Unexpected Things That Helped Me Cope With Loss of My 17-Year-Old Cat

Angela Vuckovic
by Angela Vuckovic

Getting to share your life with a pet is truly a privilege, as there’s not much that can rival the sheer joy and genuine love these little creatures bring to us. But when the time comes to say goodbye, the weight of grief can feel overwhelming. In these moments, it feels like nothing can help lighten the load we carry, but it’s crucial to remember that the journey through pet loss is a shared experience among countless others who have navigated the same emotional terrain.

I recently found myself grappling with the profound loss of my beloved four-legged companion, a 17-year-old cat called Luna. Luna was not just a pet; she was a loyal friend for more than half of my life, a source of comfort during challenging times, and a bundle of joy who brightened even the gloomiest days. When Luna passed away, a void opened up in my heart, leaving me adrift in a sea of grief.

Luna, author's personal photo archive

One of the first lessons I learned on this journey was the importance of allowing myself to feel the depth of sorrow. Grieving is a process that cannot be rushed, and every individual experiences it in their own way. It's okay to cry, to feel angry, and to miss the comforting presence of a beloved pet. Understanding that these emotions are part of the healing process is the first step toward finding solace.

Connecting with other pet owners who have experienced similar loss became a lifeline during this difficult time. Sharing stories of our pets, the funny quirks that made them unique, and the unconditional love they gave us forged a powerful connection. When I shared that I lost Luna on social media, a wave of support poured in, with all the people who knew her celebrating the imprint she left on their lives and all the people who understood what I was going through at the moment offering words of comfort. Without really expecting it, I came to realize that my little online community understood the depth of my grief and offered empathy without judgment.

It doesn’t always end up being like that – for some, the people around them are not as understanding as one would like. Unfortunately, I have heard stories where people felt their grief was dismissed or even ridiculed by those they held near and dear and it broke my heart that they didn’t have a support system in such a difficult time in their life. Luckily, you can always rely on online forums, support groups, and local pet loss counseling services in search of people who understand the depth of your grief and offer empathy without judgment.

In between many experiences of feeling alone in their sorrow, what brought back my faith in fellow humans are the stories of Chewy and their response when you cancel a subscription with them due to your pet’s passing – in addition to urging pet owners to donate the remaining food to a local shelter while refunding their last order, they would send a personalized note and roses to commemorate your pet. Naturally, this thoughtful gesture prompted pet parents to share how touched they are: 

But while the importance of sharing your feelings with others and getting support from them, whether it’s your loved ones or an online community, is undeniable, it’s not the only thing that helps overcome grief as a pet owner. In the midst of it all, it's easy to forget the importance of self-care. Taking the time to nurture your emotional well-being is crucial for healing. Whether it's finding peace in nature, engaging in a favorite hobby, or simply allowing yourself moments of quiet reflection, these acts of self-compassion can provide a balm for the soul.

As the days passed, I discovered that Luna’s spirit lived on in unexpected ways. The warmth of sunlight streaming through the window illuminating her favorite nap spot, the rustle of leaves of the tree she was buried under, and a lone whisker I found when cleaning the floors – all became gentle reminders of the love we had shared. Embracing these subtle signs allowed me to feel connected to Luna in a way that transcended physical presence.

Another avenue of healing revealed itself through acts of kindness in Luna's memory. Volunteering at a local animal shelter, making a donation to a pet charity, or even planting a tree in honor of a departed pet can transform grief into a positive force. For me, it was donating to a local cat shelter and sanctuary in her name that helped me find a renewed sense of purpose and honor her legacy.

The grief of losing a pet can feel overwhelming at first, but little by little, gratitude for the time we shared starts filling the painful void they’ve left behind. By acknowledging the shared journey with other pet owners, celebrating the memories, practicing self-care, and finding meaningful ways to honor our departed companions, we can navigate the path of pet loss with grace.

Angela Vuckovic
Angela Vuckovic

A proud mama to seven dogs and ten cats, Angela spends her days writing for her fellow pet parents and pampering her furballs, all of whom are rescues. When she's not gushing over her adorable cats or playing with her dogs, she can be found curled up with a good fantasy book.

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