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Countdown to Grief: A Daily Diary of Foreseen Loss

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Love…thy name is cat.

Meet Dice.

(WARNING: Gratuitous floof ahead. You’re welcome, BTW.)

Dice is a magnificently poofy, charming, sassy, and zany Maine coon cat and my temporary roomchonk.

I am hopelessly in love with him, and he’s leaving me in less than 2 weeks.

This voluminous bandit bear arrived as a stowaway with my temporary human roommate, who is navigating a divorce and asked to bunk with me until he found a new house to buy and start his newly single dad life.

I was absolutely thrilled to welcome both of them, not only for the rent assistance, but because at the time, I was profoundly lonely. Lonelier than I’ve been since I was a child who was often considered the odd one out.

In the last several years, a series of events transpired that systematically dismantled and reconfigured the most important relationship and home of my life.

Going from living in a house of 5-7 loved ones with to two dogs and two cats to flying totally solo, while necessary, was the most potent disruption of my anxious attachment need for companionship.

I think I remember the moment that I cast the exact spell to manifest this; I remember in one of my sadder, darker nights, I imagined the Great Goddess bestowing me with some situation that provides two things:

  1. Alleviate my increased financial burden of living alone in this post-COVID econo-pocalypse
  2. A poofy, pudgy kitty pet for whom I would not have to blow my budget on adoption fees, insurance, and caretaking fees

Oh and, a PS to #2: This pet would preferably have an anxious attachment to me so that my egoic need for enmeshed love and attention would get met (listen — at least I’m self-aware).

Somehow, the GG listened and nailed both these birds with one shot. When my friend reached out and asked if he could briefly crash for up to a few months, and oh would I mind if he brought his cat I might have shouted “YES” before he got to finish his sentence.

Dice was shy at first; he hid in my bookcase for at least a week. But slowly, we built trust and now, we’re in love.

And for the last glorious three months, I got to give a cozy respite to an awesome, helpful roommate and a wackadoodle and pleasingly clingy living squeaky toy who makes life in this apartment worth living.

And, I’ve known from the beginning of welcoming them that this amazing situation wouldn’t last. As with all things we love, the end often comes before we’re ready to say goodbye (which is generally never.)

When my roomie announced his good news of finding a home and pending exit, I felt both joy for his new life beginning and a simultaneous insertion of my heart into a meat grinder.

The thing is, after several troubled feline relationships I’ve had in the past, I didn’t think this cat was possible. And I for sure did not expect his adorable dopey expression, green saucer eyes, little pink nose and cow belly, and baby elf chirps to get under my skin so surreptitiously.

Yet, here we are, about to be parted forever during the height of our NRE (new relationship energy, aka honeymoon phase). Whenever I thought that I could never fall in love quickly, I certainly don’t now.

So, why am I writing about this? After experiencing more significant loss in one year than I have in my entire life (three house moves, a house fire, three relationship endings, and another lost cat), I decided that this would be the year I master grief.

Remembering the art of grief

Grief is fundamental cornerstone of human existence; other than frustration over taxes, it is the only inevitable emotion we experience because life in this universe inevitably involves death. Yet, our modern culture has done everything possible to kill death; since we apparently haven’t succeeded, we kill the emotion that accompanies death because it feels so big and unmanageable that we can’t make room for it in our life.

I’ve realized that grief has become so unmanageable because we’ve generally lost the wisdom of gracefully embracing the full spectrum of emotion; our intolerance for negative emotions is sourced from a lack of emotional education by our life teachers and fueled by the pervasive spiritual bypass-y “don’t lower my vibration man” narrative.

“Grief? …Ew. Who has the time?”

This past year showed me that death, loss, and grief have no intention of being placed on my life shelf, so it’s time to face it head on.

I’ve decided to dive into the bittersweet futility of the impermanence of relationships — all relationships. I’m letting go of partners where we’ve gone past the expiration date, donating endless amounts of shit, breaking unproductive habits, and even volunteering to sing for hospice patients.

But this experience will be singular.

Animals, especially floof-chonks, have always been the most reliable, secure, and at times fulfilling attachment relationships of my life as an only child and a preoccupied / fearful avoidant.

Even with my beloved childhood pets, we were never forced to make the excruciating decision to put them down; we were blessed that they all passed peacefully over the rainbow bridge in their own time with minimal suffering in their sunset years.

Oh, and it totally doesn’t help that my 11-year-old son G is absolutely gaga over Dice as well. He’s so cuckoo for him that every time my parents asked us if my roomie found a house yet, G would loudly speak “YES” before I could answer to indicate that he had already found his home…with us.

Urrrrbb…the innocent and heartbreaking denial of youth. Somehow, G is taking the news far more gracefully than I am, because he is already becoming a master of impermanence.

Their tentative exit is July 5th, which gives me only days to prepare myself to be totally unprepared for it. Between that and my vivacious neighbors moving out (who adopted me during my loneliest days this year), I hate knowing that without close friends nearby, my living environment will go back to being incredibly lonely.

The idea of losing my tiny, hard-won community and starting from scratch again starting next month feels overwhelming. And, I have to believe I can do it again, especially as I embark to publish my first book, start a second business, and buy a home by October.

The countdown has already posed an interesting question around how we would treat relationships if we knew how and when they would end.

So I’ve decided to get predictably weird with this and document the gradual and excruciating process of counting down the finite days I have left to enjoy the company of my roommate, but also, this rarefied creature who will be pilfering my heart into his cat carrier in a matter of days.

I aim to answer two bold, insightful, and heartbreaking questions with this experiment:

  1. What do we do when we know exactly how much time we have left with someone we love?
  2. What can this tell us about attachment, and how we may act differently with the people we love without knowing how much time is left?

And I’ll be examining my internal landscape from the attachment lens I use to coach my clients. Why? Because there is evidence to suggest that cats have attachment styles and likely experience attachment system activation and deactivation the way humans do, but obviously in a much more primal level.

Which, from their view, could be a blessing or not.

I expect a lot of blubbering in the coming weeks. I’ve hardly been able to look at him since getting the news without ugly crying while he puzzledly cocks his perfect head to the side. The tears roll even as I type this.

But unavoidably, there are now only three things for certain in my life: death, taxes, and the departure of Dice.

I have an increasing certainty that one reason I survived the trillion to 1 shot at life on Earth this round is to feel all of life’s sharp curves at an 11, and then share about it.

Perhaps writing about this transition is my way of resisting surrendering to the grief by just being and not “doing” my way through it.

Or perhaps, this is my surrender to grief.

And in sharing my journey with the world, that someone out there will feel the resonant twang of a heartstring and for just one moment, won’t feel alone with their feelings of grief and loss.

I’ll begin each day with a brief love note to my poofy paramour and a reflection upon the experience of the day.

So, well, here we go.

The Countdown to Grief Begins

6/18 – T-Minus 18 Days

Dear Dice,

Every morning without fail, no matter how late I extricate myself from my black hole of a bed, your big fuzzy head is ready to greet me the moment I open my bedroom door.

I adore the look of almost surprise when you see me, as if saying, “Oh! I didn’t realize YOU were here! Now pet my belly, slave!”

Which, of course, I’m only too happy to do.

The hardest part about beginning to document the end of Dice’s stay is that it immediately contradicts the first stage of grief that we’d all rather stay in permanently – denial.

If I think too much about what it will feel like when I inevitably open my bedroom door and he is not there to greet me, I start to get swallowed up in a maelstrom of pinching pain and the tears begin.

Knowing that this is the essence of attachment at work is somewhat of a balm, as it’s always helped me (as a life scientist) understand the why behind what I’m experiencing.

Perhaps that’s because it feels less like something random happening to me and rather, a thing I am actively participating in.

Which, is ultimately my mission for life – where whatever loss or hardship I’m experiencing, that I’m an active participant rather than being mercilessly taken for a ride by the hand of fate.

I tell you, though, as I write this and observe Dice rolling around on his splendiferous belly, I’m sounding way more evolved than I’m already beginning to feel.

Maybe that’s the real mission.


6/19 – T-Minus 17 Days

Dear Dice,

You don’t know this, but there are so many little quirks and habits you do that I feel like I can no longer live without. I adore your indignation when I don’t play with you first thing in the morning, and you resort to jumping on my kitchen table chair and swatting at me when I walk by.

I can hardly bear to touch your impossibly silky fur and feel your purr rumble under my hand without crumbling into a soggy mess.

I also love when you attempt to murder me on the steps when I’m leaving, complaining when I retrieve you from climbing in my sink and knocking bottles off the counter, or jump on the tub edge between the shower curtain and liner and play “poke the bear”

We do need to talk about the holes you’re leaving in my clothes when you successfully grab me, though. Actually…no we don’t. Carry on, my prince.

What do we do when we know exactly how much time we have left with someone we love?

I recalled there was a movie that bravely (and somberly) poses this exact question, whose ending still chills me to the bone, which was Arrival (heavy spoiler alert).

As the viewer, we don’t realize when we first see the moment when a key character meets a loved one they know they will lose. The realization dawns on the viewer like daybreak toward the end, and we now retroactively attempt to comprehend the profound countdown to grief the character experienced.

We realize in awe that this character decided that the love she knew was possible, even for too short of a time, would be worth losing and decided to love anyway. It’s one of the most gutwrenching and thought-provoking cinema experiences I’ve witnessed.

(PS – if you haven’t seen it and you want your mind to be boggled, expanded, and experience the bittersweet plunge of foreboding joy, make it your next watch.)

While my certain parting with Dice is far less dramatic and non-fatal (thankfully!), I can only imagine what my sorrow will feel like when his calming presence is no longer felt here. All it takes is one little chirp or him flopping over my feet to prompt an explosion of plurpy tears. (That is my own proprietary word).

I’ve already found myself more affectionate, taking every opportunity I can to pet him, chat with him, play with him, film him, and be attempted murdered by him (cue tears.)

I can’t help but wonder how to bring this more into my human relationships, where perhaps I greet people knowing I will one day not be able to. Like the song titled, “I’m gonna love you like I’m gonna lose you.”

Perhaps that lyric is an example of how we should behave in relationships: ever acknowledging that all love stories come to end, so how do we love each other with that sense of gratitude for what we have in this moment?


6/20 – T-Minus 16 Days

Dear Dice,

I knew we’d fall in love from the very first moment I watched you curiously poke around every corner of your new temporary home. You were shy at first, unsure if I were friend or foe. I gave you space to acclimate and didn’t intrude.

But my heart was yours was discovering you hibernating in my bookcase with your tufted paws curled around the shelf edge. Soon my unrequited limerence became mutual star-crossed love; it wasn’t long before you were flopping around the floor asking me for belly rubs, sneaking under my bed and swatting at me during kid bedtime, and barging into the bathroom during my “special cleanse rituals” to yell at me for leaving you unattended to for more than 90 seconds.

When you’re in love with a floof, it’s about the little things.

Little things like watching your shopping bags being invaded while emptied, objects knocked off the countertop while cooking, being attacked from under the bed during yoga, packing luggage around a floof, and being nearly murdered on the stairs during bouts of the zoomies.

It’s amazing the behavior that becomes more endearing when done by our furry family.

Should a human do these things we would likely shit a brick wall. Can you imagine going “awwww” when your kid splays himself across a board game, sending all playing pieces and cards in every direction? Can you imagine finding it cute if one of us adults did that??

But when our floofs do it, it only generates more love and adoration for them. Lucky dogs (and um, cats).

In human and inter-species bonding, it’s these little antics and quirks that end up becoming the thousand gossamer heart strings tightly fastened between us and them. Parents experience a unique form of repeated grieving of these tiny quirks as their child molts and sheds them as they pass through new phases.

It’s like grieving a person you love again and again and welcoming a new one at the exact same time.

Thanks to the last two years, grief is becoming like a dear friend that I’ve stopped from avoiding and started embracing. Just as I knew that when my infant son’s little chirps and squeaks would eventually vanish, I know Dice will mature and age and that magic may fade over time.

The difference is, I won’t get to enjoy the next iterations of Dice as he matures from rebellious kitty teenhood into a little lion king, save for occasional visits.

But, perhaps it’s sweeter to remember him always this way: at the peak of his magic.


6/21 – T-Minus 15 Days

Dear Dice,

I must express something to you – there’s something coming up for me around your relationship with your dad. I was really sad last night when you chose to bunk with him instead of with me.

I have to remember sometimes that I’m not the only human you love, and I try to exercise sourcing my need for companionship from within. I’m working to remember the second agreement and to not take your choices personally.

But in the future, it doesn’t hurt to stop by and swat me goodnight, mkay? I do have needs, you know.

Ugh, I HATE this project!! Already I can feel the cold, steel tentacles of what’s coming clamping around me, forcing me to continually accept that he’s leaving forever.

Is filing for joint kitty custody a thing?


If you enjoyed or were touched by this piece, I’d love to hear it in the comments below, and please share with a friend who could use a pick-me-up (or feel comforted in their own grief).

And if you wish to begin healing your own anxious attachment style and create the securely attached, empowered, and fulfilling relationships of your dreams, book a free consultation. I’d be honored to be in service to you.

Φιλάκια,

Lea


Lea Dawn is an Anxious Attachment Style + Relationship Coach for all relationship types, with a specialty in helping the “poly-anxious” navigate CNM and open relationships. Get in touch about her coaching and speaking services here.

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