Living in extremes

Life is challenging lately. My dad remains ill, in and out (currently in) of the hospital. Then, Wednesday, I had to put my beloved 20+-year-old gray tabby cat to sleep. I could have waited, I guess, but she's been in rickety shape for a long time, and I swore as soon as I thought she was in pain and not having any quality of life I would not keep her alive just for me. But that's easier said than done. I was still in high school when I got her. She'd been my friend longer than any human I still know. She slept by my side through countless illnesses. I cried like crazy when she died. I held her while they slipped the pentobarbital into her vein and felt her last breath shudder in and out. I know it was the right thing to do, but it was really pretty awful. I felt so stressed and sad it almost seemed like I couldn't function anymore ("stop the world I want to get off" kind of thing). Pets just get into your heart. I loved that cat for more than half of my life.

Next day I was woken up with a call that my dad was back in the ER, and I thought, "That thing about God never gives us more than we can handle is BULLSHIT." He's hanging in there. Had some stuff done. Feeling better. But I almost couldn't get out of bed. Then I did, and I had a self-care day. I got a haircut, got a tattoo of my kitty (it's a badass tat), and had dinner with some friends.

Today I worked, and it wasn't bad. I had one patient tell me I was awesome, and the parent of a pediatric patient came out to the desk to say "He just said you were the nicest nurse ever, by the way." Awwww. I was worried I wouldn't be able to keep my shit together enough to work competently, but I could. I know grief over my cat will come in waves and I know the brain is smart enough to hide things from me when I can't deal with them, but today I was able to feel sad but not paralyzed with grief, and I was able to work competently and compassionately with my patients.

Probably I'm in denial. Grief and loss are part of the human condition, and I know that, but I am feeling a little too much loss right now. I keep thinking I miss my cat, but I don't miss her the way she was at the end, just fur and bones. I let her live too long because I didn't see how ill she was. The cat I miss was the beautiful, sleek, energetic sweet cat who has not been in evidence for probably 6 years. I thought I was doing well by her to give her SQ fluids, but I don't know anymore. It ended the same way. Living with pets carries a terrible responsibility. I know I see and deal with death very differently because I'm a nurse and deal with death often. I shudder to think of what would have happened if this cat had died 7 years ago or if my dad were ill then.