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Coping with Loss/How can I forgive myself for causing pet's death?


It's been nearly three months since I lost my cat baby Rufus and I miss him very much. The worst of it is I realized I've got only myself to blame. He had been very sick last summer, they said it was a gall stone, but, finally, after a lot of treatment we managed to pull him through. The only trouble is after that I became a bit paranoid and started feeding him less wet food (although it was already diet food), especially after he seemed to develop a bit of diarrhea (though it may have been me being paranoid again). I was constantly on the phone with the vet, trying new dry food diets, but it never occurred to me to start feeding him more wet food. Eventually, the vet proposed doing some more tests and my baby was diagnosed with triaditis, we tried a number of treatments, but they didn't seem to help either. He stopped eating dry food altogether and would eat even less wet food than I was giving him. We were just about to start some acupuncture sessions and, frustrated with his lack of appetite, I thought it might be a good idea to start giving him boiled meat. I checked with the vet, he said it was ok, so I started feeding him boneless chicken breast. He seemed to enjoy it at first and, thinking it was the healthiest food for him (boy, was I wrong), I gave him that for about two weeks. I tried tempting him with it even when he clearly didn't want it and only when all else failed did I switch to Hill's id. Again, he seemed to enjoy it for a couple of days, then he wouldn't touch it, in fact, he seemed to have less and less of an appetite and was becoming very lethargic, but it never occurred to me to offer him more appetizing foods, even when he stopped eating altogether. At this stage the vet suggested running some more tests and this time they found he had a severe anaemia and his pancreatitis had gotten worse. They got him on iv, I took him for three blood transfusions, after the third transfusion he started urinating blood and died in my arms during the night. Sorry to bore you with all the details, I just wanted to give you a gist of all the things I feel guilty about (there's more actually, but these would be the main things). My question is how can I possibly forgive myself for all the stupid mistakes I made, for literally starving him to death? I should have researched more about his illness and the proper diet, I should have quizzed the vet more, I should have acted faster when I saw how lethargic he was becoming. I feel I am a terrible person and I will never forget the look in his eyes as life was draining out of him...

I am so sorry for your loss. Our pets are like our babies and I can tell you did everything you thought was best at the time. Since our pets can't tell us how they feel or what is bothering them, it's much harder for us to figure out what is best for them. You didn't neglect him, I'm sure he felt loved because you tried so many things to help him get better. You relied on Vets to advise you and they have the same issue we have...the animal can't tell them what hurts, what feels good, etc.

Aside from that, let's talk about this notion of forgiving yourself. In order to forgive yourself, you must believe you are guilty. Guilt is an interesting and misunderstood concept. I believe, the only reason to feel guilt in a case like this is if you INTENTIONALLY harmed Rufus. Nothing that you have told me implies that you intentionally tried to harm him.

I wonder if the guilt you are feeling is a defense mechanism. If you didn't feel terrible about yourself and what you did to your cat baby you would just be left with your sadness and grief. Most of us will do just about anything to avoid our feelings of grief, including beating ourselves up for things that can't be undone.

My hope for you is that you treat yourself like a child who has suffered a deep loss. When I was 6 years old, my step-father died of a heart attack. I thought that because I wrestled with him even when he didn't feel good, that somehow I was to blame for his death. There were doctors involved and he still died. I know the circumstances are different but the basic principle is the same. You wouldn't have blamed me for my father's heart attack. I'm asking you not to blame yourself for Rufus' death. There were doctors involved, you did everything you thought was best and most importantly, you loved him! Be gentle with yourself. Create a lovely memorial for Rufus and put it somewhere special.

Take care,


Coping with Loss

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Rev. Gabrielle Michel


As a grief expert and spiritual grief counselor, I can answer any questions about loss and the grieving process. I specialize in the loss of an infant up to the age of one year (miscarriage, PROM, abortion, stillbirth, SIDS, premature birth and any other type of infant loss).I can also answer any questions about faith and grief, especially for those dealing with anger with God.


Gabrielle Michel, a pioneer in the grief movement, is an interfaith minister, ordained in 2000, and spiritual counselor whose specialty is helping people work through grief and spiritual crisis. In 2004, she experienced a spiritual crisis of her own. February brought the miscarriage of her first baby; July, the death of her younger brother. In October, she said goodbye to a dear friend who succumbed to emphysema. And on December 22nd, she joyfully welcomed her second baby into the world, only to say goodbye to her the very next morning when death claimed her as well. Seeking solace in the midst of great spiritual pain, Gabrielle embarked on a quest to find comfort. Alone, she stumbled around in the dark trying to find her way back to faith, eventually becoming a Grief Recovery Specialist. Gabrielle researched over 50 books about grief and infant loss, and while they each had a little something to offer, none of them addressed the deep spiritual wound she had after losing her daughter. She found that the books on the market were memoir, psychology-based or religious. In her extensive research, Gabrielle discovered the critical missing pieces of our culture’s current grief paradigms. First, each book primarily focuses on the loss, and second, the books lack the applicable spiritual components needed for grievers to find hope. Her studies, training, and ministerial and spiritual counseling experience, along with her own recovery from deep despair, make Gabrielle a compelling, relatable writer and speaker on the topic of grief. Though the subject is dark and painful, her resilient spirit, disarming sense of humor and accessible demeanor allow her to produce articles, books, workshops and lectures that engage, inspire and empower.

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