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Anticipatory grief for my super senior Chuckie

Posted: Fri Sep 13, 2019 1:56 am
by bucpaul63
My beloved Chuckie was 20 earlier this year. Despite having to contend with hyperthyroidism, blood pressure and the spectre of kidney issues with the meds most of his adult life, he's always bounced back. Until a week ago.

Last Saturday he presented with a lack of stability in his hind legs, causing impaired/limited mobility. I thought it might be the onset of something like osteoarthritis or some such age related issue. I took him to the vet first thing Monday morning. After the vet thoroughly examined him, she told me that the only "treatment" is palliative care. (She wasn't that blunt, she took pains in discussing his situation in detail, I'm just summarising.) The reality of having him pts was discussed as an eventuality and, in the interim, he's been prescribed painkillers while he's still with us.

I've read the Quality of Life questionnaire and the reason I brought him home was that he was still having good days, more so than bad and I wanted him to have a few days of quality time at home before finally letting him cross the Rainbow Bridge. I don't want to draw the process out, keeping him alive for the benefit of my partner and myself. The more I think about it, Chuckie, tenacious as always, has been hanging on because *he* wanted the quality time as much as we did.

Basically, he's been up and down the past four days and over the past 5 or so hours, it's evident I need to get him to the vet and finally allow him to cross. He's not eaten in 36 hours now, he's too weak to even drink water despite my holding/supporting him, and I am administering water via syringe orally every half hour or so.

Amidst the anguish of him being gravely ill and facing the inevitable, I still feel guilty. I don't know why. I lost his brother two years ago, and he was 18 when he fell ill. Devastating as it was, the difference with his brother was that when he fell ill, it was mercifully brief as he took ill and, within 12 hours, it was evident the only option was having him pts. Again, with Chuckie, the past week has been a rollercoaster of good and bad and I knew when it got to the point of hitting "bad" and not returning, I would take him to the vet (if he didn't peacefully pass while sleeping, that is). I try to console myself with something the vet said - that I was clearly doing something right as my cats have lived to 18 and 20, respectively. Still, this does little to offset my raging guilt.

Re: Anticipatory grief for my super senior Chuckie

Posted: Fri Sep 13, 2019 5:30 am
by Mollycat
My heart reaches out to you and Chuckie, raw as it is from making the same heartbreaking choice just 4 weeks ago today. We give and give, until one day all we have left to give is the ultimate gift of selfless love, to let them go in peace and free from a body that no longer works. The curse of being human with long life and medical care is in how many times we have to go through this heartbreak and guilt.

They tell us when it's time and yet we still doubt ourselves. The burden of being human and the power of having choices is a heavy one, when we know we can spare them suffering and can't bear to rob them of one minute of good life. They have no concept of the length of their life, only that they feel well or unwell. It falls on our shoulders to know when everything has been done and we have nothing left to make them feel well again. They go on because they don't know they have choices, so it's up to us to make those choices for them.

My wish for you is that Chuckie will give you his ultimate gift and share with you his great relief as he lets go his hold on life and welcomes the greatest sleep of all for the greatest tiredness there is. They find their own way to put a hand on our shoulder and whisper to our heart, it's ok, it is time, I am ready, if only we can pause tearing ourselves apart with guilt and find the courage to hear them.

Re: Anticipatory grief for my super senior Chuckie

Posted: Fri Sep 13, 2019 6:25 am
by fjm
Mollycat has said it so beautifully. It is an agonising decision, but my own experience has taught me that it is one better made a day too soon than a day too late, once the time has come. My thoughts are with you today, as you prepare to say goodbye to the companion of so many years.

Re: Anticipatory grief for my super senior Chuckie

Posted: Fri Sep 13, 2019 7:20 pm
by alanc
I can only echo what the others have said. It is a hard decision that has to be made. However illogical, we all seem to suffer from guilt at having to make it and a feeling that we have failed them in not being able to magic up a cure.

Re: Anticipatory grief for my super senior Chuckie

Posted: Fri Sep 13, 2019 8:54 pm
by bucpaul63
Thank you all for taking the time to reply.

Chuckie passed this morning. I stayed up all night with him, thinking he would eventually sleep at some stage. It got to 7am and I decided to grab an hour's sleep. When I got up, he passed in his sleep. The more I think about it, the more I think he was hanging in there for me but ultimately wanted me to get some rest so he could finally go to sleep and cross the Rainbow Bridge.

I do have a couple of regrets. The first is that I didn't pick him up and cuddle him one last time. I was worried that moving him at all would exacerbate his pain and I didn't want to subject him to that just to make myself feel better. My second concern is that I wonder if I left it too long before deciding I would take him to the vet to be pts. I knew it would only be a matter of days and if he wasn't pre-empted by the "good days" cresting Wednesday and Thursday, I would have taken him to the vet in the week. I was under no illusions about my terminally ill fur baby getting better, but as I was saying, I honestly felt he hung in there and decided to finally let go. The consolation was that he seemed to go peacefully, there were no seizures, howling, incontinence, etc. When I woke up, he appeared to be asleep and his posture completely relaxed.

Is it possible for one to feel heartbroken and relieved at the same time? The loss is so painful, words can't even describe it yet I still feel a sense of relief that Chuckie and I had quality time and he's no longer in pain.

Re: Anticipatory grief for my super senior Chuckie

Posted: Fri Sep 13, 2019 10:38 pm
by Mollycat
So sorry. Love and light.

No matter how perfectly we do things we always seem to find something to regret. And yet it's what we all wish for, isn't it? For them to slip away quietly in their sleep, to just forget to breathe. As my boy slept on my lap one last time I silently begged him to just stop breathing. To have his natural death, no carrier, no car ride, no strange smells and people. If Chuckie looked like he was just sleeping, there was no trauma in his final minutes, he simply fell asleep and never woke up, then it seems to me he had the perfect end to a long and wonderful life. You were sensitive to his needs to the last moment, respectful of his comfort above your own needs. In the end, maybe the best judge of your regrets is Chuckie himself who didn't choose to hide away (as so many do) but let you share his life right to the end.

It's not unusual for them, and people for that matter, to rally in the days or hours before the end. It's also all too common for them and us to wait for the moment everyone leaves the room. Be kind to yourself in the difficult days to come, heartbreak and relief are close companions.

Re: Anticipatory grief for my super senior Chuckie

Posted: Sat Sep 14, 2019 7:16 am
by fjm
I think there is often relief when the moment you have been dreading finally comes. It does not lessen the pain, but the uncertainty and fear of the unknown are passed, even though the grief remains. I do not think you have anything to regret - he lived a long and happy life, loved and loving to the very end, and you kept vigil with him through his last night until he slipped away painlessly and peacefully in a final sleep. I hope once the first fierce grief begins to pass there is comfort in your many happy memories.