatly as opposed to fighting it. Being at home can be very difficult because our loved little creatures were once constantly by our side. Movies, games, shows, music, books, podcasts, crafts are all great ways to busy one's mind... but sometimes distractions are usually best if you're being pulled away from your enviroment. Trips out of your home might provide a relief to you that staying at indoors wouldn't. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. The timing and process can vary from person to person. Be kind and patient with yourself.

Finally, I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your story. I realise how hard it is to recite one of the hardest day of your life. It is very clear that Max was loved and cherished. He seems like a very special and handsome fellow. I swear I can see the smile on his face while he's sleeping there. The adoration is evident, the comfort is clear and the love is abundant. You've been very brave for him and you have gifted him peace. I know he would thank you if he could and be sure that he is being thought of and remembered by another Stephanie, over here in Canada Ontario. A thank you to both Max and Frinks for being our furry darlings and teaching us so much.

Let's both keep trying our best for our sweet boys. Stay strong. So much love sent to you and a warm November hug. 

sw
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Matthew
Stephanie, I am sorry for your loss. I am 49 days into my loss of my dachshund and I will tell you the echo in your head of such a traumatic day does not get better but it will get easier. I cried for 30 days in a row. the other 19 Im holding it back, But time will help you, as cliche as that sounds it seems to be working for me. This forum gave me a flashlight at the end of a very dark road and I trust and hope it will for you too. 
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Stephtastic
Thank you everyone for your kind words. It has been 7 days and while they feel empty and my heart aches still, the days are getting a tiny bit better.  I dream about Max, I see and hear him all over our home, and my mind wonders.  After talking to my therapist, she said much of the same things we read here.  That we cannot know how or when the end will come and there is nothing we can do about it.  All the planning in the world and we still don't know how or - and other people and factors - will change things.  My heart aches for all of you also experiencing loss and the waterfall of emotions that comes with it <3
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Gucci
Stephtastic - What a beautiful photo of the two of you resting. The profound ache of having lost a beloved family member can feel utterly inchoate and uncontainable. It goes to the very marrow of who we are, and the bargain we make when we enter into connection with these beautiful creatures is that we will absolutely suffer tremendously when we lose them.

The randomness, the lack of control - these can unmoor us and put us into tailspins of sorrow. While there is no shortcut available to the arc of grief that each of us is going through, the support and understanding of this forum, a good therapist, or people in your entourage who know what it's like to have lost an animal companion can help ease the process.

I cry every day, and it's been almost 2 months since I lost my precious cat Sammi who was only 2.5 years old (struck by a car). The thought of suppressing my grief or denying how colossal a loss it feels to me or judging myself for whatever emotion arises strikes me as completely insane. How we all process the pain will be bespoke to our needs.

Being able to share my feelings on this forum has scaffolded me tremendously. I'm lucky to have family members with whom I can talk openly about Sammi as well. Other times I'm just aware of the fluctuating emotions of all sorts, including a fair share of darkness, that ebb and swell. 

Please be kind to yourself; it's so clear that you did everything you could for your beautiful Max. Sending you big hugs.
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