Starting over while still grieving (and anxious)

WebDragon

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Hello all. Longtime lurker, first time posting. I hope this is landing in the right forum spot.

Ultimately, I'm posting to ask a question about how to know the "right" time to get a new cat(s) after losing one? I thought I did, and now I'm not sure...

The longer version: I lost my only cat Loki after 12 years of companionship, after a short but difficult bout with illness. I still grieve for her and struggle with the guilt surrounding her euthanasia. For longer than she was in my life, I've also struggled with bouts of anxiety. That anxiety never was centered around her until the month or so around the end of her life, which was the worst episode I'd ever known and I struggled not to let it affect my care for her. I started therapy shortly before I lost her, and it's helped. As I got out of "crisis mode", I started to feel better about Loki's life and the fond memories were easier to enjoy. I felt like I was building good coping skills for the anxiety too. About 6 months have passed since her death.

A few weeks ago, I started looking at adoption listings to find a new cat companion(s). I've been working from home during the pandemic, and see that as an ideal time to welcome a new family member when I can focus on bonding with them in a calm, quiet house. That opportunity is going to end sometime, as work goes back to "normal" in the office. It didn't bother me at all to look at listings of lots of sweet kitties, many of which looked so much like Loki. I could imagine them roaming the house and playing. I've got all of the cat "hardware" still at the ready. I've gone so far as to complete an application and be cleared to adopt a pair of bonded little ones, abandoned at a very early age but now rebounding in foster care. The process has taken a few days, now I'm to the point where I arrange to go meet them in person - and I'm hit with an anxiety attack. It faded as quickly as it came, but my head was spinning with all of the potential things that could go wrong in the entirety of their lives, all at once. All of the joy that I could anticipate in adopting these (or any) kitties now seems to pale in comparison to the risk I'd be taking by changing the cat-less life I'm living now. It makes no logical sense to me, but that's anxiety for you. I spent the rest of the evening journaling, asking Loki aloud for her advice, and telling her how much I still missed her. I think about her often, but have cried more tonight than I have in months combined. The "progress" I thought I had made seems to have vanished.

I was confident that I could give these kittens all of the TLC they would need to thrive and grow old together, and I know they would likely bless me with lots of happiness in return. I am no longer confident that my anxiety will not get in the way of those good intentions - that I'll fly off the handle with every errant sneeze and have my fear rub off on them. It's embarrassing that I made it this far in the adoption process thinking that I was ready for new babies, and then panic sets in at the last moment. But it's too serious of a matter to just go ahead and adopt, and assume I'll be just fine through it all. I can't just keep the foster mom waiting. The decision seems daunting. If I rescind my offer to adopt that seems like a good decision for now, but I also worry that it's just kicking the can down the road and I'll hit this roadblock every time in the future. Ironically, if I had seen these kitties in a pet store adoption display or otherwise had the ability to act on impulse, they'd already be home with me and everything would probably be fine. Having time to weigh my options leads me to endless thought spirals and usually leads to me chickening out.

I'm prepared to contact the foster family and back out. This is too big of a thing to have any doubts about. Those kittens are flat-out wonderful and I know they'll find a loving home, though I do wish it could be mine.

Has anyone else here had the combination of anxiety and grief get in the way of bringing new pets into your lives? Thanking you all in advance for any thoughts, and for making it to the end of this post!
 

Mamanyt1953

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I think that your anxiety is absolutely normal. I also think that you will, ultimately, be fine, and we'll be here to help you with any problems that arise. What I'm afraid of, should you delay this, is that you will be setting a pattern. And I have been there, but with an entirely different situation. I allowed fear and anxiety to rule my life, and have regretted it for years. That said, you are the only one who can make that determination. I hope that things turn out perfectly for you and those babies. And I repeat, should you decide to go ahead and adopt them, you have a support group ready to assist!
 

Tik cat's mum

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What you are feeling sounds completely normal to me. When we lost our boy my hubby really didn't want to get another cat. Tik was his heart cat and he was terrified of losing another. But 12 months later he saw some kittens playing in a neighbour's yard. Called me to look and before I knew what was happening I was picking out a kitten. He knew we could only get one because we still had one boy with us. But giving a kitten a chance overcame his fear. They were outside from the moment they could get out of the cat flap. He was scared they would get hurt out in the cold. Even though he was the one that got the cat his fear stopped him from getting attached. The kitten was sick and needed a lot of care. But as he saw we wouldn't lose this kitten his attitude changed he said he was a fighter. And who can't fall in love with a kitten. They are so close now my hubby and his puppy cat, and everytime the cat now nearly 2 does something funny he tells me. I love that cat you know. I guess I'm trying to show you what Mamanyt1953 Mamanyt1953 said don't let fear rule your life, take a chance.
 

di and bob

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After twelve years of caring for and loving Loki, he would be the last one to deny you the love of two more little ones. He knows how much love you have to give, and that is what counts. He is at peace, his love is secure in your soul. New love will reside beside his and help it to grow even stronger. He left you his legacy of getting you to open up your heart to a cat's love and would like nothing more than for you to be happy again. True love is his wanting you to go forward into life and live it just as you would want for him if you were the first to go. I have no doubt you loved that little boy and he returned that love tenfold......
Of course, you are nervous and have all these doubts and anxious thoughts. it is a big step in your life. But that means you are aware of problems that could arise, which also means you have the strength to solve whatever comes up. EVERY new 'parent', whether of a human or cat, is petrified they will screw up or are not ready. you are definitely not alone in this kind of thinking. I have said many times on this site one thing that I have definitely learned in my advancing years, "99% of what we worry about DOES NOT COME TRUE!" Does that stop us from worrying? Of course not. I have gone through many losses in my life, and each and every one of them has me vowing not to get hurt again. That I should avoid loving again to protect my heart from being shattered into a thousand pieces. but you know what? life itself means happiness, or it should anyway. Seeking life's happiness and beauty means fully living. and fully living means having a loved one in our life. Having a cat in my life makes me happy. even when I am grieving, they have a way of 'centering' us, of distracting our hearts from all the unhappiness that seeks to rule our world. That is not a bad thing. Each and every little one we bring into our home and our heart is unique. that new love will reside right beside Loki's, it can never replace it, that is impossible, it will bring a peace to both of your souls. Loki lives on through you now, through your memories and your past. He will forever be as close as your thoughst and prayers. He will gladly send you the strength to get through this, he will share in your worries and the future joys. Because he taught you what is a treasure in this world, receiving a cat's love.
We are here for you, my opinion, which I'm sure you know by now, is go for it. Those two little ones will bring you happiness and joy. It takes time to build love, but it will happen. Don't stress about what may happen, nothing is guaranteed, problems may come up because that is life. But you have people here with YEARS of experience, nothing is too much with help. You'll have more sorrow in yoru life, but the joys and happiness will far outweigh it. Nothing is stronger then love.......
 
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WebDragon......I think you should heed your anxiety and not adopt at this point. If you are concerned a kitten sneezing might make you "fly off the handle", in my opinion, you should wait.

BUT in the meantime.....what about you fostering a cat or two? This will give you exposure to cats but without the long term comittment. If you become anxious, you know you have "an out".

Sounds like you were a good parent to Loki enriching her life and yours. I suspect that would happen again with another cat or two as companions

As for anxiety.......it recently occurred to me, after 60 plus years.........most if not all of the major accomplishments that "came" in to my life was because I took a chance, went beyond my comfort level and pushed thru my anxiety and pursued goals; a dream job, weight training (which further helped overcome anxiety), relationships (including partner of almost 30 years), security, my home and yes, even adopting my cats....greg and arnold.

-"tis better to have loved and lost than never have loved at all"
 
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WebDragon

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Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and experiences, I really appreciate it.

After a rather gloomy day of thinking and hearing suggestions on both sides that echo what you all have said here, I'm still stuck. When Loki passed away, it was a trigger for me to do a lot of work, some tangible (a lot of paring down of things, Marie Condo style, to create more room for more peace and love), and a lot mental. I promised myself I would work to better prepare for future anxiety-inducing situations, so I wouldn't risk failing myself or someone else when I needed to step up. I haven't fully delivered as promised on the tangible stuff, and the anxiety episode last night seemed like a sign that I hadn't delivered on the mental end either. I've realized that I was worried yesterday about not only what mishaps the kitties might suffer in the long run, but also the immediate change that bringing them home would require in my day-to-day life. Taking care of kittens should be fun, but here I am getting hung up on something so simple as needing two litter boxes instead of one. It's weird! I understand mental health improvement is a long journey, but a strange part of me feels guilty for wanting a 'reward' of sorts when I haven't 'earned' it yet. My husband pointed out that I have yet to fully set up the memorial space in our home for Loki, for example, and that stung despite its factual truth.

I feel like allowing myself more time would be helpful. But now I'm emotionally invested in my potential adoptees and feel guilty about that too, haha.

Sorry to gush here about what are essentially personal problems.
 

Tik cat's mum

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No need to apologise. I myself have suffered anxiety and depression in the past. Still have setbacks now. Your right it's a long journey. I think your husband is absolutely right about a memorial for Loki, if you don't want to have one on display you could make a box with pictures and his favourite toy's, dishes, a lot of people on here have had their bridge boy's and girl's pictures put on thing's like cushions, key rings. And decorations for the Christmas tree. Once you've made the memorial it may help you decide what you want. Grief is different for everyone there's no right or wrong way to grieve. I felt that I needed another kitten almost immediately to fill not replace the hole it left. My hubby didn't he needed time. From what you've said you will make the right decision for you and the kitten's. and if you decide to take time then don't feel guilty your doing it for the right reasons.
 
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WebDragon

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Made the tough call and told the foster mom things wouldn't work out tonight. I'm disappointed, mostly in myself, and my husband is also disappointed because he unexpectedly swung from thinking this was too soon, to being emotionally invested himself in the kitties. Half of me says this is the right thing; that I have more work to do and more of my life to get in order first. The other half says I just missed out on something wonderful, and I only have myself to blame.

The blame game isn't useful though. Hopefully this setback will guilt get me into making the changes and progress I need to make to feel fully prepared and have no doubts for the "next time". Whatever happens it will work out. And in a few days I won't feel so gloomy about what might have been. Those kitties will be adopted for sure; they're so sweet and they have a great rescue organization caring for them, so I'm not worried about that at least.

A pretty crappy way to have spent Valentines Day, but at least there's half-price discount candy tomorrow, hah.

I really appreciate the advice and thoughts you all have left here. I'm looking forward to continue being a part of this community, and hoping to have good news soon about new babies. In the meantime, I do indeed have more work to do to finish Loki's memorial spot.
 

vansX2

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Made the tough call and told the foster mom things wouldn't work out tonight. I'm disappointed, mostly in myself, and my husband is also disappointed because he unexpectedly swung from thinking this was too soon, to being emotionally invested himself in the kitties. Half of me says this is the right thing; that I have more work to do and more of my life to get in order first. The other half says I just missed out on something wonderful, and I only have myself to blame.

The blame game isn't useful though. Hopefully this setback will guilt get me into making the changes and progress I need to make to feel fully prepared and have no doubts for the "next time". Whatever happens it will work out. And in a few days I won't feel so gloomy about what might have been. Those kitties will be adopted for sure; they're so sweet and they have a great rescue organization caring for them, so I'm not worried about that at least.

A pretty crappy way to have spent Valentines Day, but at least there's half-price discount candy tomorrow, hah.

I really appreciate the advice and thoughts you all have left here. I'm looking forward to continue being a part of this community, and hoping to have good news soon about new babies. In the meantime, I do indeed have more work to do to finish Loki's memorial spot.
Time to go shopping for a new kitty. That's a sure thing to boost your spirits. Doing research on a new kitty is half the excitement.
 

Purr-fect

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Made the tough call and told the foster mom things wouldn't work out tonight. I'm disappointed, mostly in myself, and my husband is also disappointed because he unexpectedly swung from thinking this was too soon, to being emotionally invested himself in the kitties. Half of me says this is the right thing; that I have more work to do and more of my life to get in order first. The other half says I just missed out on something wonderful, and I only have myself to blame.

The blame game isn't useful though. Hopefully this setback will guilt get me into making the changes and progress I need to make to feel fully prepared and have no doubts for the "next time". Whatever happens it will work out. And in a few days I won't feel so gloomy about what might have been. Those kitties will be adopted for sure; they're so sweet and they have a great rescue organization caring for them, so I'm not worried about that at least.

A pretty crappy way to have spent Valentines Day, but at least there's half-price discount candy tomorrow, hah.

I really appreciate the advice and thoughts you all have left here. I'm looking forward to continue being a part of this community, and hoping to have good news soon about new babies. In the meantime, I do indeed have more work to do to finish Loki's memorial spot.
Dont be dispointed in yourself. If those kittens were with you right now, imagine how anxious you would be. You did not take the easy way out, that would have been to take the kittens but then worry and be anxious you could not care for them. Instead you did what was best for them and gave yourself more time to heal and mourn Loki.

Im sure you will be a great cat parent....when you are ready.

How about be easying into it with fostering for awhile?
 

Mamanyt1953

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You made the right choice for you, and at this time. That's really all you can do! Get that memorial set up. Job one. That, alone, will allow you to begin to settle and to heal. And do stick around. You don't need to apologize about anything at all. You are not the first, last, or worst of those needing a safe place to vent about such things. We are here.
 

denice

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You will know when you are ready. I think each time that we let one of our companions go it is different. The last time for me was this past December and I adopted a week later but the circumstances were very different. She was 18 and her kidneys had been failing for the last five years of her life. The last few months I went through a couple of sessions of 'is it time' and she would rebound. I had a lot of time knowing that the end was nearing before she actually left. That is very different from a sudden short illness. Give yourself time.
 

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oh, how I empathize with you ! I am sorry for your loss ! we all grieve at a different pace , and there is not time limit on it. I will say, it is not a betrayal to the love and memory of our former kitties to open our homes and heart to a new one, when we are ready. It is only fair to the new kitty we are ready to fully accept them when they come ..so I believe you did what you felt was right for you at that time. Next week may be a different story. No need to rush. the world is never lacking kitties in need of a loving home !! Let me share my experience with you . I hope it will help some. Last year our baby Bella died suddenly following an unforeseen medical emergency. we had her 14 years. To say my husband and I were crushed is an understatement. My husband had a stroke 4 yrs. ago, and is home all the time. She had been his constant companion as our kids are grown and gone. I still work full time (nurse). Our home was so sad and depressing without her. what a void she left . I didn't really want another kitty right away, to be honest. But my husband was growing very depressed . He said " can we get another kitty ?" we knew Bella wasn't coming home, and had both been grieving in our own way. To help him , I agreed. We went to the local shelter. I wasn't impressed with anything they had there.. (nothing could live to my baby Bella !) but he spotted this little tabby he wanted. We went to the greeting room. I was kinda cold about the whole thing. playing along ... the kitty had been spayed the day before and kinda sluggish. they were adopting out all her kittens from her ( maybe she was sad ?) .. she jumped up in MY lap , gave me a pleading look, went to sleep, purring. I fell for her then! My husband laughed and said " we'll take her !" .. we adopted her . This was only 3 weeks after we lost Bella. there was a strange time of grieving Bella and loving Peanut (our new girl) going on at once. But we learned ...you can do it ! we have had Peanut now 8 months and she has been an angel here. not sorry at all we got her , or how soon after Bella's passing it was. it turned out just fine. I hope things will work ok for you as well. you might be surprised !! :heartshape:
 
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WebDragon

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You all have been so kind with sharing your good advice and personal experiences, I really appreciate it!

I also have had some really good conversations with friends and especially my husband, who got to communicate just how much he wanted this not only for me but for himself as well. It gave me the courage to call the foster mom back and ask for a chance to meet the kitties in person, and have them be their own best advocate one way or the other.

After having a nice long visit, we completed the paperwork, and will be bringing our new babies home in just a few days. I'm sure nerves will still eat at me from time to time, but I feel so much more confident doing this now after having the time to process and learn more about how I felt. I know I'll get all kinds of warm fuzzies seeing the little ones in Loki's old places and knowing her love has allowed me to be a better pet parent. For now, this feels like it was meant to be this way. And I'm glad to know I have you all here as a resource in case any bumps in the road arise along the way. Thank you all again, I'm getting a little teary-eyed :D
 

Tik cat's mum

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Congratulations on your new kitties. So glad you had those conversations with the people who know and love you. Don't forget to post plenty of pictures of the new additions, and yep we are here but I've got a feeling you know exactly what you are doing. :thumbsup:
 

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W WebDragon - Hopefully, you'll find it is like getting on a bike after not trying it for say 30 years (not that I have any personal experience with this ...). You certainly can't ride no-handed or pop wheelies like you did 40 years ago, but you still know the basics, and can ride for a while without breaking any bones.

This is the way I felt after having two very old cats pass relatively close to each other. My wife & I have since gone on to get 4 more furkids, all within 6 months of each other! And since the last two were "surprise" additions, it made it interesting.

Good Luck, and yeah, send us the photos!
 
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WebDragon

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You're all so kind! So glad I've finally made the leap into posting here after just being a lurker.

It's been a busy time since we visited the kitties and made the decision to adopt. We've gotten all of the supplies we'll need, but a combination of work and life stuff seems to have reared their ugly heads and made the process to kitten-proof our place a little more rushed than I'd like. I still have a day or so to get their safe room (my office) ready. I've got a whole pile of things in our living room waiting to go to Goodwill; kitten-proofing has been a good excuse to purge things. That's good news at least.

The anxiety is back to hitting hard. I feel it now with lots of unrelated little things (OH NO the internet just went out for a few minutes!). I've had the brief flash of thought, more than once, about calling off the adoption (again). But I know I'll get through this and there's a lot of joy on the other side. Everything will work out, and nothing is insurmountable. And it's been a good exercise to think about what physical stuff and mental baggage in my "full" life I can try to opt out of, to make room for the kitties. Overall this experience has been an unpleasant surprise for me - I felt nothing like this when I adopted my first kitten, so I'm not reliving past trauma or anything. It's disquieting to have these comparisons highlighting a decline in mental resiliency despite my gaining age and experience...

I'm determined to ride this out and let the nerves pass; I'm not sure what else there is to do! Eventually I'll get my brain reigned back in, and by then I'll find that I have two well-adjusted and adorable fluffballs to distract my husband and I from everything else in the world. Hope you all are doing well, and thank you again for your advice and good wishes.
 

Mamanyt1953

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Of course, things are very different this time. You're adopting after a loss...and projecting your heartbreak into the future. I'm glad that you have overcome it, or are working to do so. Because, in the end, the joy of having love is so much greater than the pain of losing it. Perhaps not immediately, but it is.
 
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