Rip off the mask, tear down the walls. Show the world your beautiful self!

Posts tagged ‘grieving’

Letting Toby Go

Sweet Toby: Gone But Never Forgotten

Last September I had to say good-bye to one of the sweetest cats to ever walk this Earth, however briefly. At barely 11 years old, cancer wracking his body, I had to admit the kindest choice was to let him quietly slip away. I decided one night I’d take him in the next morning, then sat with him on my desk, petting him, loving him, and saying good-bye.

The Universe somehow knew I needed a helping hand, and guided me to accidentally give him the wrong dosage of one of his medications. The error stopped his heart, and he died in my arms, convulsing once, then going quiet.

For a while, I blamed myself for making his end so abrupt, for failing to look at the container before administering the fatal dose. Eventually I realized it was for the best.

Yet until now, I’ve kept my favorite picture of him as the background on my computer. With the onset of October, I knew it was time to let him go; let his spirit race with the other cats I’ve loved and lost over the years. So I changed the picture to one of Munchkin and Mulan, two of my zaniest and most loveable girls, and bid a silent farewell to my sweet boy. His spirit no longer needs to linger, watching over me as I extend my grief. I’m ready to turn all my focus on the furry family who I’m allowed to love and care for right now, though each will, in their own time, leave a hole in my life too. May that be later rather than sooner.

Autumn Brings a Season of Endings

October, at least in the Northern Hemisphere where I live means falling leaves, harvest, and shortening days. It’s a time for letting go of what no longer serves us, or, for that matter, what we no longer serve. Not always an easy thing to do, and at times, involving a great deal of soul-searching. I’m finding it also means being brutally honest with ourselves.

I’ve been looking lately at what I’m doing or holding onto that’s holding me back from writing as much as I need to, or growing my business as much as I want to. I discovered a lot can be found in who or what we grieve.

The losses aren’t necessarily due to a death. We enter and exit relationships our entire life, unless we lock ourselves in a cave of our own making and subsist on home delivery. But to do that, we still have to have a way to generate the funds to support our connectionless lifestyle. It’s becoming easier and easier to do both, much to the detriment of our society.

Connections Aid the Grieving Process

Photo: David Derong/Iowa State DailyI suspect living without connecting removes the problem of grieving. If you never have anyone to love, you can’t lose them so you don’t need to grieve. Somehow, that seems beyond unnatural to me.

Grieving is a natural part of life. Yet when we do lose someone, it’s not only the individual person or pet we grieve, but the connection we had. Because we miss the connection, we’re more likely to step out of ourselves and look for other opportunities to connect. Our grief itself is a means of connection as sharing it opens us to connecting with others who understand loss.

Each time I lose a cherished pet, I share the loss with friends. Each one understands and offers their support while I come to terms with another loss. I do the same when one of their pets or a family member crosses over. It’s the human thing to do, and brings us closer. We can all relate, at least in one area of our lives.

Learning Lessons Better Late Than Never

I wish I’d known this when I lost each of my parents. Instead, I stuffed my grief, anger, self-blame, and everything else into what would become my own personal Pandora’s box. The unreleased emotions gnawed away at my innards leaving me short-tempered, angry, and unapproachable; the exact opposite of what I needed to be. Withholding grief isolated me when I needed most to connect with others who understood loss.

Life has a way of forcing our hand when we’re too stubborn or afraid to do it ourselves. My wake-up call came in the form of a parent’s ultimate loss. One daughter had long since moved out, and the other was talking about moving out too. I realized if and when she did, I’d be completely alone except for my cats. I had no other real friends because I didn’t let anyone see my vulnerable side. As far as I was concerned, I was a brick wall, and I gave no one any reason to look for a gate or try to climb over.

Sometimes What We Need is a Swift Kick in the Gut

I’d like to think I was impervious. Instead, I kept all my feelings; the hurts, the disappointments, the neglect bottled up inside. But glass is fragile, especially when it’s battered and tossed around. My protections were no less fragile.

I believe my daughter did me an enormous favor in broaching the subject long before she took action. It was the fear of being completely alone which had me following her suggestion to start writing about my parents’ deaths. And I’ve been writing about them more and more openly ever since.

These days, I’m quite content living alone with my cats. I have as active a social life as I desire. I follow a healthy routine which gets me out of the house more often than not, whereas I used to go days without leaving the house. I’m interacting with people almost on a daily basis now; sometimes directly and sometimes it’s simply a matter of being in a place where other people are.

And I know when I’ve grieved long enough and need to let go and move on, for my sake as well as for the one I’m grieving. By holding on, I’m holding them back from the next step in their soul journey. I’m sad, and I will shed a few more tears, but I know it’s the right thing to do and the right time to do it. Toby and all the rest of my fur babies will always know I loved them fully and completely, and will forever remember them and the piece of my heart they took with them when they left. But they also left a piece of theirs with me, and those pieces make me better for the beautiful gifts they are.


To all the cats I’ve loved before, love now, and will love in the future, I’m so grateful for the time you were a part of my life.

Keeping the Gratitude Flowing

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the signs I receive telling me when it’s time to let go and move forward.
  2. I am grateful for the love of so many cats over the years, and the ability to share my home with the lost and abandoned ones.
  3. I am grateful for stories of people with philanthropic natures and the means to indulge them. It inspires me to reach higher, build bigger so I, too can follow my philanthropic inclinations.
  4. I am grateful for the variety in my days, some busy and running, others, quiet and introspective.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, joy, friendship, companionship, help when I need it (and can break down my own barriers towards asking), inspiration, motivation, changes in routine, focus, scope, goals, dreams, plans, successes, failures and the lessons they bring, peace, health, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward.

 

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Another Universal Head Slap

From One Moment to the Next…

After spending a fabulous afternoon listening to a Queen tribute band in a beautiful park on the perfect Southern California day, the Universe snuck in and blindsided me. You know the feeling. You’re invigorated, and relaxed, and altogether amazing from a day of total bliss, then WHAM! Your entire world goes off kilter from one nanosecond to the next and all you can say is “WTH????”

This time, it started in my throat. I started feeling more and more constriction and a miserable ache. But not in the usual spot. Oh no! That would be too normal. No, this time the pain was at the very top of my throat, almost at jaw level. Being me, I felt the glands that sit right under my chin (or at least, I think they’re glands) and since I could feel their round bulginess, I assured myself they were indeed swollen, and probably the cause of my malaise.

Making a Go of the Day in Spite of the Pain

In the morning, still feeling lousy and barely able to swallow, I took a couple of turmeric and a Claritin and crawled back into bed with my furry posse, hoping their purrs would get me over the worst of it while I slept way too far into the day.

No such luck. I woke up around 11, feeling, if anything, worse. OK fine! Gotta start the day sometime. I grumbled to myself as I got up, made the bed and stumbled into the kitchen to put wet food down for my brood.

Two cups of honey- and lemon-laced tea later, I started feeling marginally human, but also realized this wasn’t your garden variety sore throat, and thoughts of seeking medical help would be a waste of time and money. This was the Universe rattling my chain loudly because I’d apparently ignored the more subtle nudges. As the throat chakra is typically about speaking your truth and communication (or has been in my experience) I started taking stock—and groaned in recognition.

Awakening the Subconscious, Unwillingly at First

Over the last few weeks, whenever I’ve done a writing prompt, it’s usually taken some kind of dark, twisty direction. Either it becomes a short story about murder and anger, or I wax poetic about the memoir which lays in my office untouched and ignored for the last two months. Many of those meanderings have focused on the relationship I thought I had with my father. It seems there was an undercurrent I had, to this point been unwilling to investigate. I preferred seeing a loving father-daughter relationship quite the opposite of the combative one I shared with my mother.

But as my mind opened itself up, despite my best efforts to shut it down, I started seeing things without the sugar coating, and, not liking what I saw, chose to try to stifle it and, of course, keep it from finding its way into the pages of my memoir. Somehow I’d convinced myself the only way to keep it from rearing its ugly, sibilant head was to practice an art I’ve used to excess my entire life: avoidance.

You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide

Unfortunately, the Universe evolves more quickly than my ability to find ways to avoid its insistence, and simply makes it more and more painful to turn my back on the obvious. (maybe that’s where the term “painfully obvious” came from?) I knew my throat would continue to ache until I sat down and started writing about what was bothering me deep inside, in those places whose doors I’d once locked, intending to leave them locked forever. Once again, the Universe had other ideas, and gave me a daughter who encouraged me to start writing about my parents’ deaths. Neither of us could have foreseen what would come out of the original exercise. I could never have foreseen the feelings, thoughts, and emotions I’d been harboring, not just since my parents’ deaths, but for at least one lifetime…possibly more.

With the aid of the writing prompts I’ve been using since the Writers’ Conference I attended in February, I’ve been poking the bear who is my hidden emotions, and hoping I could just get him to move over rather than actually waking him up. It seems my little charade has been exposed for the avoidance I’m so good at performing. I’m not being allowed to sidestep the issue any longer. At least if I want to remain the happy, healthy woman I’ve been, let’s face it, pretending to be.

The Difference Between Subverting and Blaming

I look at people like my sister and a few others I know who are suffering ill health with one malady after another and assume the illness is the result of repressed anger and blame they’re unable to release in a healthy fashion. I am constantly grateful I have managed to bring my feelings to the surface, air them, and let them go. I’ve practiced forgiveness and acceptance excessively. But also, selectively.

The pain in my throat is telling me I need to remove the qualifications, the excuses, the blind love I had for my dad and see where he wasn’t kind at all. Where he taught me by his example to settle for unhealthy exhibitions of love.

This isn’t the time to start blaming him for who I am and how I turned out, but simply to see and accept that what he felt for me and what he gave me weren’t particularly nurturing. I need to write the feelings and impressions out the way I’ve written them out for my mom, only to find a completely different human being underneath the facades and walls I battled and resented most of my life.

Facing and Accepting Reality, No Judgement Required

I haven’t been fair to either my dad or myself, painting him in unrealistic hues. Not unlike the father of my own children, he loved his daughters in the only way he knew how. The examples he had of parental love were no better or worse than the ones I had. They were simply the only examples he had.

Does that excuse the way he’d subtly put me down or diminish me? Not on your life! Nor does it mean this is the time to be angry with him, or shout about how he screwed up my life. It’s simply long past time for me to acknowledge and accept the way he showed his love was as warped and tainted as my mom’s. It’s certainly embedded in the foundation of how I believe I deserve to be treated, and needs to be rooted out and examined more carefully, yet clinically at this point.

When You Have to Purge

You might ask why this has become so important the Universe is kicking my butt to deal with it. Like everything else I’ve gone through, all the garbage I’ve dug through in search of myself, my life, and what loving really means, I’ve carefully avoided this corner of my personal attic. It’s been festering and mouldering in the corner, tainting everything around it until I have no choice but to pull it out into the light and deal with the ugly, rotten mess it’s become. The answer is no more complicated than “it’s time to let it go.” Letting it go is where it gets a bit more complicated.

When we sit on something for years, ignoring it, refusing to deal with it, there’s a cancerous substance embedded into our soul. Though it may not be as ugly and destructive as it seems, we can’t clear it out until we bring it into the harsh light of day, inspect all its nooks and crannies, and understand the structure of its being so we can flush it out of our system completely. We have to recognize the caustic thing for what it is so we’ll recognize those bits that might have broken off, attempting to remain in the host…us.

I know now I need to do a lot of writing about my dad, about the things I ignored, and how he treated me. There will be forgiving in the process, but most of it will be for myself, for allowing it to continue and for failing to realize it was wrong, and was infinitely less than I deserved. Most of all, I need to release the belief system he bestowed upon me from childhood that I deserved to be mistreated and ridiculed instead of uplifted and loved. Until I go to the places I’ve tried to avoid, the healing I seek will be incomplete.

Through the Good Times and Bad, I Can Always Find Things to be Grateful For

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the most painful of Universal head slaps as they are the ones which make me do the most self work.
  2. I am grateful for my overall good health because when it misbehaves, I know there’s something really important I have to face.
  3. I am grateful for my flexible work schedule that allows me to start work at 9 or noon, or 4 and still put in a full day, getting the things I most need to address done and behind me, much like cleaning up the kitchen at night or making my bed first thing in the morning.
  4. I am grateful for the support I get from the most unexpected sources, and for the reminders I am loved even when I don’t see or recognize it.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, friendship, motivation, inspiration, generosity, resolve, acceptance, forgiveness, and being able to recognize that grief isn’t a bucket you empty once, but a well that keeps giving. But as the water flows, it eventually flows clear. When left to stagnate, it only becomes more foul.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She is available for ghostwriting to help your business grow and thrive. Her specialties are finding and expressing your authentic self. If you’d like to have her write your expert book with you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author

For Love of a Very Special Cat

Toby aka Mamo-cat: Always in My Heart. Gone Way Too Soon.

Toby Conaway, 10/27/2006 – 9/20/2017. He was a part of my family so briefly, but when he died last night, despite a day filled with cuddles and what we both knew were good-byes, he took a huge piece of my heart. His passing left me sad, angry, hurt, and altogether miserable. How could he have been perfectly healthy in February, and terminally ill by August? How could that illness take him so quickly from a gorgeous, healthy, 19 pound ball of fluff with a purr that quite literally filled a room to barely 13 pounds with a badly matted coat and a body so wracked with pain that his feline instincts could no longer mask it?

Toby loved attention, but on his terms. He didn’t care if I was working, eating, sleeping, or trying to get ready to go out. There was no ignoring his massive fluffiness or a bat from his Labrador feet. His deep, throaty purr lulled me to sleep on countless nights. Until lately, and one overnight stay in the hospital due to food poisoning, I never went to sleep without my Toby cuddles. When he grew too weak to jump on the bed himself, I tried putting him there, but when he jumped down during the night, I ceased trying as I didn’t want him to hurt himself jumping down.

Life Ain’t Fair, and Especially, it Seems, for My Feline Kids

I’ve been cursing ever since I got the diagnosis, praying for a miracle that would make the illness and the masses go away. Instead, they burst Friday night, flooding his already weakened body with toxins. Whether I wanted to admit it or not, he didn’t have much more time. Yet, in true Toby fashion, he tried to give his energy to me instead of himself, making me reassure him over and over that I’d be fine, that he needed to save his strength for himself. I spent the last few days begging him to eat, tempting him with several choices and finally squirting bone broth into his mouth with a syringe. I knew the best I could really do was to keep him as comfortable as possible, love him all I could, and assure him that it was ok for him to leave me. I wanted only what was best for him, and a life of unbearable pain wasn’t best for him by anyone’s definition.

I grieve for Toby as I would grieve for a child, as I grieved for Scooby and Patches and Loki in the last few years. As I grieved for so many others I grew close to and lost. But like Scooby, Toby didn’t even get 11 years. Both boys were the sweetest, best boys I could ever hope to find. And both crossed the rainbow bridge way too soon.

Despite the cats who still remain, including Dylan and Munchkin, the last of what I call my older cats; the cats I’ve had since Heather still lived at home, there’s an eerie silence in the house tonight. Toby’s room-filling purr is forever silenced. I’ll never hold his big, fluffy body in my arms and bury my face in his fur again.

Grief is Grief Be We Human or Feline

It’s hard to say whether Dylan and Munchkin are grieving too, or just reacting to my grief. I know they recognized far sooner than me that Toby wouldn’t be here much longer. Maybe they just disconnect before the actual time comes to leave. I don’t really know as I haven’t found a way to ask them yet.

I’ve lost humans in my life, most notably, my parents, yet I’ve never felt the grief I feel when I lose one of my beloved cats. Maybe it’s because their lives and their health are my responsibility. Maybe it’s the unconditional love I’ve never found in a human. All I know for sure is that huge chunks of my heart are on the other side of the rainbow bridge, chasing bunnies and butterflies with no more pain or physical limitations. Sometimes I find myself wishing I was right there with them, but there are others who still depend on me, support me, and love me.

The Loves of My Life Who Remain and Offer Their Own Brand of Comfort

Dylan-man, my soul cat. He chose me at an adoption day at Pet Smart when he was about 1 1/2. I picked him up, he put his paws on my shoulders and licked my cheek. And to this day, he greets me every morning the same way, with morning kisses.

Munchkin came into our family to give Scooby someone more energetic to play with, and gave him quite a bit more than he expected. They were a bonded pair until his untimely death at the age of 10 11/12. She is my sweet little girl who loves snuggling into my shoulder and purring loudly and proudly. She single-handedly kept all of the boys in line until Mulan moved in, supposedly temporarily.

Pyewacket joined the family a few months after Scooby left. He’s a clown with a heart as big as the sun. He makes me laugh with his antics and has taken to joining the nighttime cuddle routine. As big as he is now, I suspect he’ll be quite amazing when he finishes growing. And I do love big cats.

Scrappy Doo moved in with us along with Pyewacket. We’d lost Loki before Scooby, but knew she’d been living on borrowed time with her kidney disease. I wasn’t planning on bringing two new cats home, but couldn’t decide between the two boys. Scrappy was so pitiful with his bandaged tail and cone of shame. He was so grateful for attention when they handed him to me. He just snuggled into my arms. He’s a brat and I swear he’s channeling some of Scooby’s more annoying habits, but he’s sweet and affectionate. He just loves to sit in my lap, no matter where that lap might be, or what I might be trying to do.

Mulan came to me as a foster. She was meant to live outside as part of my colony, and escaped shortly after she got here. Pet's SakeBut when the weather got cold and rainy, my little Siamese princess decided she was not meant for the hardships of outdoor life. After meowing at the back door for a few nights, she got locked inside when Munchkin snuck out, and has never regretted it. She now joins Munchkin in helping me settle in at bedtime. She was also madly in love with Toby for the short time she got to know him.

Flynn is also a foster and one of Mulan’s siblings. He’s a beautiful silver tabby who is getting comfortable with me a little slower than Mulan, but if I catch him at the right moment and location, he just loves his belly rubs. He has the softest fur I’ve ever seen on a short-haired cat, and he’s going to be a real love-bug when he gets a little more used to humans.

Tiana is the third foster sibling, and though she’s made a lot of progress, is still very much a scaredy-cat. She’s a sweet brown and gray tabby but has retained more of the feral tendencies than her brother and sister. My hope is that when she does finally settle down, she can be adopted with her brother. They are very close and can often be found cuddling together in one of the cat trees.

Yesterday was undoubtedly one of the worst days of my life. Toby and I both knew it would likely be his last and spent much of the day just cuddling and saying our good-byes. When I had to finally leave the house to go to the gym and run errands, I set him on a blanket on my den floor, and he whimpered as if to say “please don’t leave me now”. I didn’t leave him again until he passed in my arms.

He lay on my desk where I talked to him, petted him, and kept telling him I wanted what was best for him. I told him it was ok for him to leave me. I’d be ok, but would always love him and never forget him. I promised him we’d be together again some day. All the things you’d say to a human.

Many might think me strange, but I know my words gave him comfort, and let him stop trying to hold on for my sake. He needed to hear them, but more, I needed to be convincing so he believed them. In the end, I believe he died knowing my words were true and from my heart. And he died in my arms instead of on a cold metal table at the vet’s office.

We humans carry our regrets like precious cargo, but cats (and probably dogs too) don’t even know what a regret is. They live and die with a clear conscience, caring only that they did the best they could for their humans. I don’t regret bringing a single one of the cats who’ve passed through my life into it. I only regret not being able to give some of them more easy, comfortable years than they got. It’s far easier to get past the death of a cat who had more than 15 years to live with me and be spoiled. I’ve had a few of those, but more often, they’ve had 12 years or less.

I keep asking myself why there’s such a high incidence of cancer in my cats. Is there something in my house that’s toxic? Do I not clean enough? Am I feeding them something that weakens their immune system? I don’t know the answers, nor why some live for as long as 18 years, and some so much fewer.

I know I grieve more deeply for some than others. Some like Toby and Scooby simply fastened themselves to my heart with stronger glue. Others like Missy got me through some of the toughest times in my life, and went on to live a reasonably long life. Maybe it’s just the newness, but Toby’s death seems to be hitting me harder than any previous one ever did. Even Rascal, Scooby, and Missy who were my hardest to this point.

Driving home last night, I found myself thinking how much it sucked to be going through this alone. Then I realized I’m never alone, even if there isn’t a special human in my life who can help me through tough times like this. I have a house full of four-footed, pointy-eared love every minute of the day. That doesn’t make me miss Toby or any of the others any less, but it does make me feel loved.

The outpouring of love and concern from my friends has been another reminder that despite my hermit life, I’m really not alone. One friend even took time out of her busy day to stop by for a few minutes and give me some much-needed hugs. It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t give almost anything to have him back with me, happy, healthy, and pain-free, but I guess that’s part of the grieving process. You’d think I’d have it figured out by now…but I don’t.

I hate losing my sweet, loving babies who deserve nothing but a long, happy, healthy life. I will never come to terms with whatever powers that be decide they get less years than normal, or that they have to endure any amount of pain over a period of time before they let me know they’re ready to go. As always, I’ll spend the next few days, weeks, forever loving the ones who are still here even more emphatically, and by the way they’re hanging close, they’re quite all right with that.

My gratitudes tonight are:

  1. I am so grateful Toby came into my life, even if he had to leave much sooner than I’d like.
  2. I am grateful to those friends who have been checking on me all day, knowing just how hard I take the loss of any of my cats.
  3. I am grateful I work for myself and have been able to take all the time I needed while Toby was so ill.
  4. I am grateful for my alone time to curse and wail and bawl and whatever else I need to do to grieve the loss of my sweet, fluffy boy.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love.

Love and Light

 

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. She believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She is available for article writing and ghost writing to help your website and the business it supports grow and thrive. She specializes in finding and expressing your authentic self. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information.

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