I once had a cat named Tiger. He was a part of our household for 10 years. You notice I didn't say he was a part of our family. Not because we didn't care for him and make every attempt to make friends. Tiger just wasn't interested in making friends. He was an antisocial cat. Not evil or scary- he just had no real use for people in general and was prone to being "up close and personal" only when he wanted something from us. Come to think of it I know a few people like that - but I digress.
Well Tiger was a cat we rescued from the pound but the fact that we saved his life and gave him every luxery a cat could hope for was totally unimpressive to him. He came into our home with a sense of superior entitlement and never wavered from that general attitude. Come to think of it my kids resembled that same attitude from time to time. I digress again. Sorry.
Well, one fateful night about a year ago Tiger - who loved the great outdoors begged to be let out. He was a mouser! He would proudly catch mice and spit them out on the sidewalk for David (my husband) to find when he came home from work. David would always praise him and scoop up the dead rodent so I would not get all hysterical about it. A curious sidebar: When David died Tiger went through a year of mourning. For one solid year he caught not a single mouse. On the anniversary of David's death I came home to find a mouse on the sidewalk and Tiger close by waiting to see if I would reward him. I didn't. You get more of what you celebrate and I did not want to add scooping up dead mice to my daily routine. I did not however, scold him because he clearly had respected a widow's grief and his "master's" death- for one solid year! Pretty good for an antisocial cat! So Tiger went outside and somewhere in the woods he met his match. Some critter bigger and meaner than him got ahold of his tail and the wounds were pretty extensive. We rushed him to the vet and after examining him informed me that they could not put Tiger back together again. I gave them permission to end his suffering which seemed to be pretty intense. Now here's the thing I find quite strange.-
I did not like Tiger. He was generally more trouble than he was worth. He was a wining, annoying, antisocial cat. But when he died...I cried. Hard. Long. Loud. I asked my psychologist friend what that was all about. (sidebar: If you don't have a psychologist friend you should get one - they are useful!)She told me that it was not uncommon that a small loss- even years later- can trigger the same response as the larger loss. Feelings of loss trigger a floodgate of emotion that seem disproportionate to the situation. Displaced grief. My tears for Tiger were actually tears for David and memories of how he cared for Tiger - and for me. David loved Tiger. So I did my best to tend to the cat and scoop up his "trophies" and give him a humane death. It cost me $300.00 to "kill" the cat! Even in death Tiger was annoying!
Displaced grief overtakes me from time to time. I never know when it's going to strike or with what force. At least now I know whenever my emotions seem to be more intense than the situation calls for that it is normal. I'm not crazy or emotionally unstable - just grieving. And it does seem to get better with time. Then again, I still have Fred - our oldest and dearest cat who laid in David's lap during those last days of David's life. When Fred dies... it could get messy.
If you're dealing with some displaced grief - it's OK. It's annoying and confusing but you are not crazy and you will be OK... in time. Go ahead and cry or shout or whatever seems to help and then get on with life. I'm moving forward and I do manage a smile everyday as I walk up the sidewalk and don't have to stop for the rodent removal ceremony.
Hang in there.