My little angel, Karma, who moved to kitty heaven 3 months ago

Today I want to talk about something that doesn’t get talked about much online or offline by people, yet it silently shakes every one of us at some point in our lives. It’s known as Grief:
– a state of emotional suffering in which you can get stuck in when you are permanently separated from something or someone precious to you; 
– the internal meaning given to the experience of loss 
– a web of feelings that swallow you up and toss you between an overwhelming sense of attachment to your lost subject and an alienating aloneness; 
– a word I can’t even find a direct translation for in my mother-tongue language other than “remembering” or “mourning”; 
– a series of stages in which you have to drift through involving denial, anger, guilt, depression, isolation, numbness, faith-shaking, self-doubts, and maybe, at the end of it all, coming into acceptance by cultivating meanings from your ephemeral relationships and the courage to carrying forward the bitter-sweetness of the “have had” and the “could have”s. 
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People don’t like sharing about their experience through grief as much as they share other processes in their lives such as pregnancy, graduation, marriage, work accomplishments, buying a home, establishment of social relationships, body-building, traveling…etc. As a pleasure-driven global culture, we rave so much on social media about the happiness of having something. However, we keep ourselves quiet about the process of losing what gave us happiness, meaning, and even purpose. We have all been given the medicine of grief in various forms – material, emotional, relational, physical, spiritual – yet little do we share these important experiences openly to one another or to the public as if it’s something to be ashamed of… 
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I get it completely. Even the thought of admitting our own vulnerabilities can be highly uncomfortable, let alone sharing it with someone else and making ourselves susceptible to external judgements! Same can be applied to the act of relating to other people’s wounds. Is it truly worth the discomfort to show my real feelings which may be seen as flawed or unworthy? Maybe it’s safer to remain a bystander by not getting involved. The 21-century minds stage a dark comedy where everyone strives for a perfectly strong image to deem themselves worthy of love but all they ever redeemed was profuse insecurity and loneliness. This is because to love is to be vulnerable! You can’t gain nothing when you risk nothing. 
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So here I am, taking a stab at my own discomfort and perhaps also yours, I wanted to write something REAL about the journey my little angel, Karma, has taken me on. Even though her life has ended, she continues to accompany me in the rawness of the separation pain and in the permanence of our love for each other. I was slow to learn that if we were to turn away from grief, we ultimately step away from realising in truth we are weeping for that which has been our light. Without this realization, all of our longing and loving become a misfortune rather than a source of gratitude. This post is a lot more personal than my usual sharing, but it is therapeutic in nature via my direct experience, therefore, I hope it could help shine some light on those of you who are going through this grieving process as well.
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When I lost my cat Karma, she wasn’t just a family pet. When you’ve been living by yourself with your families overseas for as long as you could remember, your animal friend becomes the only family here for you, physically, emotionally, and even existentially. She wasn’t the kind of family that gives you advice or that feeds you, but she was there every step of the way when I tried to make it to another day, rain or shine. She had seen the best and worst of me, yet, she was always quick to forgive and loved unconditionally. The way she had been with me – through her unapologetic mischievousness, heart-melting purring, head butting and face rubbing, skilful kneading massages, 24/7 cuddle therapy, bathroom stalking, impressive fetch-playing, assertive vocalizing, unsolicited grooming service, blowing kisses through slow soft winks – has kept me anchored in the present moment in love, and powered me through any hardship I have ever dealt with in the past five years. 
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On a warm evening in May 2015, I had brought the tiny cuddly cat back to my 400sqft downtown apartment. We took buses and trains all the way from New Westminster. It was a long ride, but she behaved so well, quietly scouting the outside world with her curious big eyes and gigantic ears. She was an energetic and intelligent troublemaker but extremely affectionate. Right from the first night, she started sneaking into my bed and we slept everyday since. For the first time in 20 years, I had found home again, a place where she belongs. We had moved three times together transitioning from varying conditions and circumstances of each place, she was the consistent force that claimed each place as ours. She had evoked a strong sense of motherhood in me. I wanted to protect her, give her the best of the world, and take care of her for her entire life 18year to the least. 
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But I lost that privilege unexpectedly way too soon due to the terrible medical accident during her supposedly easy dental work at the vet this May. She woke up during anaesthesia and aspirated some vomit, which caused widespread pneumonia. She fought on strong in and out of emergency for the next 10 days despite the prognosis was grim. On day 6, I took her back to the comfort of home away from the traumatic stress of the vets and she started showing signs of recovery after a couple of days finally. She started to eat again, her favourite food tuna, after a week of food rejection due to stress. She also started to be more like herself and wanted to cuddle on my lap rather than hiding away in the corner like a dying cat before. I was so relieved and thought that the nightmare was over! Nothing could have prepared me for the sound of her sudden collapse and fall from her favourite sleeping chair beside the window four days later on the Saturday morning before work, and finding her drowning in her own blood clots with eyes wide-open struggling to breathe, and her coughed up blood shed all over the floor. There was very little I could do in this foreign state of panic other than screaming. I felt if the blood was choking down my own throat, god I wish that was the case instead of my poor girl… She did not deserve any of this… As I held her warm fluffy body tightly against my chest, I felt her body tremor gradually stiffing up and wondered if she could continue to feel how much I wanted her to stay. 
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Time froze from that moment onward. I lost my anchor to the presentence and found myself floating around in a space of desolation. What then took place in the present made very little realistic sense to me including the debilitating bereavement pain, the vet’s self-justifying exploitive corporate practises and unapologetic explanations for their ineffective care that killed Karma, figuring out the burial procedures, paying off the huge medical bills, last-minute cancellation of work, words of condolences from people, and coming home to a place without anyone waiting for me. 
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The grief of losing Karma has been the bitterest medicine I have ever been given as it has unravelled many layers of grief I have buried earlier in my life. The grief of my parents’ divorce, the grief of not having a mom figure growing up, the grief of leaving my home country, the grief of losing my cultural identity, the grief of my grandparents’ deaths without given the chance to mourn properly, the grief of not having had a sense of belonging in either of my parents’ new families or in the foreign society. I learned to not acknowledge them because no one openly talked about it and they normalized the silence, the emotional shutdown, the random anger projection, and the distractions via materialist or work preoccupations. There was no time made for processing, no space held for difficult expressions, and no dialogues on that it is ok to be feeling vulnerable this way as we can all relate in the pain of loss in way one or another throughout our own individual journeys. 
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Karma was a different kind of family. She was good at holding me accountable for processing my pain. She wasn’t much a talk-therapist but was effective in providing cuddle healing. Whenever I was going through a tough time, she would jump on my lap (or belly, butt, chest) and start to purr on me while giving me this profoundly affectionate gaze. I would stare back at her in tears, break out a little laugher, and go back to releasing more emotional catharsis. She would not leave until I am done and grounded again. Her devoted presence held me through self-doubts about my life and relationships with the world, and as she witnessed my vulnerabilities unfold, I was able to give myself the permission to accept them as they are, exactly like she has. Living with Karma also really grew my patience towards her never-ending misbehaviours, as well as towards the unmet expectations in life and in myself. Her forgiving and affectionate nature has a way of moving my frustrations back to the seat of compassion. The relationship we had formed over the years had done so much healing magic on my previously unresolved grieves. 
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Sometimes we need to struggle with the tragedy to feel the gravity of love. I am done with brushing off grief as a petty problem or brief disturbance, it is just as significant as the celebration of life and achievements and, if not more, meaningful than the gratifications of having more things. Grief humbles our mind to attend to our heart, reality-checks our life priorities, and unravels our deepest values and needs that aren’t all that different from one another. Grief summarizes the significance of opening our hearts to form a vulnerable but fulfilling relationship with something bigger than us. 
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Although I am grateful to be receiving the lessons from grief, it is not to undermine the hardship of it all. In fact, it has been brutal. It took me three months to feel some connection to life again, and to be able to put my experience into words with lots of cry breaks in between writing this blog. Besides honouring the significance of this last journey with my baby girl, I wanted to share some of the ways I tried to cope with it to stay functional while also staying open to the emotional processing. 
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There is no FDA approved formula for grief-management, nor is there a right or wrong way to go about it. The process is entirely personalized according to your own preference to honour and to staying connected to your bereaved relationship. However, caution should be made on relying on unhealthy distractions to mask the bereavement pain such as substance use, self-neglect or self-harm, risky behaviours, and “rebound” or replacement relationships. These are avoidance behaviours that block us from accessing our resources to process grief and to integrate its teachings into our lives with more gratitude rather than the lack of it. 
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After a long while, I can finally accept being happy about the fact that Karma had spent her last days in the comfort of her home being cuddled and loved. As much I had ached for her seeing her suffering and dying, I am relieved in a way that I was there holding her until her last breath witnessing all that she has gone through as she had done for me countless times under different circumstances. I am glad that I did not miss out on anything even the painful part because I love all of her and would never want her to be suffering alone. 
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As a therapist, I already know how important hard-core self-care is to sustain myself through a crisis like this, but no amount of self-care can make you functional initially. When the centre of my heart was gone, I got nothing left inside to give away to the outside world. I immediately cancelled client appointments and reduced my workload as much as possible for the upcoming weeks. I was transparent with my long-term clients and asked them for their understanding, to which they responded with incredible compassion and encouragement for my own self-care that touched me greatly. I booked therapy for myself and reached out to my close circle of friends who loved Karma as well, while limited my contact with those who wanted my emotional support or attention. I found that a strong boundary during the most vulnerable time was essential to my recovery preparation. 
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During the first weeks, I allowed myself to cry as long and as badly as I needed to. I did not restrain when I can express my sorrow, even in public or sometimes in-between client sessions. It’s normal to feel depressed and numb during the first phase of grief, therefore I concentrated solely on letting out of my emotions while also sleeping lots to recuperate. After the initial couple of weeks, I noticed the lowered frequency and intensity of the bereavement outbursts. I gave myself permission to not follow my perfect routine letting my yoga/exercise routine and healthy cooking slide, but encouraged myself to try to add back a little bit each week. By the time I noticed myself losing quite some weight after a month or so, my appetite has gradually returned which helped me to go back to grocery shopping and pick up the home cooking again. 
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I spent tons of time looking through Karma’s pictures and videos, they make me both cry and laugh. They remind me of how amazing she has been all along and I could not appreciate her enough. To comfort my separation anxiety, I have printed photographs of Karma and placed them around home and my office to keep her closeby. In this way, I feel that she’s continuing to hold me accountable for accepting my emotional states. There is a small altar for her by the window she fell last, where I light up a candle for her at night sometimes when I want to talk to her or just meditate on our cherished memories. Her ashes are sitting inside an amber box on top of my piano. I would play for her visualizing how she used to sit by my side enjoying the mini-concert. I have not yet freed her ashes into the forest or sea as I have planned, but it will come at a later time. Meanwhile, I have pushed myself to retreat into nature and surrender myself to mother Earth’s healing love. I have secretly carried a symbolic cat stone-figurine along to all my hikes and nature retreats. 
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I am extremely grateful for my close friends who offered time and company to help me through the most difficult times. They have shown me genuine care for Karma and myself and listened patiently as I recounted memories of her and the events leading up to her passing. Some of my cat-lover friends – who are multiple cats owners themselves– have invited me over to spend time with their kitties, oh kitty purrrrradise! I won’t lie, there were days that I felt so depressed that I had to look up local shelters for their kitty and puppy adoptions to instil some hope. Seeing that there are so many animals out there that I can help rescue helped me to look forward, but I know very clearly that is not happening anytime soon because Karma is irreplaceable and I need to do my time in grieving for her. 
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It’s been three months now, I am content with where grief has left me. With much social support as well as self-compassion, I have learned to surf the heaviest waves of bereavement pain and come out of it ready to live stronger with my heart gradually open again, although I know there is still some distance to go. Karma will always be a part of me and live on through me as well as those whose lives she has touched. I have created an Instagram account dedicated to my baby Karmeow. I believe by the time I finish updating the last out of the gazillion number of pictures that I have of her, I might be just ready to shake hands with grief. 
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If you’d like to honour this amazing therapeutic animal, come follow us on: @Karmeowmeow
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Much gratitude to you all for witnessing our farewell journey together and for your loving support and blessings! <3

Love & Light
daisy
About the Author

Daisy is a Vancouver-based clinical counsellor and holistic healer, living her life passion of supporting mental wellness of people from diverse backgrounds.

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