(My) Asperger’s / autism and grief

As some of y’all know, we recently lost our elderly fur-kid, a lovely cat named Murphy.  He was blond/orange/red-and-white long-hair king who had lived a long and happy life, at least until the cumulative effects of primary hyperthyroidism began to rack up.

I had the benefit of seeing the end coming, from miles away.  In situations like these, there is often a pre-grieving process.  When you know the end is coming and you’ll have to say goodbye, but the end isn’t here quite yet; Murphy was, after all, still purring and happily chattering with me up until his last weekend with us.

Of course, the benefits of foresight are bittersweet.  They don’t lessen the pain; you just feel the pain sooner.  I didn’t feel that I could legitimately begin processing the grief that I knew was coming, and yet I couldn’t help but start processing it.

Mr Kitty and I talked briefly about the various little things we’d noticed about Murphy recently, from the lightening of the stool color to the fact that he always seems to want food, yet licks the gravy/juice and leaves the solids.  This coincided with some digging I did on some mornings about liver failure and some of the symptoms, which include loss of appetite but an increase in thirst, which would jive with the gravy craving but only mediocre and intermittent interest in eating the solid food.  He came and actually sat on my lap for a few minutes one night, and he’d taken to sitting on my chest every so often, which he’s never historically done, but Maddie had started doing near the end of her time.  His wandering around and compulsive pacing were consistent with the possibility of hepatic encephalopathy.

I wrote in my journal, on Saturday, March 10th…


I think I’m starting to feel a sense of pre-grieving nipping around the edges of my world.  Shapes are taking form on the horizon, potentially coming into clearer view, but I still can’t quite make them out, nor determine their distance from here with any real certainty.  And these are variables you don’t want defined, questions you don’t want the answers to.  Because that, then, begins a sort of countdown timeline.  And it goes quick.  When the time comes, it comes fast.  And it scares me.

This is one of those situations, too, where the After, the getting of it behind you, is not necessarily better than the Before, when it’s still in front of you.  With something like surgery, the Before is almost always worse; once you’ve been through it and made it to the other side, you can breathe easier and bask in a sense of relief, knowing that the worst is now behind you.  With death, it’s a different story.  There is no such light at the end of the tunnel; there is only a hole in your being, a void in the universe where a life once was.  The After is more painful than the Before.  And since you’ll never see them again in this life, there’s no resolution.  It never gets easier; you just get more used to it.  Your brain builds and adjusts to a New Normal, which is much different than before.

It might be a sunny day outside, but it’s dreary in my mind.  The (unpleasant but unrelated) vibes from yesterday are dissipating on their own time, but this fog of sadness is rolling in.  Time could be very short now, and if it is, we could have a drastically different world sooner than we’d expected.  At this point, I don’t honestly know if he’ll make it to 16.  It’s only 4 months away (as of today, in fact), but so much can happen so fast.  And I can’t ignore the symptoms anymore; they’re starting to thicken and pile up.  And I know that when I wrote and thought these along these lines about, Maddie (my grieving for her written about here, very early on in this blog’s existence), her end came very swiftly thereafter.


Murphy passed away in my arms, on his own and without any euthanasia assistance, on Monday, March 26th, around 6.30p US Central Time.  We were there, in the vet’s office; he was preparing the shot when Murphy twitched one last time and his breathing gently stopped.

And now, I’m a little over a week into The Other Side of this.  We’re in the After stage now, where we’ll always be until we cross that bridge ourselves and meet with Murphy again.  I’m no longer scared, as I had been on March 10th.  Now, there is an emptiness instead, a Disturbance In the Force.  The composition of our home is forever changed.

I’ve said goodbye to a total of 8 cats and 5 dogs.  Each goodbye is unique.  One would think that after so many, one would get used to it at some point.  I never have.  It’s different every time, because my relationship with each was different.  My love for them is the same–unwavering and unconditional and unlimited–but the nature of and the characteristics that define the relationship are different, because I recognize the uniqueness in each soul.

I do know how the process works.  That, I am quite familiar with.  Grieving sucks, creating a crater in my heart that can never be assuaged.  The passage of time does not heal me; it only forces me to get used to the New Normal.  It gives me time for my tenacious brain to come to terms with–and reach a reluctant acceptance of–the fact that my world will never be the same.

And the grieving does not end, simply because the emotion that is grief is the emotion of love that you still feel for someone you cannot interact with anymore.  Since that love never dies, so, too, the does the grief persist.  As I said, time only “helps” me get used to it.

And as I mentioned, I’m well-versed in the grieving process.  I know all too well my tendency to be fine one moment and then break down the next.  The breakdowns come in waves, jumping out from the shadows of my periphery when I least expect them to.  A normal, mundane trip into the kitchen for a snack is not met with the sight of Murphy sleeping under the full-length kitchen window or meowing for more food, and that trip is no longer so mundane.  Sometimes that’s all it takes to set off the tears.

I oscillate between “strangely at peace”, given the peaceful circumstances under which he died and my last moments with him filled with love, and a cold, raw emptiness that manifests at odd times.  For example, walking into the living room, my eyes instinctively scan his favorite sleeping spots, which are now empty.  And I already know that I don’t have to turn on the light before wading down the hall, because there won’t be any tummy-ache material to navigate (elderly kitties can’t always digest food well).  I don’t have to put my laundry away right away to prevent white/blond/orange/red hairs from gathering on the clean clothes.  I don’t have to race home early from work for a(nother) feeding.

If this sounds like relief, it’s not.  It’s painful.  Sure, it was less-than-convenient to organize my life around another being with increasing needs, but that’s what I’d signed up for from the very beginning, and I’d gotten used to it.  The lack of my needing to do these things means that this golden, purely loving being is no longer.

I waited until the acutest of grieving stages was behind me because my skin tends to thin out, leaving me raw and vulnerable and easily provoked or saddened further.  My energy, a rare currency as it is these days, tends to drain even faster.  My brain can’t bear to write the words out, because it thinks that doing that makes the situation even more real.

Thus, it’s probably a good sign that I feel like I can share this more widely now.

And as with the yin-yang nature of life, where there’s a yin, there’s a yang–Circle Of Life and all that (smile, and probably a wink): we’ve made the decision to adopt 2 kittens, who are not yet fully weaned, so we’re currently going through the joyful preparation stages while we wait.  It really is the Circle of Life; at the moment that one is tearfully letting go of a loved one, another is joyfully welcoming a new life and loved one into their world.

So, while the majority of this post centered on the sadness and emptiness that death and the grieving process brought us, there is ultimately a happy ending here: Murphy is free now, no longer experiencing any discomfort, he left the physical world on his own terms, and I firmly believe he exists still, just in an alternate form that I can’t see or cuddle with.  And while that is hard, it is also part of the process.  I knew this day would come when I brought him home at 9 weeks old, and on that day, I made him the promise that he’d never languish or suffer.

And then there is new life ahead, and I will make that same promise to them.

I understand that all of “our” fur-kids are simply on loan to us, and for all the years of enjoyment and fulfillment they give, there will come a day when the bill will come due and demand payment.

The grieving times may be painful, but the years of love and companionship make it more than worth it.

(PS: Please forgive me/give me time to catch up on comments, blog-reading, and blog awards! 🙂 )

And now, Murphy is with Maddie…I have good reason to believe that she welcomed him across the Rainbow Bridge. ❤

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95 Comments

  1. I’m so sorry … no matter how many passings you’ve weathered, they never get easier. I’ve written a couple of posts about what I’ve observed when Geordie deals with a death – on the surface, he’s very practical and matter-of-fact. His comment when his grandfather (my father) died – the day before Geordie’s birthday – was “I’m sad but at least he didn’t die ON my birthday.” Some people thought that showed Geordie had no sympathy or emotion, but I don’t believe that. It was just his way of processing – which is why I appreciate your insight and reading about the processes you’ve gone through. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you very, very much, Kellie 😘. What a beautiful comment! Such true words. Geordie is so sweet! I often have similar thoughts; when my aunt passed away this summer, it was the day before her son’s birthday, and I said almost the exact same thing “well, at least she didn’t pass away *on* his birthday”. I believe you’re totally right about the processing and expressing emotions differently; sometimes I don’t show much emotion in the usual way immediately, because it may take a while to fully hit home (when it hits home later, it can be very overwhelming, and I call it “getting emotionally rear-ended”; it hits when I finally have a chance to stop and process, and it hits hard, seemingly from out of nowhere, very unexpected). Or I’ll try to be matter of fact and analyze the situation logically, for logic is my antidote to emotional overwhelm, which is all-too-easy of a “trap” to fall into for me. Thank you so much for sharing yours and Geordie’s perspectives and experiences! 💗💗

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You’ve done a brilliant job with this post and what is a very difficult subject. I’m so sorry about Murphy & can feel the pain of loss in your post. I was heartbroken to have lost our dog, which was about 4 years ago now and yet the After still hurts. But you’re right, the love and memories are worth the pain and I think that seeing furbabies as being ‘on loan’ to us is a beautifully touching way of looking at it. Sending hugs your way ♥
    Caz x

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank bunches, Caz! 💓. I really appreciate your kind words and your sharing of your experience. You’re spot-on; it often hurts for years, and I’m so sorry for your loss as well 💙. Sending you hugs, too! 💞

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, dear friend! ❤️. Yes, I believe the exact same thing. Your kind words touch me so much 💞. We did indeed have a beautiful bond, and his passing, while heartbreaking (in several ways), was ultimately peaceful and on his terms 💖🐾

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  3. Sorry to read of your recent loss, Laina. You’ve expressed what one goes through so well. It is a rollercoaster of emotion, two sides of the same coin, sorrow and joy. I lost my favorite cat last June and the waves still wash over me. Currently, taking care of another at 17 yrs, it feels like hospice, not knowing how long, but committed until the last.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you very much, dear friend 💗. You’re absolutely right, on all points. I’m so, so sorry to hear of your loss as well 💐. It can take a while to process the grief. I love and admire what you’re doing! Thank you for doing what you do; it’s incredibly special 😍🤗💞💓

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh wow! 😍. That’s so cool! I wish I was that precisely intuitive 😊. My intuition runs on a yin-yang basis; when someone is praying for me, life mysteriously goes right, but I’m usually unaware as to why lol. (But then, out of the blue, I’ll sense that someone could use my reaching out to them and saying hi and telling them that I’m thinking of them, and it turns out to be right on) 😉. You’re amazing! 😘☀️💚💙💜🌷🌺🌸🌼🍀

          Liked by 1 person

  4. I had a sweet little cat-friend for 18 years. About twice a year she would pee on my futon and I’d have to spend hours cleaning it. It never really smelled right. Folks were like, “Ugh! Why do you keep her?” But for me it was all just part our friendship. She was so sweet and loyal and trusting. In the end she died from kidney failure and months afterwards I saw her in a dream. She was sleeping on a chair near a window in the Sunlight. I knew it was just a dream, but it made me happy to see her again.

    You have my sincerest condolences.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, my lovely, for your caring and support, and also for sharing your story 💙💜. Cats are utterly amazing and awesome. Unconditional love and companionship. That’s so beautiful that she came to you in dreams! I personally believe that might be their way of saying hi, but that’s just my thought 🌺💖🌺

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s been two years since we lost Jess. We had a doctor’s appointment last week and we waited for an hour, the apt was an hour and a half with labs, then we had to ship off blood from fedex. We were gone 5 hours and halfway home I thought “Jess is going to be so mad when we get home for leaving him for so long.” Because Jess wasn’t used to me ever being gone long. He was my constant companion for 14 years. Yet, I still think little thoughts like that because he was so much a part of me.
    I’m so sorry for the loss of your sweet little/old baby. Grief…I wish there were a way to explain how the heart almost stops beating and explodes at the same time while watching in awe that the world keeps spinning and how dare it not stop for the pain we feel.
    Thinking of you!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m so sorry for your loss, my lovely 💐. Jess sounds like a beautiful soul 💗. You put it beautifully – “…how the heart almost stops beating and explodes at the same time while watching in awe that the world keeps spinning and how dare it not stop for the pain we feel.” Yes 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼. I’ve always thought that too! My phrase is that “the world has the nerve to move on”. But I like your description better 😘💖🌺

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Exactly! ❤️. Especially walking their dogs or something. Everybody gets to go home and pet their fur-kids, and I’m without mine. And how dare it be a business day?? Don’t they know I’m down for the count until further notice?? 🌺🌺

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          1. Your pet dies. Next day CANCELED> no one goes to work. No one walks dogs. No one gets groceries. We all have a day of silence for our loss. I look at everyone with distain like how dare you get to be out walking your 14 year old dog when mine just died.
            I’m glad you wrote about this I truly am because I have wondered is this just me that feels this way because I always thought I was just so….gosh can’t put my finger on it…like why am I so upset that the world does not stop because of my loss!!! And now you write this and it makes me think…oh…someone else feels this kind of emotion too so I am not alone in this thought that I actually don’t even share with anyone until your page I don’t think.
            Well, if I lived next to you I would have stayed in my bed all day and not moved just in honor of your world stopping

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Awww! Girl you are too kind 😍🤗. Thank you!! ❤️. I thought I might be alone in my perspective, too, but it turns out that I’m not, which is so comforting 💗. If we lived closer together, I’d accompany you on so many outings! We could watch owls together!! 😁❣❣

              Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you very very much, dear one 😁. It really is an honor to receive these! I just wanted to state that for the record hehe 😍. You’re the bomb, luv, and congrats to you, too 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼❤️

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  6. Hi Alaina,

    Namaste from India.

    It’s painful to lose someone so close to your heart and an integral part of your life. I lost my rabbit once and hence can relate to it absolutely. I sometimes look at its pictures and live the old memories. That’s how I embrace his absence. Take care !

    Like

    1. Thank you very much, my friend ❤ I'm so sorry for your loss as well! I love your perspective, how you approach loss. Looking at the pictures – sure, it can be hard for me sometimes, but it also brings me joy. Please take care of you, too! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, my lovely 😘😘. You’re so right; it’s one of the toughest times I’ve ever been through; the healing process takes time, and it’s a lot of “up and down”, but I think I’m finally getting a handle on it 💜💜. Thank you very much, again 😘😘💗💗

      Like

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