My son lost his cat last week. The tiny bit of relief I felt at the cat’s passing caused enormous gut-wrenching guilt. Meow Meow wreaked havoc on my household, yet his capacity for affection was extraordinary. The loss was profound for my 10-year-old son, Meow Meow’s best friend.
As a child therapist, I knew the “empathic” words to say:
“You are so sad. I know. It hurts, buddy, I get it.”
“You loved him so much and you miss him. It is so hard. It hurts. I understand.”
Yet, my empathy had a minimal impact on Kenny. He was teary, withdrawn, and angry for days. On the third day, he asked, “Why haven’t you cried for Meow Meow, mom?” I rationalized and said, “I’m trying to be strong for you.” Later that week, it dawned on me that was not true. I wasn’t allowing much deep emotion in because I was desperately defending against the profound guilt I felt.