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Finding Balance in Grief: When You’re Down One Man (or Cat)

Jacks Smack 08202023

If you are a follower of the Smack, you know that my heart has been heavy with the loss of my furry companion, Fig. 

The absence of his soothing presence, those belly rubs, and his eight pounds of feline comfort resting on my feet is profoundly felt, daily. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster getting my new footing so to speak now that I am down one man… or in my case, one cat. Finding balance in grief turns out to be a bit tricky.

In The Void, We Notice The New:

The real question is: who are the needy ones now?”

Last week marked the first whole week without Fig – the void is palpable. But what has truly captivated my attention is the dynamic shift that has occurred for Elphie, Fig’s sister for the past 16 years. They were an inseparable duo, partners in crime; now, she’s navigating the world alone.

It’s an intriguing thing, isn’t it? The way animals process loss and change. Elphie seems strangely unburdened by her newfound solo status, even adopting some of Fig’s quirky behaviors as her own. Yet, in our human minds, doubt festers. 

We don’t necessarily believe her. At this point, one has to wonder why we are bothering to question her. She’s presenting as normal. But are we? The real question is: who are the needy ones now? Are we the ones attempting to plug the gap in our hearts with overzealous attention towards Elphe and misguided mimicry of Fig’s antics?

Exaggerated Attention:

endeavoring to groom her with head and face licks, or curling up in the famed yin/yang sleeping arrangement”

This past week has seen us, my partner and I, attempting to fill the Fig-shaped void with a flurry of affection and behavior mimicry. We might just be the Needy/McGreedy replacements. One of their pet names, coined from their shared tendency to lean on us for both love and treats, serves as a reminder that maybe, just maybe, it’s not her who needs this exaggerated attention, but us.

And oh, the hilariously awkward attempts we’ve made to step into Fig’s paws – endeavoring to groom her with head and face licks, or curling up in the famed yin/yang sleeping arrangement. It’s a bit comical when you think about it. Perhaps, in our efforts to make Elphie feel loved and complete, we are merely projecting our own sense of loss and longing. Grieving and adjusting to a new reality is an art form. 

Years ago, I established a routine of sharing “people” food with my feline companions – deli meat, to be exact. For mornings after his passing, I mindlessly pulled two small plates to prepare. Then in a gut-wrenching moment, realize the need for only one. 

But as it happens, yesterday I mindlessly pulled only one plate out of the drawer. As I tore up the chunks of turkey breast for her with my hands, it hit me. I have already adjusted the morning routine to the loss of Fig. And for whatever reason, that realization was even more gut-wrenching. I don’t want to forget – not that I believe I can.

Balance In Grief:

I am reminded that grieving isn’t a straight line, but a dance of ups and downs”

So, as I navigate these uncharted waters, and learn to understand Elphie’s newfound independence, and the unfolding new dynamic between her and me, it’s a time to pause and reflect. Maybe she’s handling this better than I think. Maybe she’s adjusting in her own quiet way.

For me, It’s a lesson in letting go, in recognizing that even in my attempts to make things ‘normal,’ I might be projecting my own needs onto the situation. As I move forward, I am reminded that grieving isn’t a straight line, but a dance of ups and downs, a melody of laughter and tears.

As for Elphie, well, she’s a resilient soul, and perhaps we should take a leaf out of her book. She’s adapting, embracing change, and even adopting her brother’s quirks. In her own cat-like way, she’s teaching me that life goes on, even when I’m down one man… or cat.

So, whether you’re navigating the loss of a pet or the twists and turns of life’s labyrinth, remember this: love endures, memories linger, and sometimes, the best way to find our balance in grief is let our companions guide us from the shadows of memory. 

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