Sorry (not sorry) for another heavy one, but it’s been an intense summer. This past week I had to help my cat, Beau, transition out of this life. He had cancer. I adopted him seven years ago when I was still working at the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office as a Victim Advocate and he made the car trip across the country with me in 2013 when I moved to California. Letting him go was challenging, but definitely the compassionate choice. Thankfully, because I knew it was coming, I set myself up with as much care and comfort as I could reasonably plan for.
Here’s what helped in advance, day of, and is continuing to help in the aftermath. Maybe this will help for pet transitions, human transitions, or any other event in your life that could result in grief.
Scheduling the day was helpful. The vet assured me I could bring him in at any time with no warning — they’d treat it like an emergency appointment and bring him right in — but I liked the idea of having a date and time. It gave me the space to ask my boyfriend to give me a ride and support me through the process, to reach out to trusted friends to let them know what was going on, and to plan some dedicated time with him to say goodbye in the days leading up to the procedure. Because I find spirituality resonates with me at this point in my life, I also set up an appointment with my energetic healer, Katherine, so that we could clear any emotional blocks that either he (Beau) or I were holding around his transition. Several of my other energetic/meditation/spiritual friends offered to “tune in” at the scheduled time and send their collective good vibes. A total of eight people offered to send their love. I also bought food in advance and made sure I had plenty of cannabis supplies (in various forms) on hand.
The day of
I packed supplies for the vet’s office: calming kitty treats, crystals, clearing spray for making sure the space was free of negative energy, and a song that I wanted to play while the procedure was taking place. Boyfriend B picked me up and drove while I puffed on a 1:1 vape on the way. My hands were already shaking slightly, and I wanted to take the edge off the anxiety.
Once there, we settled into the consultation room, which was much warmer and friendlier than the normal exam rooms. I sprayed the space and set up the crystals, then plugged my phone into a speaker so we could play the song I’d chosen. I said goodbye, told him I loved him, and the vet performed the procedure. I cried, and my boyfriend brought tissues back to the car with us. I smoked a joint, GG #4, so I’d be hungry for food. We went to the beach and processed for a few hours before heading back to my house. Weirdly, I didn’t cry at the restaurant or at the beach. I was surprised, but trying to just be present with whatever was true for me at the moment rather than judging my feelings. When we got back to my apartment, I had my first experience of my cat not greeting me at the door, and I broke down. Hard.
My boyfriend gently pointed out that I was probably in shock for those first few hours afterward. I cried. He laid me down in bed and covered me with the 25 lb. blanket he bought me. (Side note, for all of you anxiety sufferers — this thing will change your life!) I cried more. We diffused some lavender and copaiba essential oils, which are high in linalool and beta-caryophyllene, respectively. He even drew me a bath, and I was able to soak in a 3:1 THC:CBD infused bath with essential oils and sea salt.
After Boyfriend B headed home, I fell asleep wrapped up in that heavy blanket. Around 4 a.m., I woke up wide awake. I cried even more. Letting myself cry without judgment was helpful. I made myself a cup of Kikoko Tranquili-Tea, which has THC and CBN (a sleepy cannabinoid). That combination finally allowed me to fall back asleep until a more reasonable time of the morning.
Since then, I’ve noticed my appetite has been slow to recover. Sometimes smoking or dabbing before a meal is the only thing that allows me get to food into my stomach. When I’m feeling restless and sad, cannabis is the thing that I reach for instead of Xanax. I’ve had multiple massages, which helps me stay present and grounded in my body, and my dad even took me for a mani/pedi while I was visiting him on the East Coast.
I have essential oils and cannabis with me pretty much at all times, and I have a few amazing friends checking in on me at regular intervals, reminding me that it’s okay to feel my feelings, and to remember to drink water and take care of my body. Having a grief support team is invaluable. The best thing they’ve done is make specific offers of what kind(s) of support they’re available for. One of my friends offered to have Postmates deliver food to my house if I didn’t feel like cooking, while another is helping me with a memorial art project. That way, the onus isn’t on me to “reach out if I need anything,” because to figure out what I need, who might be available to meet that need, and actually sending that text message is often beyond my capabilities.
Most of all, though, cannabis has helped me stay calm, sleep when I need to, and eat even when the thought of food is a challenge. I’m grateful to have had such a robust tool kit at my disposal as I navigate my grief process.