I find myself caught in the tension of pushing in to close relationships and pulling away for fear of the pain I know will come when all that’s left are memories.
February and March hold noteworthy grief anniversaries this year.
February 15 was ten years since we lost my dad. March 19 will be one year since we lost our cat, Max.
New grief mixed with older grief.
In this season of remembering, I haven’t found myself as heavy-hearted as I was when each loss occurred.
The weight of losing my dad is different than the weight of losing a cat.
While I miss Max, the pain of knowing he’s been gone one year is drastically different from experiencing the deep ache of facing 365 days without my dad.
As these days have been approaching, I find myself caught in a kind of tension. I feel a strong desire to push in to close relationships with a ferocious need to make meaningful memories and fill my heart with all the joy it can handle. I also feel a sense of pulling away from these same actions for fear of the deep pain I know will come when all that’s left are memories.
We still have our cat, Oliver. He’s super affectionate. He cuddles on my shoulder or lap. He rubs up against my leg. He meows a lot, so we have many daily conversations.
Oliver’s health isn’t great. A year-and-a-half ago, I thought we were going to lose him. He stopped eating and took to isolating himself under the bed. While we were able to nurse him back to health, he has an enlarged liver and won’t live forever.
While he’s here, I want to bury my face in his fur. Some days, I want to sit on the couch and never leave so he can sleep on my lap. Forever.
I have flashes of imaginary scenes where I find him dead. Fear will shoot through my body like a shot of adrenaline. Because Max died so suddenly, I worry the same will happen to Oliver. I’ll be blindsided. I also fear he will get so sick that we will have to choose to have him put down. I don’t know how I would handle it.
In these moments, I feel my heart wanting to pull away from Oliver. If I break the connection now, maybe it won’t hurt so much when he dies.
I do this with my husband, Judah, sometimes, too. How can I give him some of my heart but not all of it? How can I protect my heart so that when he dies, I won’t be completely crushed?
My heart tries to convince me that if I don’t get too close, don’t love too deeply, don’t get too attached, then maybe it won’t hurt so much when they are gone.
The healthiest parts of me know this is not the way. I must go toward those I love. Press in. Open my heart to the fullness of love and connection. Even when other parts of me want to run away and protect my sensitive little heart. Sometimes I feel paralyzed between the two.