Sometimes it feels like the last two years have flown by, and other times they seem to have lasted an eternity. It was two years ago that we lost a loved one to suicide, right at the brink of a global pandemic – which hindered our ability to grieve as a family.
The spring of 2020 is a blur, with lots of tears and anger and guilt over the loved one. I made hundreds of face masks as the country locked down, to stay busy and offer safety to others in a time of great fear and confusion. As the family began to move forward, the loved one’s house became our responsibility. My husband and I took on the cleaning and fixing of the house as both a necessity and to help us heal. Every load of trash, coat of paint, and repair helped patch our hearts. We brought hope and new beginnings to a house that had experienced the exact opposite.
While fixing up the house, we also built a new soap studio for me at our own residence. When the other house became too much, we’d come home and do a bit on the little studio. Then we’d tromp back to the other house and fix something else. This is how most of 2020 passed, and I was able to move from anger at the loved one’s passing to a deep sadness that we all missed some sign of their distress. Neither the Mr nor I ever worked from home, so our daily work lives continued their usual routines, while friends and family hunkered down at home we kept commuting on empty freeways and trains to empty offices.
Late in 2020 the family welcomed a baby, a ray of sunshine when everyone needed it most. The holidays were not the usual big-family affairs, with folks opting for smaller gatherings in light of the ongoing pandemic, but we mustered on. We counted our blessings and hunkered down for the winter, hoping that 2021 would rise anew.
I should have known better. In January 2021 my cat passed away as a result of kidney failure. She’d been ailing for about a year, and it was hard to see her go.
We finished up the most critical of house repairs in the spring of 2021 and our son moved in with his young family. A fenced yard, school nearby, and close proximity to a set of grandparents made it easier to accept the small floorplan.
The summer of 2021 saw some return to normalcy in the family; we of course missed the loved one greatly, but we were able to talk about the loved one and remember good times with them. We finished up my soap studio, and decided not to take on any other large projects for a little while. An unusual heat wave finally convinced us to buy air conditioners for ourselves and for the other house.
And then the fall of 2021 brought more losses to the family; a cousin took his own life and once again we were mired in the what-if’s. Just two months later his father, our uncle, passed after a long illness. On the heels of those, two days before Christmas our daughter lost her cat, her emotional support animal, to a sudden illness. Though the cat was my daughter’s, I loved that little beast and she gave me comfort after my own cat passed. Losing her was double the grief, my own and the pain of seeing my daughter’s grief.
The 2021 holidays carried a sadness with them as we looked for the missing family members. Our arms felt empty and our hearts were heavy. For the first time in my entire life our house did not have a pet; it left a larger hole than I expected. Pets have always provided comfort when I’m sad or stressed.
Ever the optimist, I hoped 2022 would bring more joy than loss. Earlier this month my oldest son asked if I was ready to welcome a new cat into the house. He had a friend that wanted to find a home for a stray cat that has been living in the woods. My heart was still tender, but I sat with it and determined that yes, I needed to give this cat a chance. It’s a risk, taking in a stray – but every day is a risk, isn’t it?
Three days ago we brought home a very scared cat. We are allowing her space to get used to us and the sounds in our house, letting her hide when she needs to. Part of me wants to hurry this process along, but I know it takes time, and she’s had her own trauma. It feels good to help out an animal in need, and though it’s bittersweet (I can’t help comparing her to the two cats we so recently lost), it’s also wonderful getting to know this fierce little creature. She’s a survivor, like us. We don’t know her story, but we’ll help her write a safer, warmer, loving next chapter.