Dealing with the loss of your FIP cat
"Recovery from grief is not a station you arrived at, but a manner of traveling."
—Dr. Ivan G. Mattern
The Seven Stages of Grief
Terminal illnesses are the most debilitating things we ever need to deal with emotionally. When we know our loved ones are going to depart, that causes major psychological stress and the accompanying grief when they pass is that much more intense. As a pet parent, Feline Infectious Peritonitis is one of the worst scenarios to ever be faced with because most times we only have a few days to process what is happening. We feel a sense of helplessness and defeat as for the most part there is nothing we can do. We try all that we can and yet despite every effort and high financial costs: We still lose what we loved so deeply.
To understand what you are going through after your loss, you also need to be aware of the different stages that grief follows. Some people may become stuck in one stage and can never move forward to complete the healing process that is required. What is crucial is to have a support structure; people who are there to listen and help you cope as you go through each stage. In that way, healing will eventually come. It does not mean you will “move on.”
To “move on” means to leave behind and forget. We never forget those who came into our lives and meant so much to us. They always remain an indelible part of who we are, shaping us into what we become. The grief process helps us to come to terms with and process what has happened. To help dull that sharp edge of pain we feel when someone we love so deeply leaves us. If you are a person of Faith, you believe our souls do live on and know that we will be reunited with our soul families once we cross the veil, and that is extremely comforting and healing.
Sadly many feel lost, they feel like wandering souls who have lost the part of themselves that was the very reason for living. If you can understand that it is all part of a process and reach out to those who understand and can help, then you will move through each stage and came to reach the end stage. Every stage takes a different amount of time for each person. No one can hurry you, the important thing is to progress to the next stage. But know that what you are going through at any one time is normal and part of the grief experience.
Stages of Grief
I. Shock and Denial
Most people react to learning about a loss with numbed disbelief. You may deny the reality of the loss at some level. In order to avoid the pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This may last for weeks.
II. Pain and Guilt
As the shock wears off, it is replaced by the suffering of excruciating pain. Although it feels unbearable, it is important that you experience the pain fully, and not to hide it, avoid it or escape from it with alcohol or drugs. You may have guilty feeling or remorse over things you did or didn’t do with your loved one. Life feels chaotic and scary during this phase.
III. Anger and Bargaining
Frustration gives way to anger. You may lash out and lay unwarranted blame for the death on someone else – try to control this, as permanent damage to your relationships may result. This is a time to release bottled up emotions. You may rail against fate, questioning: “Why me?” You may also try to bargain in vain with the powers that be for a way out of your despair (e.g. I will never drink again if you just bring him back).
IV. Depression, Reflection, and Loneliness
A long period of sad reflection overtakes you. Realization of the true magnitude of your loss sets in and it saddens you. You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you did with your lost one, and focus on memories of the past. You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair.
V. The Upward Turn
As you start to adjust to life without your dear one, your life becomes a little calmer and more organized. Your physical symptoms lessen, and your depression begins to lift slightly.
VI. Reconstruction and Working Through
You become more functional and your mind starts working again. You will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by life without your loved one. You will start to work on practical and financial problems and reconstructing yourself and your life without your loved one
VII. Acceptance and Hope
In this last stage, you learn to accept and deal with the reality of your situation. Acceptance does not necessarily mean happiness. Given the pain and turmoil you have experienced, you can never return to the carefree, untroubled you that existed before this tragedy, but you will find a way forward. You will start to look forward and actually plan things for the future. Eventually, you will be able to think about your lost loved one in sadness but without wrenching pain. You will once again anticipate some good times to come and yes, even find joy again in the experience of living.
EndFIP® is extremely grateful to Ms. Aurora Lambrecht for providing the “Seven Stages of Grief” text. Sadly, Aurora lost three cats to this dreadful disease. Being familiar with the nature of grieving FIP losses, her insight is extremely valuable, and we deeply appreciate all her contributions to the fight against FIP.
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