On Saturday morning we had to put My Beloved's cat to sleep. Kitty, at 17, had lived longer with My Beloved's parents than with him after he was forbidden to take her with him when he moved out of the house.
But still, she was his. And we had to make the agonizing call on Saturday morning after the vet ran tests through the night. It was the right call, of course. Neither of us wanted to prolong her suffering, and she was indeed suffering.
But still. But still.
As we were driving about in the bright February sunshine later that day trying to amuse and sooth ourselves, I had that odd, familiar feeling. We were at a red light and I was absently watching traffic passing in front of us. The cars drove by, the people inside oblivious to the sorrow I felt for the little orange cat I'd said goodbye to the night before.
And it all felt familiar. So familiar.
It was like I was wrapped in gauze, staring out at the bright, functioning world from within a filmy layer of sorrow. Both part of the world, and yet somehow totally removed from it. Seeing it all, but not fully engaged in any of it.
It's the way I spent most of my 30s. Losing babies and losing Thomas and sitting in a tiny cocoon of grief, detached from the world around me.
Of course, Kitty was a cat. And as sad as it is to lose a pet, the sorrow eases much more quickly. The world won't wait long before pulling you back into its warmth and brightness in its eagerness to show you all the joys and beauty it has to offer.
But not so when it's a child you're grieving for. The gauze is thicker. The time it takes to shrug it off and truly see again is much, much longer.
I knew I was in full-on survival mode when I was in the first throes of grief with each of my babies. I knew I was absorbed in my pain and I did feel a sense of detachment from the world and people around me.
But it wasn't until Kitty died that I realized just how isolating that grief is. It came and went with Kitty - she wasn't mine and the length of that immediate shock and sorrow was appropriate for the situation. But it lingered for months, maybe years, after Thomas died. I just didn't realize it until I felt it again - until I saw the world through the gauzy lens of sorrow once more.
You don't know how much progress you've made until something like losing a cat reminds you exactly how far you've come.
And I have come far, as it turns out. I really have.