Letting Go and Grieving
He was part of our family for 17 years, my first child. Has been through every move, been there as we welcomed each daughter to the world. Elmo my beloved 17 year old cat was given to me on Valentines Day in 1995 by Neil, he was already 5 months old. I remember the moment the front door to our apartment opened and in he walked, tentative and inquisitive. My heart jumped for joy. Disbelief set in, as Neil had never shown an interest in getting a family pet.
On Thursday night, Neil alerted me that he could not find Elmo. He vanished, disappeared. Given that he pretty much lazes in one spot and doesn’t move so quickly these days we were mystified at where he could be. He rarely ventured outside, so even if a door was open – would he really have gone. We arrived back from our camp trip on Sunday, I pulled apart closests, storage rooms – opening boxes and suitcases. Still no sign of Elmo. The reality is beginning to sink in. His time here has come to a close, and he chose to leave on his terms, hopefully finding a spot to curl up and pass away peacefully, cats are known to do this.
It doesn’t make it any easier though, to not know, to not have any answers as my 13 and 9 year old daughters are left wondering, hoping, and distraught. My youngest daughter easily shared her grief, my eldest daughter however I could see patterns that I too did when I was her age – don’t let anyone see me cry. As I snuggled in to her on her bed and said “Sweetie, it’s okay to cry,” the tears and sobbing let loose. Our family sat together on her bed, all of us crying.
It’s so important as parents, to allow our children to express emotion, to educate them about life and death. The most painful lesson in this is the not knowing – yet in that is a teachable moment. We truly never know if a loved one will come back from a drive to the corner store, if a friend will come back from a holiday, if your beloved dog escapes and never returns. This is a lesson of being present with those we love, always leaving someone happier than we met, being kind and compassionate, loving and grateful. You just never know when will be your last time together. It’s also a lesson in letting go, surrendering to the unknown and accepting that we will not always have the answers.
Also the importance to remember that each person grieves differently. My youngest daughter turned to creating, she sculpted a beautiful scene that speaks volumes. Elmo curled under a tree, with a creek close by, and an angel cat – which looks like our Charlie, watching over him. My eldest daughter retreated to her room and read, I have spent much time outside just crying – not wanting the girls to see the full range of my sadness and grief, as it upsets them even more. My husband being the ever-loving and supportive rock, there to hold and cuddle each of us as he fights back tears himself. Grief is an individual process – how we grieve, how long we grieve and the coping mechanisms we use to step through.
I am so grateful to friends and family who have shared their condolences and love on Facebook. To my dear friend Susanne Alexander-Heaton for sharing this beautiful poem:
The Rainbow Bridge
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together…
What do you need to let go of, realizing you may not receive an answer?
I am taking 100 Days to Reconnect with Lee for my mental and physical wellness.
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