QESB - Unpacking My Closet: Turning a Corner

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Captain’s Blog: Stardate 42118.7

It’s been over two years since I had to say goodbye to my dear, beautiful B’Elanna “Lana” Baer. One of the biggest challenges for me has been learning about and processing through the grief. People’s responses to my sorrow have ranged from heartfelt understanding to slightly awkward side-eye of people who think of pets as possessions rather than family members. 

To be clear, I am aware that Lana was not birthed from my loins. And while she was not my child, she was and will always be a life I nurtured, raised, and protected for fifteen years. I was with her through growth, heat, old age, and illness. She supported me through break-ups, depression, loneliness and pain, not to mention several cross-country moves. Her life enriched mine in countless ways.

I recently read (and cannot find to link to, I apologize) something about grief that I think was the most apt translation of how I’ve continued to feel since I had to let Lana go. I will paraphrase here: Grief is love. An excess of love. Grief is immense and strong love that has no where to go.

This has meaning to me because I can feel myself getting frustrated and angry at times when I have tried to place this love in other places and directions to compensate for her loss. I’ve also kept her cat tree in the bedroom since we said goodbye. 

She used the tree sparingly, and I often considered disposing of it while she was still here. Somehow, even if I didn’t say it out loud, whenever I was getting close to tossing it, she would suddenly appear at the top of the six-foot tree and look down at me like, “What? I’m always up here?”

Many people say that the best way to get over the loss of a pet is to rush out and get a new one. I made it very clear to everyone that I was not going to do that. It felt and feels disrespectful to her memory and, until I can shake that, I cannot adopt another cat. On top of that, my schedule has gotten increasingly complex, so I wouldn’t have the time to give a new cat the play and interaction they would need. 

So, I know that this cat tree will not have a practical use in the near future. 

Today I have move the tree out of the bedroom. My heart rate is up. I’ve shed some tears. And I’m not quite ready to take it out of the condo, but it is my intention to move it out by next Friday. I’m hoping to repurpose that corner of the bedroom which will then lead to a few additional changes on the other side of the room. 

I have asked Lana for permission to let this go. The next step will be to finally put a picture of Lana in our space. Her ashes are displayed but there are no images of her. It’s time for me to see her again, so I can feel that love and send it straight into her picture, into her memory, and into the love and light and joy she brought me for so long.

As I unpack my mental closet, I am letting go of the pain of this loss. This ties into my QESB because I have been inspired by the work these men have done with those who have lost a father, or a grandmother, or both, and how they free the space for the future while honoring and embracing the love from the past. Focusing on the pain denies me the joy of her memory and does her a disservice. Finding the right way to incorporate her love in this home will propel me to the future.