I wanted to start documenting what my personal grieving process regarding unexpectedly losing our cat, Rambo, looks like. This might sound choppy but I’m trying to express what my personal journey looked/looks like. We always think we will remember these things but we truly will not, the days start to run together. Part of me doesn’t want to remember it but if it helps someone else to understand that their heavy grief is normal, it’s worth it.
I’ll update this as time goes on. Prior to Rambo dying, I felt okay. I was still under a lot of grief because there was a lot of death in my family recently and the pandemic on top of that but I was doing “okay”… until I lost Rambo.
The First Night (September 21, 2021)
Rambo died sometime between 5:15 and 6:30 PM. It was 5:15 when the cat sitter was taking him to the vet. It was 6:30 PM when we received the call from the vet that he “was gone”. She said that he wasn’t even alive when he got to the vet. She started talking about burial or cremation. I had no idea. I told her I would have to call her back as we were still in such shock. She said no problem, they would hold onto him as long as we needed. She said she did an x-ray and looked in his mouth. There was nothing in his mouth but there was fluid around his lungs. She mentioned heart attack or heart failure.
IT. WAS. HELL.
Total shock. Confusion. Scott and I looked at each other and said, he’s gone?! How can that be possible?
It’s hard to describe the heavy feeling of sadness and loss. The fact that he would not be there when we came home, for the first time in 15 years.
The rest of the evening was spent crying. Scott kept reviewing the cat cam videos over and over again. I couldn’t watch them and still can’t.
I had to change the background photo on my phone since it was of him and Lucky. I couldn’t take seeing his face knowing that I would never see it again.
I felt like I was going to be physically sick on and off. I couldn’t eat dinner. I eventually cried myself to sleep but didn’t sleep long. During the night I remember Googling if someone ever runs out of tears.
The Next Day.
It was a blur. We didn’t get out of bed until mid-morning, which is not normal for us. We were still out of town and it was raining. It started raining right after we learned about Rambo and rained for 24 hours straight. Lots of crying and still trying to actually piece together what happened. Scott called the cat sitter again, I called the vet again just to walk through it all again.
We went to the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida. I think it was a good thing for us to go. We really enjoyed the tour and learning about how many turtles they save and all the great work they do. I cried multiple times during the tour and on the way there and all day long.
That night was still lots of crying and confusion. It still didn’t feel real. We had no appetite but had so much food from Costco that we bought on the way down that we had to cook. We grilled out at the condo, eating for the first time that day. I remember looking at the stars from the beach and just sobbing.
The next day was about the same. We went on a walk both days and I could literally barely walk.
So much guilt. What if we had been home? What exactly happened? What did we miss? Was he scared? When exactly did he die?
Home (3 days later)
It was a 12ish hour drive home from Florida. Scott started driving first but then I said I wanted to drive so that I could stop crying. That didn’t work, the crying still continued while driving.
Horrible. We had to relive it all over again. We got home at 11 PM three days after Rambo passed. Walking in that door without him home was hell. He wasn’t waiting on us when we came in. We didn’t get to “argue” about who would get the pick him up first (because he hated it haha). His stuff was still in the house but he was gone. A big, maybe even the biggest part of our lives, just gone. Seeing his favorite zip tie, finding his ball of fur on the ground was just torture.
He would always be there waiting for us. Always. This time he wasn’t.
Lucky was there. And we both lost it again when we saw him. Poor guy. We hugged him so tight and just told him how much we loved him and we are sorry his brother died.
When I got out of the shower, Scott was laying on the floor where we last saw him on the cat cam (right by our bedroom door). I remember messaging with a few of my friends on Facebook that night.
Again, not much sleep and no appetite.
5 Days Later.
I wanted to clean everything but nothing at the same time. I wanted to throw everything out (or through a window!) but didn’t want to disturb anything either. I saw Rambo’s hairs in the guest bathroom and had a meltdown. Yelling at Scott to not clean them up. We found puffs of fur and scoured the house for fallen whiskers.
More guilt. Why did I send the cat sitter to our vet 20 minutes away instead of just the closest one? Why did this happen? No matter what it was our fault for not being there. I would have noticed something quicker because I’m always home. I would have gotten him to the vet in time.
My uncle died five days after Rambo. My parents were on their way to my house because I wasn’t doing well when they called and said they had to go to the hospital. I knew it then. I knew that my Uncle Jim wasn’t going to make it. We went to the hospital and waited in the parking lot. He was sick but his death was still unexpected. After he passed, we went to my mom’s house and when we were leaving there I remember crying and saying I didn’t want to go back home but I had to because of Lucky.
It was also difficult to grieve my cat and my uncle at the same time. Actually, there wasn’t much time to grieve or at least speak with anyone (other than Scott) about it before my uncle died. It was just very confusing. I just remember wanting to tell someone the whole story. I wanted to just blurt out all of my feelings and the events that happened. All of them! But I never had the chance so I kept them bottled up inside.
Lucky was hiding in the closest most of the time but would come out to eat and drink. The vet told us that as long as he continued to eat and drink he would be okay.
The First Week Back Home.
Scott went to work. Did that make it easier for him? I think so. For me, it was still Hell. It was hard to sleep, it was hard to be awake, it was hard to eat, and it was hard to function.
I work from home for myself so I am always home. Always home with Rambo and Lucky. They were always with me.
When I closed my eyes I would replay every event, every phone call, every single thing in my head. Then I would twist all of that around to what I could have done to save them. It was all my fault. So many different small changes and Rambo would have been alive. Why did I leave my phone in the car the ONE time I was going to get an important phone call? All this extra time added up and he was dead. And it was my fault.
A continual loop of processing all of the loss.
Later that week, on the day of my uncle’s funeral, I got a notification that Rambo’s cremation was complete and I could pick “him” up so on the way home from the funeral we picked up Rambo. My precious boy was reduced to ashes and put into a bag. So, again we lost it. I lost it in the vet’s office when I told them what I was there for.
Still no appetite and no energy.
Two Weeks After.
A lot of tears, not a day went by that I didn’t cry. So much guilt. It was hard to concentrate and focus. This was my first week at home after we got back and after my uncle’s funeral. I almost felt like I was in another world. Such a weird feeling. It was like the world around me was continuing while mine had stopped. I had lost SIX people (including Rambo) and I didn’t even know how to function anymore.
I went for walks with my neighbor. These easy walks were SO HARD for me. The no appetite is weird for me because I normally eat six times a day. I knew that in order to have more energy, I had to start eating even if I didn’t feel like it. I started by eating about half of what I normally do.
At this time, I was able to look at some pictures but no videos. I also started looking for books, podcasts, etc to help (I’ll share my favorites in another post). I also started looking on Etsy for cremation urns and other items to memorialize Rambo (I’ll also share these items in another post!).
Lucky was still spending a lot of time “hiding” in our closet. But still eating and drinking.
One Month Later (October 21, 2021)
This was a hard day. Since he died in September we had a lot of nice weather days where typically I would open the windows and he and Lucky would stand in them and just take in all the smells and enjoy something different. I didn’t do that this year. Not once.
During this time I was still looking for the best podcasts, books, etc to help.
We did get season passes to Six Flags (an amusement park) so we went a few times and that was a great distraction for a few days during the month.
Lucky was starting to stay out in the living room with us instead of hiding. I think this helped my heart. 🙂
I asked Scott if he would combine some of the videos we had of Rambo into one cute video that I could watch. He said he would but neither one of us was really ready to tackle that project yet. Looking at videos was too hard.
Still crying every day. I started to try and be more active. I was working out but probably a tenth of the intensity as before. I just couldn’t do more and I was okay with that. Some days all I did was walk around the neighborhood and listen to a podcast.
I started looking for a grief therapist.
Two Months Later (November 21, 2021)
This was right around Thanksgiving. It was hard. I really wasn’t in the spirit of Thanksgiving. We had Thanksgiving with family but really the whole family was grieving because of my uncle (plus other family members that have passed recently).
I normally decorate for Christmas around this time. I didn’t do that this year. I DREADED it. Rambo LOVED Christmas. Oh my gosh, he loved it. As soon as I got the decorations down, his little eyes would just light up, we called them his puss in boots eyes. As soon as the Christmas tree went up he would lay under it. When I wrapped gifts he would lay on the paper and fight me over it. He was a Christmas kitty and I didn’t want to decorate at all without him.
Scott said he wanted us to decorate so I said okay but it never really happened (haha). We normally get a real tree because my uncle sells them but I was definitely not feeling that. We compromise and we bought a small fake one from someone in the neighborhood. We put Rambo ornaments on it. We did the bare minimum inside and outside.
We took Lucky with us to my parent’s house in the mountains. He did great! He loved to look out the window like a dog! But it made me sad because Rambo never got to go.
Three Months Later (December 21, 2021)
I told Scott I wanted to do something on the 21st of each month. I haven’t decided what that is yet but I definitely want to do something. Let me know if you have any ideas!
We had just gotten back from being out of town (we returned on December 20). This was obviously right around Christmas so it was just sad overall. Neither one of us had any Christmas spirit this year.
Since Scott has three weeks off at Christmas this was the first time that Scott was at home for an extended period of time without Rambo here. He was experiencing what I already went through being here without him. The house is so quiet and boring.
I started a Google document to add memories of Rambo as I think of them. I never want to forget any of the cute things he did! The document is already so long and I add something new every few days as they come to mind. I also have a list of all of the names we called him because we all know cats end up with 100 names! I miss grabbing his fluffy face and calling him 15 names and him staring at me like I had lost my mind!
Lucky went back up to the mountains with us over Christmas! He thinks he rules the house up there now and I love having him with me so I don’t have to worry about him.
As far as workouts, I was still only doing low-intensity workouts and walks.
Four Months (January 21, 2022)
It’s a new year but I’ve given up on saying that this year will be better. I thought for sure that 2021 would be better than 2020 (!!!). Boy was I wrong so I’m just keeping my mouth shut and trying to get through each day.
We had our first snow in Georgia last weekend and it stuck! Which is a big deal down here! Winter is hard without Rambo. He loved winter and he became more snuggly when it was cold (as expected).
This month we finally had the ability (with a lot of tears) to create the video (from video clips) of Rambo that I’ve been wanting to do. It turned out great!
Now my appetite has been the opposite. I have been so hungry all the time, I guess I’m making up for what I didn’t eat last year! I’ve also been able to slightly up my workout intensity but still only about half of the normal intensity.
The guilt is still so heavy and I still cry almost every single day. I even find new ways to make myself feel guilty such as was Lucky trying to tell us something was wrong with Rambo before we left? Why did we rearrange so many trips? We should have obviously taken the hint that we didn’t need to go anywhere. I’m not sure the guilt will ever go away.
Five Months (February 21, 2022)
This month was so different than the others. We had some major life decisions to make so those were taking up all of the space in my brain (lol). I didn’t sleep well at all the entire month with the roller coaster of emotions of these changes.
We are moving a little over an hour away. And I remember right after Rambo died and we were on our way home I said I don’t ever want to go in that house again without Rambo being there but now I have mixed emotions about leaving since this is where he was. So, once again, my emotions are everywhere. I’m sad that Rambo doesn’t get to move to the mountains with us, there’s just so much that he is going to miss out on and it breaks my heart all over again.
Six to Nine Months (March/April/May 2022)
I’m combining these three months since they all kind of blur together. These months consisted of selling a house, packing, moving, and trying to get settled into a new house. I had a lot going on which was good as a distraction. On the day we moved out of our house, a red Cardinal followed Scott’s truck out of the driveway and I couldn’t stop crying.
Getting set up in a new house without Rambo was hard. The first thing I did was put up his pictures and the other remembrance products we bought for him. Lucky is loving living in the mountains, watching all the wildlife, sitting by the screen door, and we know that Rambo would absolutely love it too. What we wouldn’t give to have him here with us…