On losing my dad.

It’s hard to believe my dad has been gone for over a year (he passed away on June 6th last year). In honor of Father’s Day, I’m reblogging this post I wrote three days after he died.

I never really grieved properly, and may never be able to. We hadn’t been close during the last decade or so of his life. Mostly I feel a bittersweet sadness when I think of him. I hope wherever he is, he is happy. Sometimes I talk to him and I feel like he hears me. For all the problems we had and the distance that had grown between us, I never stopped loving him.

Lucky Otters Haven

dadandme1983
Me and my father, Summer 1983, Dallas, Texas.

I’ve experienced a strange array of emotions since my father’s death on Monday, June 6th. To be more accurate, I haven’t felt too much emotion at all. I used this event to take two days off from work, but not really to grieve, just to reminisce and remember the good times my father and I had together. And yes, there were many good times.

I know the things I’ve written about my parents in this blog haven’t been too flattering, but that’s because of the subject matter of this blog. Essentially, I write it for myself and nobody else. I feel no shame in saying the things I have said, none of which were untrue. And I never identified them or used any real names. I can’t deny they simply were were not very good parents, but for this post, I’ll just…

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Thinking about my dad.

dadandme1983

I have only three pictures of my dad, and only one of us together, taken in 1982 (shown above).    He passed away suddenly on June 6, 2016.    I can’t believe he’s been gone for almost half a year.

My dad wasn’t a very good father.  In fact, he was pretty terrible.   A covert narcissist (though I don’t think he was malignant or evil), or possibly a borderline, or maybe both, he was always codependent to higher level, grandiose NPD women.   At least in my mother’s case this was true.   For all of my childhood and part of my adolescence, he was an active alcoholic and often lost control and become violent and abusive.  Sometimes he really scared me.   His punishments could be harsh and cruel.  He also invaded my boundaries in many ways and seemed to expect something of me that I could not be, but I never knew what that was.

Much like my mother, he could never accept “negative” emotions and always seemed to expect me to act happy even if I wasn’t. So I learned how to fake happiness or at least contentment, but was never very good at it. But there were also times that he wasn’t this way (more on that in a minute).

He also cut me off for years at a time once I became an adult, refusing to have anything to do with me when I disagreed with him or did something that went against his wishes.   The time around my daughter’s birth was one of those times (not because of her, but because of something unrelated we had disagreed about).   Because of that, he never met her until she was 8 years old.   He did apologize for his lack of contact with me.

In spite of these behaviors, my dad could also be very loving.  When he was loving, he could be the sweetest and most understanding dad anyone could ever hope for.  While I always somehow knew my mother’s “love” was fake, I never felt that way about my dad.    When he showed me love, I knew it was really coming from his heart because it just felt like the real thing.  My intuition about these things is usually accurate.   Although his rages were usually scarier and more violent than my mother’s, as a person he scared me less.  He was less cold and could even be very warm.  As disordered as he was, my dad had a heart.  I always felt like I could talk to him, at least when he was sober or in a good mood.  At those times he could be extremely supportive and empathetic. He was very protective of me and used to get so angry when anyone else tried to hurt me.

The problem was he was so unpredictable.  It was so hard to discern when he would be nasty or nice.    So I usually waited for him to be nice to me, rather than seeking it out. He was such a conflicted person.

I loved my dad.  I still do.   Today in church the priest talked about praying for those loved ones who have passed on.    Until now, I hadn’t been able to cry about my dad’s passing.   I experienced a lot of other emotions — shock, anger, rage, regret — but I never really grieved.   We hadn’t been close in years.

But today was different, and I sat there wiping away tears and realizing how much I miss my dad, and feeling so sad because we never had a chance to get together before his death and reconcile or come to  some kind of understanding as father and daughter.  There was no closure.   I never even got to see him in the hospital, and I was unable to attend his memorial service.  There was this vast distance between us (I never went No Contact with my dad).   He never got the chance to see how much I’ve changed and grown.   I know he would be proud; he always told me he wanted to see me thrive and be happy one day. I knew he meant it too.

I hope wherever my dad is right now, he has learned a few things and is working out his demons and his soul is being cleansed.  I don’t believe death is so final that you just go to either heaven or hell and that’s it, because no one is all good or all bad.    I think our souls continue to grow and mature and sin can be cleansed even after death.

I also hope he understands that his youngest daughter, who I know he loved in spite of the terrible way I was raised,  has realized a lot about why things happened as they did, and is now using those lessons to become a better and happier person.   A person who has processed enough of this trauma that she can finally reach out and begin to help others.    I hope he is looking down from wherever he is and is proud of what I became.  I hope he knows that I love him and pray for his spiritual freedom too.  In many ways, both my parents were teachers to me.  Harsh teachers to be sure, but I still learned so much once I realized what I’d been up against.   Framed the right way, narcissists can teach you much about yourself, if you can move on from hating them and try to understand why they did what they did and why it was done to you.

Dad, wherever you are, I miss you and love you….in spite of everything.  I forgive you.

On losing my dad.

dadandme1983
Me and my father, Summer 1983, Dallas, Texas.

I’ve experienced a strange array of emotions since my father’s death on Monday, June 6th. To be more accurate, I haven’t felt too much emotion at all. I used this event to take two days off from work, but not really to grieve, just to reminisce and remember the good times my father and I had together. And yes, there were many good times.

I know the things I’ve written about my parents in this blog haven’t been too flattering, but that’s because of the subject matter of this blog. Essentially, I write it for myself and nobody else. I feel no shame in saying the things I have said, none of which were untrue. And I never identified them or used any real names. I can’t deny they simply were were not very good parents, but for this post, I’ll just leave it at that.

In recent years, my father and I haven’t been very close. Although my father was most likely a Covert Narcissist or a Borderline, he was not a malignant anything so there was no need to ever go No Contact with him. On many levels we were able to communicate and understand each other. I always felt deep down that he really did love me, or at least tried his hardest to love me. As a young girl and teenager I worshipped him (although there were times I grew very angry too, and would tell him I hated him).

During my teens and even into my early 20’s, we always got together on the weekends and it was always a fun, exciting event, no matter what we decided to do. He’d take me out to my favorite restaurants and let me order as much as I wanted to eat, without criticizing my weight or making me feel self conscious. He took me on road trips and all kinds of day-long excursions. I always looked forward to our time together and always felt he took a genuine interest in the things going on in my life. I felt comfortable talking to him about my problems and concerns, when I never felt that way talking to my mom. I knew my dad was far from an ideal parent in many ways, but I did feel his love for me.

In recent years, geographic distance, lack of funds to travel, my dad’s progressive Parkinson’s which made movement and speech increasingly difficult, and personal differences have caused us to drift apart. He remarried in the early ’80s, and his current wife hasn’t always approved of my lifestyle or values. The last time we spent any time together was in 2005. That is a very long time–a long enough time that any intensity of feeling you may once have had begins to fade, even if it’s your own parent.

I knew he hadn’t been well for a long time, due to his Parkinson’s and other problems. But my father tried to take good care of himself, and his extremely devoted wife did everything she could to help him. My dad always, always carried a positive, upbeat, can-do attitude about life and aging. I spoke to him on the phone every month or so (sometimes a bit less) and no matter what else was going on, my dad always sounded happy and contented, and always happy to hear from me.

When I got the phone call from my mother on Friday, I knew his time on earth was coming to a close. His kidneys began to shut down on Saturday and he was admitted to hospice, where he died on Monday. When the call came, I wasn’t surprised. I thanked my mother for letting me know, hung up and remember just feeling sort of…nothing. I went about my usual activities, albeit with a bit of wistfulness. I did spend some time thinking about him, and looking at old photographs of the two of us. But I didn’t feel anything resembling grief or bereavement, and I didn’t cry.

I went online to find out if this lack of feeling was normal. I felt a lot of guilt for not feeling more emotion, for not being able to cry. I read about Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ Five Stages of Grief. The first stage is Denial, which is often accompanied by emotional numbness, similar to PTSD. But I wasn’t in denial! I knew my father was dead. I just wasn’t particularly upset about it. Of course I wasn’t happy about it; I just didn’t feel too much of anything. I thought there must be something terribly wrong with me. When I went back to work this morning everyone wanted to hug me and comfort me which was strange because I just felt…normal. I just wanted to get busy working.

Tonight I think I feel a little more emotion. Not exactly sad, but wistful and nostalgic which is close enough. I rummaged in my closets for more photos, and I found the lovely one of us taken at his home in the summer of 1983 when he was still active and in great health and I was young and sporting big 1980’s hair.

I feel grateful for the good times my dad and I shared. The times we laughed together, watched a movie, ate a delicious meal, took a long drive, and had a heart to heart talk (yes, we did even have those sometimes). We had the same offbeat sense of humor and love of the random, shared a fascination with geography and science, and loved all sorts of word games. No, he wasn’t a great parent, but he wasn’t the worst either, and he was aware he wasn’t a good parent when I was a kid. We had love for each other though, and that’s all that really matters at the end of the day.

Maybe I’m unable to cry because my C-PTSD makes it so difficult for me to access and feel my emotions anyway. I’m going to talk about this in therapy tomorrow.
Or maybe it’s just normal to feel an emotional distance when you and your parent haven’t seen each other in 11 years, and is really nothing to worry about.  I feel some regret that I didn’t have the opportunity to see him one last time before he died.

Dad, I am thinking of you, and I know one day I’ll see you again.

My greatest fear.

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I just read this heartbreaking post, in which a mother commemorates the one month anniversary of her 24-year old son’s death (he had been involved in a terrible auto accident not long before he died that left him unconscious and brain dead).

The article triggered me.  I too have a 24 year old son.  Losing him–or my daughter who is going to be 23 next month–is my #1 greatest fear.    My son lives about 800 miles away and of course has a life of his own, so I can’t keep an eye on him or keep him safe like I could when he was a little boy.    My daughter lives nearby, but once again, she’s an adult and I can’t protect her anymore.   Both of them drive, and thinking of what could happen to either of them on the road sends shivers of fear up and down my spine.   I worry constantly about both of them.  I want to know that they are safe.  Some people think I’m a little neurotic about it, but I can’t help being a worrywart.

Bad things happen in this world.   Sometimes they happen very close to home. Sometimes they even happen to your own child.     There are so many uncertainties in life.  Any of us could be taken at any time, for any reason.

If this happened to one of my children, I can’t even imagine being able to stay sane.  I don’t think I’d even want to live anymore.    I honestly don’t know how parents who have lost a child do it.  How they go on.  How they continue to make coffee, eat dinner, go to work, see a movie.  Even, at some point, be able to smile and laugh again.

A child should never die before a parent.   Not ever.  But it happens sometimes.

My heart goes out to this brave blogger, this mother of a beautiful young man named Anthony who was taken way too soon, the victim of one of those unexpected, tragic things that sometimes happen without warning.     I hope she knows that by posting this, she is in the thoughts and prayers of many.  I’m also sure Anthony is still right there with her, smiling down on her from Heaven with the angels.    I will keep her in my prayers.

Week without therapy.

My therapist had to leave town again because of a death in his family.   He didn’t say what family member and I didn’t ask.   He also left town a few weeks ago because of this same family member, who was probably very ill.  (I don’t know what the cause of death was, illness is my assumption).  I missed my appointment that week too, and was upset about it at the time.   This time, because I knew his relative had died, I tried to show some empathy instead of selfishness.   At least he offered to see me on Monday, instead of making me wait another whole week to see him.   But now I feel guilty about unloading my problems on him, since he’s bereaved and probably grieving.

“Ordinary People”: a case study in malignant narcissism.

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I remember when I first saw this 1980 Academy Award winning movie being quite triggered by it, because the main character, Beth Jarrett (played convincingly by Mary Tyler Moore) reminded me so much of my mother, all the way down to her impatient, flippant mannerisms, fake cheerfulness, and clipped speech. And at the time I felt very much like the teenage son, Conrad (Timothy Hutton), who was clearly suffering from a severe case of PTSD and depression, which no doubt had its roots in his mother’s emotional abuse and coldness.

“Ordinary People” (directed by Robert Redford) is about an upper middle class family from the Chicago suburbs, but the individuals involved are certainly not ordinary–or at least you hope they aren’t. Moore’s Beth Jarrett is a high-spectrum malignant narcissist who cares only about her social position and status and the appearance of having “the perfect family” and “the perfect life.” She is always perfectly dressed and coiffed, and can pour on the fake charm whenever she is trying to impress their friends and colleagues. Beth’s husband Calvin (Donald Sutherland) provides his family with their affluent lifestyle and is a good man who cares deeply for his family but is codependent to his narcissistic wife, who makes endless demands on him to keep up the image of perfection, and you can see from his demeanor it’s destroying him.

Their son, Conrad, is his mother’s scapegoat, and while she never actually says so, it’s clear that she blames him for the accidental boating death of her Golden Child, Buck (shown only in flashbacks). Conrad was with Buck at the time of the accident, and suffers from survivor’s guilt in addition to PTSD which was probably caused by his mother’s horrific treatment of him as well as his guilt over the accident, because he was unable to save his older brother’s life. The movie begins just after Conrad has been released from the hospital after a suicide attempt. I think there is more to Beth’s hatred of her child than her belief he is to blame for Buck’s accident. I think she hates him because he sees the truth about her, and calls her out on it. He is sensitive and able to see through her mask of perfection to the monstrous narcissist she actually is, and she can’t handle that.

From the very beginning, we can tell Beth despises her depressed remaining child. Her attitude toward Conrad is dismissive and impatient, and she makes no attempt to understand and appears to have no empathy for the emotional turmoil he’s in. She always puts her own needs ahead of her son and husband, and berates Calvin for attempting to understand his son’s pain. There’s not one moment where she shows the slightest shred of sympathy or love for him, and yet on the surface, no one would call her abusive, because of the mask of normality she always wears. Here’s a scene where Conrad attempts to talk to his mother about why they never had a pet–you can see how disconnected Beth is from Conrad’s (or her own) emotions, and Conrad’s hurt comes out as rage.

There’s a heartbreaking scene where the grandparents are present and Calvin is taking pictures. When he asks Beth to pose with her son, she glibly changes the subject to avoid having to SAY she doesn’t want her picture taken with him, but her disgust is obvious. Calvin insists, and Beth smiles with gritted teeth as she coldly stands next to her son. Conrad, who is sensitive, picks up on his mother’s hatred but tries to smile anyway. Beth, still smiling her fake smile, demands that Calvin give her the camera so she doesn’t have to have her picture taken with Conrad, but Calvin keeps insisting. Conrad, fed up and hurt, loses his temper and screams “Give her the goddamn camera!” It’s scenes like this that so brilliantly depict the subtle emotional abuse a malignant narcissist mother inflicts on her most sensitive child.


The camera scene.

Conrad begins seeing a psychiatrist, Dr. Berger (Judd Hirsch) who begins to get Conrad to open up about his feelings and show his anger. He also begins to date a girl he met in band practice (Elizabeth McGovern), who is upbeat yet understanding and helps bring Conrad out of his shell.

Calvin and his mother seem to be constantly arguing. Calvin tries to referree, but can’t seem to appeal to his wife’s loving nature, because she apparently has none. After one of these arguments, Conrad calls out his mother for never having visited him in the hospital, adding that “You would have visited Buck if he was in the hospital,” to which Beth retorts, “Buck never would have been in the hospital!” This is a clear implication of the higher esteem she held her older son in, who she believed would never have “gone crazy” and had to be hospitalized. Unlike Conrad, Buck would have enhanced, rather than diminished, the image she had of having the perfect life and perfect family.

Beth’s evil really comes out when they go on vacation to Texas to visit with some of Calvin’s colleagues. While golfing, Beth sweetly suggests to Calvin they go on another vacation–which would be during Christmas. Calvin agrees, but suggests they should bring Calvin along with them because he might enjoy the trip. To this, Beth flies into a narcissistic rage and loudly berates her husband for always trying to include Conrad in everything. During this rage, she projects her own anger and selfishness onto her husband, who unsuccessfully tries to stand up to her. Later in this clip, there’s a chilling scene after Conrad’s parents return home and Conrad tries to give Beth a hug. Beth’s face stays cold and hard and you can feel the hatred and disgust she has for her child while she barely returns his embrace at all.


The golf scene and “the cold hug.”

Conrad finds out his friend Karen from the hospital (Dinah Manoff) has committed suicide. Frantic, he makes an emergency appointment with Dr. Berger, and shows up in his office in a broken state. He rages and then sobs uncontrollably and everything comes pouring out: the whole story about the night Buck died and how he blamed himself, his mother’s hatred for him, and how he was never good enough. Dr. Berger listens and holds him like a parent would a child, and finally Conrad begins to calm down.

Gradually, Calvin becomes more aware of his wife’s malignant narcissism and is beginning to doubt her ability to love anyone but herself. One night Beth finds him crying alone and asks him why he is crying. Calvin asks Beth if she really loves him and she gives him a non-answer, saying “I feel the way I’ve always felt about you.” Calvin admits he is not sure he loves her anymore. He’s beginning to see the soulless monster she really is. Early in the morning, Beth leaves for good, not saying goodbye to her husband or son, leaving them to fend for themselves and try to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives together. No doubt both are much better off this way.


Calvin’s realization and confrontation with Beth.

This is one of the most convincing and well acted movies about the havoc a malignant narcissist mother can wreak on her family I have ever seen, and 35 years later, it still hits home because of the uncanny similarities I see to my own mother (who was not as outwardly rejecting or quite as malignant as Beth Jarrett). Every one of the 9 DSM indicators of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is evident in Beth. If anyone is interested in studying the myriad ways a malignant narcissist inflicts their abuse and scapegoats their children, this movie is the best case study I can think of, outside of having to deal with one yourself. Of course, not all malignant narcissists are upper middle class like Beth is, but even though the specific words and actions may differ from one social class to the next, the manipulations and abuse are always the same.


This trailer shows other scenes of the way Beth emotionally abuses, gaslights,projects, and triangulates against her surviving son.

Chunky (Chunks): RIP 2003 – June 20, 2015

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I am very sad right now and this will probably be the only thing I write tonight.
A couple of hours ago, my fat cat Chunks died. I think it was cancer, most likely a tumor that eventually blocked her intestines.

I got her in 2011, when she was 8. She was already middle aged, fat but sassy, and while she loved her people (especially me) she used to show my other kitties (and dog Daisy, then Dexter) exactly where they stood. One of the things she loved to do was suck on my fingers at night. She was probably dreaming of kittenhood, being fed by her mom, when she did that.

No matter how many low fat diets she was put on, or how many reduced feedings, she kept getting fatter. When I could afford to, I took her to the vet and he put her on a special diet for awhile but it didn’t work because she didn’t like the bland Science Diet he gave her.

Generally though, she was healthy–as an overweight middle aged lady can be. Occasionally I’d give her a little catnip and that would perk her up and she’d run around the house making everyone laugh because it was so unexpected and she looked so funny running around like that.

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The past few weeks I noticed she was losing weight. She started vomiting more than usual (she always puked a lot because she ate too fast) but not excessively so. I tried putting her on a blander diet and giving her smaller portions. But she started to become lethargic last week and went off her feed. I couldn’t find any vets who wouldn’t charge and I couldn’t afford to take her to one, but she didn’t really seem that uncomfortable. I spent more time with her and brought her up on my bed at night to sleep with me. She hadn’t done that in awhile.

Yesterday she stopped eating. This morning she vomited something that looked and smelled like feces. I knew her time had come. There wasn’t anything to do but wait.

She slept most of the day and at about 3 PM I heard her cry in pain. I rushed into the living room where she lay, and dark brown, almost black blood was coming from her mouth. Normally something like that would gross me out (I’m a pretty squeamish person) but when it’s someone you love, it doesn’t. You heart breaks for them of course, but the sight of blood or bodily fluids isn’t disgusting, not when there’s love there.

She went unconscious and started to convulse badly. I cried as I sat down on the floor next to her and petted and stroked her as she finally went across the Rainbow Bridge. I said a prayer and told her I was sorry I couldn’t have done more. I told her I loved her.

She didn’t suffer for long, only a minute, and the spot where she died was the exact same spot my dog Daisy died 2 1/2 years ago. Wiping away tears, I read the copy of The Rainbow Bridge, and then found a cardboard cat carrier to lay her in, put a towel on the bottom, and covered her with a little dog-and-cat printed blanket.

I’ll miss you, Chunks.

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Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….

Author unknown…

How could someone even survive this?

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Credit: http://dark.pozadia.org

I just read a comment on a forum about narcissism that made me want to throw up.

A woman who had been scapegoated all her life by her malignant narcissist mother and had gone No Contact said her adult son had been found dead (she didn’t say what the cause of death was). She says her mother never had the slightest interest in her grandson because any child this woman bore couldn’t possibly amount to anything. She never sent him a birthday or Christmas gift, or even so much as a card. She had never even come to see him when he was born.

The woman received no condolences from her mother after her son died. Instead, three days after his death, on the day of his inquest, she found out from relatives that her mother had gone out to celebrate with other family members and friends. Although the reason for the outing wasn’t her grandson’s death per se, she was told by a relative that her mother said “that stupid bitch got what she deserved.”

Wow. Just wow. Talk about lack of empathy. How could anyone be that callous? Losing a child is bad enough (I don’t think I could survive if that happened to me and I marvel at anyone who doesn’t lose their mind after losing a child) but to have YOUR OWN MOTHER–No Contact or not–say something like that is just so evil it’s beyond my comprehension. A mother who would say something like that upon her own child’s bereavement doesn’t deserve to live. Incredible.

I think if that happened to me I wouldn’t want to live anymore. Driving her own daughter to suicide was probably this so-called mother’s intention.

I feel like I’m a bad friend.

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Tonight on a whim I looked up an old Facebook friend I hadn’t talked to since 2012 (we had been close from 2009-2011) and was shocked and very upset to learn that she died this past September of Merkel cell carcinoma. She’d had to have part of her jaw and her lips removed and I even saw her post that first announced her terminal cancer diagnosis. She asked for prayers.

I never knew. I never bothered to check in on her until tonight and felt just awful about not having been there at all for her while she was in so much pain and dying. I left a post on her wall (which is still up) telling her to rest in peace and how sorry I was. What else can you say to a dead friend you abandoned? Sure, she was only a Facebook friend but I still feel like an insensitive heel.

About two years ago, another casual friend, someone I had actually known through work who ran a blog about living in poverty in the United States, and who was known to have suffered from major depression, committed suicide. I hadn’t talked to her in several months, and it was her husband who posted about her death on her wall. I learned this horrible news THE DAY AFTER she killed herself. All I could do was offer some kind words to her bereaved husband, who had loved her very much and was understandably devastated. I felt ashamed at not having talked to this woman during the months prior to her suicide and was almost too embarrassed to say anything to her husband.

I always seem to find out bad news about friends and people I used to know on Facebook, which is another reason I don’t like Facebook too much.

But neither of these things are as terrible as the way I treated a close friend of mine from back in the 1980s. Robert was gay and he was one of my best friends for several years. We used to have a blast together, and were even roommates for awhile. I remember planning his 21st birthday party and how much fun it turned out to be (and I hate parties!)

But Robert was also promiscuous and brought strange men home while we were roommates. He also developed schizophrenia around this time, and due to both his bringing men I didn’t know to the apartment and his declining mental condition, I had no other choice but to move out. We continued to remain in touch occasionally even after I married, but over time, as friendships do when lives go in different directions, we lost contact and stopped speaking.

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Just after my son was born in 1991, I received a phone call from Robert’s sister. She told me Robert was in the hospital and very close to death. He had AIDS and had lost his vision and his mind, and was no longer able to feed himself and had to be cared for like an infant. It occurred to me he probably already had AIDS during the time I knew him. I was shocked at the news and promised to come visit him in the hospital, but I never did. In all honesty, I was afraid to see him like that and chickened out, even though I had intended to go.

He died two weeks later. His sister called again and invited me to the funeral. Again, I didn’t attend because of the guilt I felt over having abandoned him and never visited him in the hospital.

I realized later how selfish this was of me, only caring about my own needs and feeling like seeing him like that would be too upsetting and just plain weird. My friend needed me when he was dying and I let him down. I never forgave myself for that and still pray for God to forgive me for my selfishness. I’m sure He has, but I never really forgave myself.

That’s why I feel like I’m a terrible friend and maybe don’t deserve to have any.

Do cats feel empathy?

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I don’t care what some religious people say–I believe animals have souls. How can you look into the face of your dog or cat and not just KNOW it’s there?

But this is not a religious or philosophical discussion of whether animals have souls or not. It’s also not about dogs (who definitely have a form of empathy, the way I see it).

This is a little story that shows that cats may have empathy, at least some cats.

A woman whose house I clean (I’ll call her Judy) had a beautiful shorthaired gray cat named Dusty. Dusty was 14 and by the way he moved, you could tell he was getting up there in years.

A month ago, Judy described the way Dusty always sits on her lap when she’s reading or looking out the window. Dusty has given her a lot of comfort since her husband of over 30 years died right around the holidays. Since the day she lost her husband, Dusty has always been right there, sitting on her lap, and sleeping curled up next to her at night.

She told me an incredible story. One day Judy was crying hard because she was missing her husband so much. Dusty came over to her, gently placed his paw on her face, and she looked up to see him gazing at her sadly. She told me Dusty’s eyes looked full of tears. According to scientific evidence, humans are the only known species (except elephants and possibly some apes) able to shed emotional tears. But I’m not so sure. I swear I used to see my dog Daisy get tears in her eyes when she was punished and knew she’d been naughty, and I’ve seen this in other dogs too. But cats? It could be–or maybe Dusty is just a very special cat.

Judy cried into Dusty’s fur for a little while, and Dusty just sat there in her lap while she stroked him. When she was done crying, he looked up at her and then, amazingly, licked the tears from her face.
Dusty felt Judy’s sadness and knew exactly what she needed.

Last week I went back to Judy’s house I noticed Dusty wasn’t there and I asked her about him. She started to tear up and gave me the sad news. Dusty had to be put to sleep because he had developed kidney disease.

I felt awful. I didn’t know what to say, so I just quietly said, “I’m sorry.”
Dusty gave a lot of comfort to Judy in her time of loneliness and grief. Now she must move on.

Dusty certainly seemed to have empathy. I do wonder if intelligent animals like dogs and cats can feel empathy for their loved ones. I think they can and I think this story proves it.

For further reading, here is an interesting article about empathy in animals, that concludes they can feel it. Dogs in particular can be empathic, but it’s been seen in other animals as well, even chickens.