Heartbreak on top of isolation: losing a pet during coronavirus

Heartbreak on top of isolation: losing a pet during coronavirus

“So glad to have Lizzy now,” I wrote in my journal in early April as the second week of Illinois’s stay-at-home order was ending. Human company and touch were off limits for the indefinite future, but I had my sweet kitty.

Now Lizzy is gone, and I’m writing through tears.

In my last post I said that Lizzy’s inflammatory bowel disease had worsened abruptly. Last Tuesday her vet advised that it was time to let Lizzy go.

It’s always hard to lose a beloved pet, but it particularly stinks now during social isolation. Friends and family members can console me only by phone and email; even if we were to get together, hugging would be taboo.

The living being on whom I relied to get me through seclusion is gone. I’m on my own at home.

When I lie down in bed, there isn’t a furry body snuggling at my shoulder, reaching her paw over my arm and drawing it closer.

The furry body isn’t on my lap when I read the morning newspaper. We had a routine. If she finished her breakfast before I did mine, she would go to the reading chair and wait, jump down when I approached, and after I sat down jump into my lap, where she would stay until I folded up the paper.

Never again will I hear a sassy meow when I’m at my desk and look down to see Lizzy staring up at me, wanting attention or food. Never again will she plop down in the center of the yoga mat as soon it’s unrolled. Never again will I see a lump under the bedspread (I never figured out how she burrowed under the cover of a made bed).

Lizzy was a special cat, one of the vet techs consoled me after the euthanasia last Thursday. I agreed. Lizzy was feisty yet chummy, affectionate but not clingy. She chose when to be cuddly, which was often, but she wouldn’t stay on my lap if I put her there. She fought her daily pilling but forgot about it and returned to me soon after. Other than her IBD problems, she never caused trouble.

She talked to me like we were having a human face-to-face conversation. We could go back and forth several times, her meowing in different tones that I tried to interpret.

Coronavirus or no coronavirus, I’d miss her dreadfully. There’s an extra sting now, though. I’m more conscious of the isolation. A layer of personal grief has landed on top of the feelings of anxiety, worry, and uncertainty.

The loss of Lizzy comes after 11 difficult months in my family’s life: My parents’ stays in the hospital and nursing homes for rehab. Moving them into assisted living, and my dad’s unhappiness with the move. Cleaning out and selling their home. My dad’s death in December. Worrying about my mom in assisted-living lockdown only three months after she lost her husband.

A silver lining is that losing Lizzy has made me more empathic to my mother. Earlier I couldn’t begin to understand how devastating it is to come into an empty home after losing the person with whom you lived for nearly 72 years. Perhaps it’s insensitive to compare the loss of a cat with the loss of a husband, but I think I understand a bit more how Mom feels.

I’ll get through one day at a time, propped up by consoling phone calls and emails. I long to see my friends, but even when we can get together, it will be six feet apart. It will be weeks before I again feel the touch of a living being.

Last Wednesday, instead of curling up on my lap, Lizzy sat facing me and staring at me. I figured she was trying to tell me something, which I chose to interpret as agreeing it was time.

It was the right time, but what a bad time. Lizzy, how I miss you.



“[During intelligence briefings] the president veers off on tangents and getting him back on topic is difficult. He has a short attention span and rarely, if ever, reads intelligence reports, relying instead on conservative media and his friends for information. He is unashamed to interrupt intelligence officers and riff based on tips or gossip he hears . . . Mr. Trump rarely absorbs information that he disagrees with or that runs counter to his worldview . . . Directly challenging him, even when his numbers are wrong, appears to erode Mr. Trump’s trust, and ultimately he stops listening. . . . [G]etting Mr. Trump to remember information, even if he seems to be listening, can be all but impossible, especially if it runs counter to his worldview.”
New York Times


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  • Marianne, I'm so sorry for your loss. I don't think you're being insensitive at all -- you're using the comparison you have. Good for you. Hang in there.

  • I'm very, very sorry for your loss of sweet Lizzy. Our beautiful dog Peaches passed away on March 11 and it's been very difficult without her. I don't even have words for how much I miss her, but for lack of other words, I miss her every minute of every day. Thank you for posting this. I am so deeply sorry that you're experiencing this heartbreak, too.

  • My condolences to you as well. I'm sorry that you have had to go through the entire period of isolation without Peaches. Best to you.

  • Thank you for your understanding, Margaret.

  • In reply to Marianne Goss:

    You're welcome. Feel free to e-mail me privately if you would like to,

  • Marianne, my heart goes out to you. There is never a good time to lose a beloved pet, but at this time it seems especially cruel. I am also dealing with the slow decline of an elderly cat, who also has IBD in addition to other conditions. I hope you know there are online support groups for pet loss and other things that help with coping, like books and audio programs. They gave me tremendous comfort when my seemingly healthy 8-year-old cat died suddenly some years ago. It can really help to communicate with other people who are going through the same thing, even if it's not face-to-face. Good luck to you. Lizzy was lucky to have you for her mom.

  • Thank you so much for your caring message. Good luck with your cat. I was able to manage Lizzy's IBD until the last couple of weeks.

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