When I heard our Prozac cat had cancer on Friday, I wasn’t surprised. He had been eating less and less for months and I knew he was just a skeleton of his former spritely self. And after I made peace with his journey and set the appointment for euthanization, I did what every worried mom does…figured out how to break it to the kids.
I looked at websites, parenting blogs, and consulted friends and relatives to figure out the right way to tell them. I didn’t want them to be afraid of going to sleep or the big C word (cancer), so I simply told them the truth, he would be going to heaven to live with God and wouldn’t be hurting anymore.
I made sure the girls would be with friends and surrounded by love when my husband and I said goodbye to Riley, but never once did I think about how I was feeling. So it was a big surprise to me after the experience ended that not only was my heart shattered, but my emotions and spirit were as well. I wasn’t prepared for the aftermath of losing a pet, and wondered why no one tells you what really happens when you lose a furry friend…
No one tells you how hard that final walk is to the veterinarian. It’s almost like you are sleepwalking through the final goodbye, in a haze of disbelief.
No one tells you how much pressure builds up in your head, shoulders and heart as you await the doctor’s arrival. Your head feels like it’s about to explode and you can barely keep your eyes open as the tears are continually falling.
No one tells you how much your heart hurts as you hand your best friend over to God. You know the suffering is ending, you know they will be at peace, but it still feels like a piece of your heart is going with them to heaven.
No one tells you that your legs feel like jelly and you can barely walk back to the car carrying nothing but an empty crate and a collar, and you start dry heaving from the remorse.
No one explains the depth of your sobs and how your whole body is consumed with grief…that washes over you so powerfully that you can’t control yourself. It comes in waves for hours that first day, and is immeasurable. As are the never ending tears.
No one tells you how cavernous and empty your house feels when you enter it for the first time. And how heartbroken you are all over again when you see your beloved’s food bowl or bed.
No one tells you that you will still see your pet even though they are gone for weeks afterwards. You see them laying on their favorite chair, you look for them behind the curtains, and you swear you hear them purring or meowing. You can still smell and feel their presence.
No one tells you that you will still accidentally try to feed them the morning after, or close the doors quickly so they don’t get out. It took years to build a routine and will take months to break those habits.
No one tells you that you will reach for them at night, and ache to hold, hug, pet, and kiss them just one more time.
No one tells you that each day gets just a little bit easier. And the day after you will still be sad, but for the first time you are a bit hungry. And the day after that the tears stop, and the sadness fades just a little bit more.
No one tells you that it’s OK to keep their pictures up in your home to remember and honor them. And it’s great to get a stone to remember them by in your garden, and a paw print of theirs to keep forever.
No one tells you that this is the hardest thing you’ll ever do for your friend, but it’s worth it because of the lifetime of friendship you gained. The unconditional love and comfort you’ve felt these years makes this time endurable…because life goes on. And though our little Riley isn’t here with us on earth, he’ll be in our hearts and memories forever. Thank you for being my little purrball and greatest friend…gone but never forgotten.
🙁 I’m so sorry you had to say goodbye! They really do become part of the family.
Thank you, for everything.
im about to make that call for my dauchsand mix shes only 10 and has lymphoma and not diabetes. im devastated and i know im not the only one who goes through this but i feel so alone.
Kristen Hewitt says
I’m SO sorry.
Janine Huldie says
Again, thinking of you today my friend and my heart is hurts for you. Hugs!!
Thank you so much for everything!
Tara Newman says
Beautifully written. Sorry for your loss. Wishing you peace and love.
Thank you – the peace is slowly coming…appreciate the kind words friend.
Crystal Bissonnette says
Beautiful Kristen. Working as a Vet Tech I have been on both sides of the fence. I have been the one to help an owner as they say goodbye and I have had to put down my own pets. This is a wonderful and heartfelt piece. Each pet is a special part of the family. Riley was lucky to have had you and your family!
Crystal I couldn’t stay with him. Our vet tech who was our cat sitter had to stay with him…I lost it at the end. I feel so bad that I couldn’t stay up until the end…I know you understand. She is a wonderful person and we brought her gifts today to thank her for her never ending kindness.
cliff terhune says
Your words and those feelings are so real when it comes to losing a pet, Kristen. I hate seeing anyone I know that loses a pet and truly loved that animal because I know that person is really feeling the loss of another creature that truly was lucky to experience that type of love.
So many animals never get that chance and when there is someone like you and your family that open’s their hearts to one, those animals and their owners are really lucky.
I hope your home always has those good memories of Riley floating around….and you can remember just how lucky Riley was to have you guys in his life as he was to have you too.
Thank you Cliff, it’s been a tough weekend. We are comforted that the last day he was finally able to eat and he feasted like a king on tuna, shrimp and kitty ensure. He has a full tummy in heaven.
I know the pain that you are feeling because I have had to say goodbye a few times. No one tells that it is ok to cry, but it is. Our pets are not just animals, they are our friends, our family and it is ok to grieve and miss them!
Yes it’s OK to grieve!
Hugs, hugs, hugs, There are no words that will make this any better. It just hurts right at the core, and you are right with all that you have said. It sucks plain and simple. Just sucks…. You had myself and my staff crying like babies this morning, and we are all now remembering our Furry friends that have gone on over the rainbow bridge…. We all think that your words are beautiful and eloquent. Thank you for sharing your journey, and remember all your boggy friends are here for you… Puffy heart you and the family…
I’m sorry! And I should have included the rainbow bridge, it is so amazing. Thank you for your help! xoxoxo
Jess Ullrich says
My heart hurts for your family, Kristen! I’m so sorry about Riley.
Thank you – it will get better, I just miss my little friend. Appreciate you reading…I thought most would bypass this sad one today!
C. Lee Reed says
Beautifully said. We’ve been through this moment more times than I care to remember in my lifetime and you are absolutely right. Most of the energy is spent making sure everyone else (the kids) are handling this transition. We rarely stop to think about how their absence will affect us. After all, we do all the feeding and nurturing but we’re supposed to be strong. I love how wonderfully open you are and wish you peace during this sad time. Take it from a mom that knows…you did the right thing.
THANK YOU! Appreciate your kind words and support, sincerely.
Kristen. I am so very sorry. This post is such an amazing tribute to Riley. It’s also (sadly) very informative to someone who has never had pets. I so long for my son to feel the friendship and true unconditional love of a furry friend that you speak about with you, your girls and Riley. Thank you for sharing your heart and him with us.
Katy Widrick says
I’m so sorry that you’re struggling. Earlier this year, I had to make the incredibly difficult decision to take my dog to the emergency vet in the middle of the night to end his suffering. He had leukemia, and it came on very quickly. We did one round of chemotherapy and unfortunately it was clear in a day or two that it was too late. I help his little paw in his last moments and am so glad I did.
It is so incredibly difficult Katy, and I admire you staying until the end. I couldn’t hold him, I was too upset. I’m sorry for your loss as well, that must have been so tough. They leave an impression on our hearts forever….
My dog has lymphoma. We decided not to go with chemotherapy after we were told it had spread. We have him on a steroid. It is harder to watch him like this than I had thought.
The Dusty Parachute says
Oh man, I made it about one paragraph in and had to stop since I’m in the middle of the PBS SXSW conference room. My heart is completely with you – As you know we lost our 12 year old dog at Christmas to cancer and I’m sure we have a rough year ahead with our two 18 year old brother kitties. In what I ready you captured all the emotions perfectly (too perfectly) so I’m coming back to finish in private later. Hugs.
Jill Ginsberg says
This is just so brilliantly written, Kristen, and raw with emotion. I felt every single word, truly. I am so sorry that you had to go through this, but also glad for you that you had a chance to share life with Riley, and to say goodbye. My dog is 13 and I know this time will also come for us, far too soon. So I appreciate your words all the more … because now someone is telling me. Thank you for sharing!
Awww, thank you for reading. I didn’t even intend to publish today because it is so insanely personal. But writing it helped me through it a bit yesterday. Good luck with your dog, cherish every furry little minute you can! They are gifts…
you nailed it.
but i will tell you.. riley misses you too!
I am so sorry for your loss. In 2007 I wrote a post about the last goodbye with my dog and every time I read it I shake my head because I still miss him.
But at the same time it feels good to have it.
I remember talking to my kids and having to explain why it hurt to say goodbye and how that pain helped us see what an important role he had played in our lives.
So sorry for your loss.
Thank you so much for your kindness. This has been the worst week ever…I will look to see if I can find your post. I don’t think I’ll ever find another cat like him…so special.
Pets are such an important part of our lives and it is incredibly hard to say goodbye to them. I’m sorry for your loss and hope that you find comfort as your family tries to heal over the loss of your sweet cat.
Thank you SO much, sincerely.
Elaine A. says
Oh, I’m so very sorry for the loss of your sweet friend. I cannot even imagine what it will be like to say goodbye to our family dog someday. He is SUCH a part of the family. Much love to you all!
I am so sorry for your loss Kristen! We went through the same thing last year after our cat had a stroke. She had been a part of our family for nearly 16 years and she is missed every single day but it does get easier. They truly do become members of our families and it is so hard to say goodbye.
Thanks Amber – it’s been a tough week, filled with lots of grief. The over abundance of work though exhausting is a good thing though, kept me from thinking of it.
Oh Kristen I am so sorry! Our dog is turning 15 this year and I know our time is limited. I dread all of this. She is my first born and taught me how to parent.
Hugs as your family deals with this loss.
Cherish the days you have – don’t have regrets!!
Herchel S says
My heart is breaking for you, Kristen. We went through a similar situation with our lab. He stopped eating and we found out he had cancer. My husband and I were devastated and I still miss him. We took comfort in the look of love and understanding in his eyes as he went to sleep at the vet. He had been in so much pain. No one tells you that your life feels different when your pet is gone.
that’s true Herchel, life feels so empty. I’m still not sleeping…hoping each day gets easier…
Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom says
I’m so sorry for your loss Kristen. I’ve lost a few pets – the last one, our beloved rabbit of 8 years. The girls were devastated and my oldest will sometimes break down and cry out “Timbit!”
Riley sounds like an amazing family member… big hugs to you. My heart was breaking as I read this.
I’m so sorry to hear about your cats death… We found out that our dog had cancer and had NO TIME to say good bye. It’s like losing a child. My prayers are with you!
I am so sorry! Losing a pet is the worst! 🙁
Kim Bongiorno says
I am so sorry. It’s very hard. I was so upset when my long-time furry friend passed away.
For me the hardest part was always that first time I left the house and came back expecting their greetings. Nothing worse.
For our 16-year-old dog, the vets came to the house to do it. It was both easier and harder. One of the worst things I’ve ever experienced by far.
For me it’s nighttime, he’s not there to sleep with me. I’m really struggling 5 days later…still.
I’m so sorry, sweetie 🙁 You know I just had to put my pup-pup down last month and it was absolutely terrible – nothing like I thought it would be. It gets easier, but you will always see their spirit in your home. That is the mark they leave on our hearts…what a special gift!
Hugs and kisses to you and yours!
OMG- my dog has cancer and we think his kidneys are starting to fail – our vet can’t figure out what is wrong. He is on watch this weekend and may end up at the doggie hospital, so we will need to make this decision soon. Your post brought tears to my eyes. My only consolation is that he won’t be in pain anymore. I think about the things you’ve mentioned – like will I want to keep the pictures up. You handled it well with your family.
It is THE most difficult thing I have ever gone through – even harder than childbirth in some respects. But all I can say is each day gets easier. Pets are our family, they are our friends, and they will always hold a piece of our hearts. Keep the pictures, take an imprint of his paw print, cherish every furry second you have left. Good luck, I am thinking of you….
I am so sorry. This is so sad and so real. Losing a pet is one of the hardest experiences not just for children but for the entire family. I have not been able to replace my own fluffy daughter since she was dognapped several years ago. It really breaks your heart. I hope the kids are okay and hope the entire family will be okay. (hugs)
I am so sorry to hear this. I know when we chatted a few weeks ago you were looking for advice, I didn’t realize it was right around the corner. I would have told you it was hard and now I feel bad that I didn’t tell you in advance. What I can tell you now in hindsight is that it will get better, the pain will slowly fade away, the routines will change, you’ll put away their toys, and their bowls, and the food. And you’ll look back fondly and remember what a good pet they were. How much you loved and cherished them, and how much love and joy they gave your family in return. I hope you and your kids are doing ok, hugs to you all.
I think we don’t handle this situation well in our culture. People feel like they have to feel guilty about grieving for their pet or that they have to hide it and put a brave face on, and I don’t think that’s right. Grief is a real and natural thing and I think we’re wrong to sweep it under the rug. I remember when my Mother was dying and I would be feeling sad. I would have to go off somewhere and literally hide to cry because if I did it where someone else could see, they would feel obligated to come over and try to comfort me. To me, the only thing worse than having an “ugly cry” by yourself is to have the same “ugly cry” while trying to explain to a relative stranger that you have a perfectly good reason for crying and just really want to get on with it and get it out of your system! We get ridiculously attached to these little furry people – many times they are a larger and more important part of our daily lives than relatives that we may not see as frequently. I say go for it – give yourself some time to just feel sad. Get a journal and write down some of your feelings and memories. Find ways to honor your kitty’s life – maybe make a donation to an animal shelter or something. I love the paw print plaque – what a kind idea for a clinic to do. Ours sent us a thoughtful card after our cat died and it meant the world to us – we’d had him for 17 years and he was that special once-in-a-lifetime pet, so it was a tough loss. #SITSSharefest
We lost our sweet cat of 17 years yesterday morning. Thank you for this.
Oh I’m SO sorry for your loss. They are our friends, and losing them can be overwhelming. Know that in time you WILL feel better, and happiness will come back. Sending you a hug.
Going through the same emotions , has not got any better yet. I MISS PUNK KITTY as if today was March 12, 2018 when I came home without him.
Thank you for sharing your feelings, reading this was helpful.
So sorry you had to go through heartbreak.
The pain is horrible but so worth all the years of happiness and love Punk blessed my life with.
Kristen Hewitt says
I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s SO hard. I still miss my Riley.
Thank you, sorry for your loss as well.
Excellent Blog!! Sorry for your loss.
We lost our Willie last night. He was 8 and we suspect it was a heart attack. I was searching for words of comfort or solidarity this morning and came across this page. From my family to yours, thank you .
Kristen Hewitt says
I’m SO so sorry for your loss. It is a great loss and I pray you find peace and give yourself time to grieve.
Thank you very much for expressing this. Thank you to everyone who has posted a comment on this page too. Your stories and sensitivities are touching. I lost my old cat Tobias on Wednesday, 3 days ago. He went in pain. I keep rewinding the film and telling myself I might not have done things exactly the right way, maybe there was a better way, maybe I didn’t do right by Tobias. My sadness feels infinite. I adored this cat. He was my best buddy. I spent all my adult life with him. He was the one stable element of my life. Our successive homes felt safe because he made them his. Now nothing feels like home. Nothing feels safe. My days have been punctuated by innumerable ‘insignificant’ moments of joy with Tobias. A lot of eye conversations. A lot of meeting in the same place in the flat just to say hi and then go back to our respective businesses. And near the end a lot of collaboration to get the many medications administered. Those moments, the joy, the collaboration, they were not insignificant at all. I knew that all along actually. I felt constantly lucky to have this cat by my side. Those little moments of joy and complicity we just don’t tell people about them… All this time I was thinking that I was taking care of Tobias. I realise now that was not the case at all.. He has been taking care of me, very good care. He was a classy cat. He was a great.
It warms my heart to know I’m not the only one who has felt that close to an animal friend. Thanks again to everyone for sharing a pieces of their grief and love here.
Kristen Hewitt says
Oh friend I am so sorry for your loss. And that line about him taking care of you brought me to tears. They do that don’t they? Comfort us. Carress us. Love us. He will always be with you. <3
For sone reason I felt the beed to read this blog again. I cannot stop crying and Punk has been gone 1 and 1/2 years..
I think I needed to know Its not abnormal to ache so much if the loss of my sweet Punk kitty. Even if it isn’t normal I couldn’t control these emotions.
Life is just not the same without my furball of sunshine. Missing him , that is putting it mildly.
You are such an swesome writer! Thank you for sharing this blog. Reading about walking out of the vets office with only the carrier is perfectly descibed. Ive never felt more loss than right then.
Thank you very much for this page! We lost our dog Bella yesterday morning at 7:40 am. She was diagnosed with congestive heart failure one day and gone the next. She died in our home at the age of 8. My youngest son said “mommy do something” but it was too late. I’m taking him to see a therapist because it’s hit him really hard. He’s now afraid that our other dog Ace will die as well. My son is 14 and usually doesn’t let me hug him because he’s “too old for hugs” but he hugged me and cried yesterday. My 18 year old even cried almost all day. We will take your advice and have her prints made. You are correct when you mentioned seeing them. I asked my husband to remove her comforter because I see her when I look at it. I was searching for words of comfort and came across your page. May God bless you and your family!
Kristen Hewitt says
I’m sorry for your loss <3
Michael Seda says
This is a really good share. Sad, but good in a way. Sorry for your loss. I’m kind of scared that this can happen to me as well though my pet is not that old. Eventually, it will still happen.
I lost my dog last night… she was 12, and almost completely blind. She started peeing everywhere in the house for the past 2 days, every 10 minutes. The vet told us it was painful for her and that tests would not guarantee anything. It was also extensive… my mother didnt want to, so I had to make the heartbreaking choice. The vet gave me 10 minutes with her, I talked to her while sur was laying there in her blanket. There was just a bit of light in the room. At one point, she licked my nose (something she would do to give us a “kiss”). I stayed with her until the very end. There is a feeling of emptiness, especially everytime I come home. A big part of me feels guilty as well. I got her when she was 2 months old, and I stayed with her until her last day.
Hopefully the pain will go away soon. But I’ll always miss my furball child.
Deborah Tuck says
SO true….still miss my cats (18 and 21) after many good years….I still look for them in the spot where there pet beds were….