in memory of Pixie
So a little
while ago, my cat’s best-friend, my lop-eared Lionhead bunny; Pixie, was put to
sleep (you can read about her death here).
Since losing her, Emmy – my cat – has become more and more upset and distressed.
I wanted to take this horribly painful situation and somehow turn it into
something that was – in some way – positive. So, I thought that talking about
what happened might help others to feel less alone and that collaborating with
Cats Protection, could provide professional advice for anyone confronted with a
A taste of life without Pixie…
It started almost as soon as Pixie was first admitted to Critical Care
on the weekend; at night-time Emmy sat outside the door to the room (the
Kitchen) Pixie slept in, meowing over and over again until I called on her to
come lay with me in bed.
When Pixie was allowed home, the Vet recommended keeping her and
Emmy apart, but I explained how upset Emmy had gotten and voiced my belief that
if anything, it would distress each of them further if they hadn’t seen one
another. The Vet agreed it would be ok to just show them one another so that
they knew they were sort of together again. So, I put Pixie in her carrier onto
the bed where Emmy was lying, and they sniffed each other before I quickly put
Pixie back into the Kitchen.
It ended up being quite challenging to get into the Kitchen without
Emmy either already being sat there meowing at the door or her hearing me open
the Kitchen door and coming running to it! There was one time where I’d gone in
and hadn’t shut the door behind me, so I had turned around to see Emmy edging gradually
and gently toward Pixie who was huddled in a corner under the dining table. I
got the immediate impression that Emmy wanted to say ‘hi,’ but that she also knew
that Pixie was poorly, so she was being cautious.
The absence of goodbye…
When Pixie became poorly again on her third day at home, I called
the Critical Care unit and they recommended giving her that night and then ringing
our Vet the next day if she hadn’t improved. Of course, she didn’t and so the
Vets made her an urgent appointment and with the assumption that she’d either be
given more/different medication or re-admitted for a little while, I didn’t
make a huge fuss of her leaving the house and saying goodbye to Emmy –
honestly? I wish I’d known then what was going to happen to Pixie so that they
could’ve had one special, final interaction.
How I said goodbye…
Since the day Pixie was put to sleep, I was aware of how lucky I
was in that I was given the chance to say goodbye to her and living with the
fact that Emmy really had that opportunity is painful.
With the social distancing regulations in place, it meant that I
couldn’t go into the veterinary practice, so the Vet took Pixie from me in the
carpark and then came out without her to tell me the ‘options.’ I thought that would
mean I couldn’t say goodbye, but they agreed to bring her back out and give me
some time with her before going ahead with the euthanasia. Whilst it meant that
my goodbye with Pixie was in the middle of a car park with a ton of people watching
as they waited with their own pets, I still appreciated the opportunity.
When my first cat; Dolly was put to sleep (you can read about her
my mental health was very poorly and so even though I was with her, when my
mental health stabilised there were a ton of thoughts and feelings around the
belief that I hadn’t really said goodbye. I seemed to think of a lot of things
that I began to wish I’d said to her and knowing this – and with my mental
health being so well now – meant that I said everything I could think of to Pixie
while I hugged her in that car park.
Everything I said in the goodbye...
I debated telling others (especially all of you!) what I had said to Pixie in those moments… The blogger part of me seems to kind of have a natural urge to share details and it almost needs for me to force myself to take a step back from the situation to really, sensibly and reasonably, decide whether or not to share something. In doing that with this, I’ve come to the decision that I will tell you all what I said to Pixie. And I made the decision to do that based on the hope that it would give two things: The first, is that it will illustrate how loved Pixie was (in case you didn’t already know). And secondly, I hope that it might inspire thoughts for you about things you might want to tell your pet so that similarly to me losing Dolly, you won’t be left thinking of so much you wish you’d said.
So… I told Pixie how much I loved her. I told her how special she
was and how much she had meant to my life. I said that she’d saved me and told
her that I’d made the decision to try to help her in return. I reassured her
that she’d be with Dolly soon. I promised her that I would stay safe through my
grief for her. I told her I would take care of Emmy and that we would get
through it together. I told her that she wouldn’t be in any more pain. I told
her that she was irreplaceable. I said that she would be missed more than she
knew and that I hoped she would watch over Emmy and me. I told her that
everything I achieved would be for her. And then I said goodbye, squeezed her
tight, and put her back in the carrier for the vet to take her away.
I remember clutching my chest as I watched them to take her because
it felt like my heart was crumbling and breaking and it was so painful.
Once I knew Pixie had gone, one of my first thoughts was ‘how do I
I recognise that might sound a bit silly – especially for those
without a pet – but this post is all about getting help and support, and you
can’t do that efficiently if you aren’t honest and open. I just hope that my
honesty can reassure someone that they aren’t alone in having a thought like
Going home empty handed… it felt as though my shoes were filled
with lead because each step to take me further from the Vets and closer to home
and Emmy, felt like a very difficult chore. It was almost like a challenge which
repeated over and over again for the twenty-minute walk because I didn’t want
to move further away from Pixie, and I didn’t want to go home and be faced with
Emmy’s little, confused face and all of Pixie’s things dotted around the house.
Obviously, my feet ploughed through the lead and I got into the
house to find Emmy lying on the bed and when I walked into the bedroom, the
first thing she did was look to my hand as though expecting to see me holding the
carrier with Pixie in. I don’t know if it’s possible, but she seemed to almost
frown as though confused and I just lay on the bed next to her and burst into
tears whilst saying “Pixie’s gone, Emmy. She won’t be coming back but she’s not
in pain anymore.” And Emmy sat up and stared at me before moving towards my
face and rubbing her cheek against mine as though to say, ‘we’ll be ok.’
Finding the time to begin grieving…
After crying with Emmy for a little while, I needed to log onto my
computer for my work and my Carer came so it felt as though I didn’t have a
chance to process many thoughts or feelings. And when I’d finished work and the
Carer had gone, my support worker popped in and then my Mum came so I didn’t
really have the opportunity to really sit back and think about what had just happened.
And it felt like the entire time, the situation was battling to be at the
forefront of my mind and demolish any concentration I needed for other tasks.
Having gone through what I have with my mental health, I’m very
aware and cautious around using other distractions to take my mind off of
something difficult because I’ve had to learn the hard way about that becoming avoidance.
Learning that, I became a firm believer that long-term; it wasn’t the answer,
and it wasn’t helpful. It might make you feel more capable of doing something else
at the time, but once that distracting activity was done, what were you left with?
I knew that no matter how many times I used a task to distract from losing Pixie,
it wasn’t going to take away the fact that Pixie was gone and no mater how long
it took to get there; I would always end up back in the place where I needed to
accept that loss and begin grieving.
Going into protective mode…
Being at home, I instantly knew that I wanted to get rid of
everything Pixie-related in the house – the hutch, her medications, her toys,
her cardboard box(!), her hay and sawdust, her food and treats… I knew that
firstly, I couldn’t stand to look at those things knowing that they will never
be used again, and secondly; I thought that Emmy would get upset or confused to
have Pixie’s things still here, but no Pixie.
I think that the main coping mechanism I’ve been using since
losing Pixie, has been in taking steps to protect myself and Emmy from as much
sadness as possible whilst both being more than fully aware that one of our
family members has died. I think it’s maybe like the middle point between the survival
instinct of fight or flight. We aren’t running from the loss; we’re just
protecting our family of two from suffering any more than is understandable and
– in some ways – necessary.
I think that my decision or rationale for doing this is similar to
before: that I’ve seen how difficult and dangerous my mental health can become and
I don’t want that to happen again so I’m making decisions in order to protect myself
and to prevent that from happening all over again. And in doing this, in taking
steps to keep myself safe, I’m also protecting Emmy from all the upset and stress
my mental health could cause her if I were to relapse and become unsafe.
To be honest, I see all of this as a huge step forward in my
mental health recovery because even just one year ago, I’d have been doing the
complete opposite to this. I’d have just allowed my thoughts and emotions to
become overwhelming and wouldn’t have given a second thought to hurting myself
because of them.
My mental health one week since Pixie’s death…
It’s so strange – sometimes it feels as though it happened yesterday; and other times it’s as though Pixie has been gone forever.
Things are definitely becoming more and more difficult because I
feel as though maybe there’s been a bit of delayed shock around Pixie’s death
and that it feels as though everything is really just starting to ‘hit’ me. And
I think that the main affect it’s having on me is anxiety, because even though
the hallucinations aren’t back and I don’t want to self-harm, I’m completely
terrified that will change and everything will go back to how it was with me
ending up on life support or needing plastic surgery.
When I talked to my Mum about this, she sort of prompted me to
realise that perhaps this was happening because I have been in such a good, happy,
and healthy place in my mental health for so long (249 days without self-harm
or hallucinations) that I haven’t been used to having to put more effort in to
cope with something. And it’s not as though nothing upsetting has happened in
that time, it’s just that there’s been nothing on this level. I think it’s sort
of ironic that a death when my mental health is finally stable and well, has a
bigger knock than one during a time when I was at my most unsafe!
Last night, I felt so anxious and panicked that I called my local
Crisis Team and they reassured me that all my thoughts and feelings – the ones
from grief and those around the worry things will go backwards – were completely
‘normal’ and healthy. They explained that with my risk history, it’s
understandable that I’d be so afraid and a big reason why, if those thoughts
came back, I should ring the Team straight away. They encouraged me to utilise
my Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) skills by doing self-soothing and distracting
activities, and mindfulness exercises; and recommended that I speak with my GP
to discuss having a short course of medication to help my anxiety, fear, and
Emmy one week since Pixie’s death…
Unfortunately – whilst I’m so so so grateful to still have Emmy – seeing
her distress and upset feels like another break in my heart… Initially, Emmy
was wandering around the house aimlessly and literally just looking all around
herself and all around every room she walked into. She was also quite lethargic
– which is so unlike Emmy because she’s usually highly energetic and playful.
The past day or two she has taken to desperately crying and scraping
at the door to the room Pixie’s sawdust and hay and things used to be in. It
was so sad to watch her distress that I’ve ended up leaving the door to the
room open slightly so that she can go in whenever she wants to see that Pixie
actually isn’t there.
Having Emmy has meant that I feel less alone and when all these
different people are saying things about Pixie and about how I must be feeling
and what I must be thinking. I know that Emmy is there and that she’s the only
one to really understand because she’s the only one who lived with Pixie too.
And knowing that there’s nothing I can do to help Emmy in so far as bringing
Pixie back, is so frustrating and heart breaking.
Do I get another pet?
I was initially really worried about life without Pixie because I
always felt that she and I had a really special and important connection that –
whilst I obviously love her – I just didn’t have with Emmy. It turns out
though, that losing Pixie and grieving together has really bonded us already.
To the point where I’m starting to be able to predict her movements and my
worries about becoming unsafe again are totally mitigated by the thought that
without me, Emmy will have no one.
Building that relationship with Emmy has also meant that she’s my
priority and that if I don’t think she’ll cope will with another pet – no matter
how much I may want one – I will put her feelings first. I think that at the
moment, whilst she’s missing Pixie, it just isn’t the right time. I feel like
she needs to adjust to Pixie not being here before I potentially turn things on
their hand and add some stress to her life in warming to a new pet.
With Pixie meaning what she did to me around my hallucinations, I
did feel like I really wanted another rabbit but having sought advice, it seems
that another cat will make things easier… It’s not that I think Emmy wouldn’t
warm to a new rabbit; it’s more about the rabbit not having the same personality
as Pixie and it being fearful of, and intimidated by Emmy, where Pixie would
had just ignored her or been very complacent and placid…
There’s also the fact that no other pet will be able to replace
Pixie and would it be fair to get one with the hope that they’d fill the gaping
hole in our little family?
Finally, a thank you to Cats Protection…
Obviously this isn’t the first time I’ve collaborated with the
charity, but this post still means as much to me as though it were our first
collaboration – maybe even more! Having their support and their trust in me and
I’m NOT Disordered to give a good representation of them, is special. And for
that to happen during a difficult time, and for them to recognise and support
the idea that pets grieve, is really powerful for me.
information on this subject from Cats Protection: