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Les jours passent sans Tounsi [fr]

Les jours passent sans Tounsi [fr]

[en] Days without Tounsi are going by. Less tears by the day. I learned a lot about grief when Bagha died, and I am reaping the benefits today. I think we should be able to wish each other "good grieving", when the time comes. Because knowing how to grieve is such an important skill.

Tounsi en hautUn jour il y aura un jour sans larmes. C’est bête, mais je le redoute. Chaque matin passe un peu plus de temps avant que je pleure mon chat. Je suis en train de me faire à son absence. Et alors que je sais bien que c’est nécessaire, me faire à son absence signifie l’accepter – et je ne suis pas encore prête. Alors je pleure encore.

Je vais bien, compte tenu des circonstances. Vous êtes nombreux, nombreux, à m’avoir fait part de votre sympathie, sur Facebook et ailleurs. Je l’apprécie infiniment. C’est con, hein, mais je vais m’en rappeler: en temps de deuil, ce ne sont pas vraiment les mots qui comptent, mais le fait qu’il y ait des mots. Même les formules convenues font du bien.

Mon appartement est plein de rappels de Tounsi. Je n’ai pas touché à grand chose. J’ai ôté l’élastique qui l’empêchait d’ouvrir le frigo. Petit à petit, je rangerai. Le carton au milieu du salon disparaîtra. Les perchoirs d’observation se rempliront de plantes. Les taches laissées par sa truffe sur la fenêtre seront nettoyées. Les derniers marquages aussi. Je trouverai quoi faire de ses croquettes, des médicaments qui restent, des jouets. Quintus et moi retrouverons un nouvel équilibre, pour le temps qu’il nous reste ensemble.

Avec la mort de Tounsi, je me prépare aussi à me retrouver “sans chat” quand ce sera au tour de Quintus. Le plus tard possible, j’espère. Mais il a quand même 16 ans.

Tounsi et Quintus

Quintus ne semble pas souffrir outre mesure de la disparition de Tounsi, si ce n’est que son absence change le déroulement de son quotidien. Je crois que la présence de Tounsi le stimulait à bouger – je dois donc prendre plus sur moi.

Je repense à Bagha, ces jours. Et je me retrouve parfois à vouloir dire Bagha pour Tounsi. Bagha était jusqu’ici mon chat mort. Maintenant j’en ai deux. Comme je l’avais fait pour Bagha, je veux raconter Tounsi. Mettre par écrit qui il était, ce qui le rendait si spécial pour moi. A la mort de Bagha j’avais un gros regret: ne pas avoir plus de vidéos de lui. C’était en 2010. Avec Tounsi, c’est presque le contraire. J’ai des milliers de photos et certainement des heures de vidéo. Le temps du deuil, pour moi, c’est aussi le temps de prendre le temps d’en faire quelque chose. On verra quelle forme ça prend.

J’avais prévu de monter au chalet lundi. Je vais retarder de quelques jours, histoire d’avoir retrouvé un peu de stabilité ici avant de partir. Ça va être dur à nouveau quand je serai là-haut sans Tounsi.

tounsi au chalet

Bien entendu, ces jours, je réfléchis beaucoup au deuil. Le grand cadeau de la mort de Bagha avait été de pouvoir vivre pleinement son deuil – si vous connaissez mon histoire personnelle vous saisirez l’importance que ça a pu avoir. Maintenant, le deuil me fait moins peur, et c’est peut-être aussi pour ça que j’ai l’impression que ça va “vite” pour Tounsi. C’est un peu déstabilisant.

Je regrette qu’on ne souhaite pas “bon deuil” aux gens. On devrait. Il faut arrêter de voir le deuil comme quelque chose à éviter, dont il faut sortir le plus vite possible, voire fuir en se perdant dans autre chose. Alors certes, c’est nécessaire parfois par moments pour continuer de fonctionner, mais mon expérience est que plus on accepte de s’y plonger, et de sentir les émotions que le deuil nous amène, plus on est justement capable de fonctionner en dehors de ces “montées de peine”, et plus celles-ci sont gérables.

On peut choisir ces moments pour se laisser sentir. J’ai dû le faire ce week-end, totalisant passé 8 heures de route en moins de 48 heures. On ne peut pas conduire quand on est pris par le chagrin. Mais on peut s’arrêter, le temps qu’il faut, s’abandonner au chagrin, et ensuite vient un moment de répit où l’on peut fonctionner. Si on accepte de pleurer, vient un moment où ça se calme.

A l’époque de la mort de Bagha, mon psy m’avait dit qu’une bonne crise de larmes, où l’on pleure sans retenue à grands sanglots, ça dure (physiologiquement) max 20 minutes. En cherchant une source pour ce chiffre, je suis tombée sur cette page “comment pleurer pour vous soulager” qui semble plutôt bien faite (ça me fait un peu mal de mettre en avant une page de WikiHow mais elle me paraît utile). J’avais trouvé rassurant de savoir que ça s’arrête, parce que quand on est au fond de notre peine, on a le sentiment que ça ne va jamais s’arrêter.

sleepy tounsi

Le deuil fait partie de la vie. C’est quelque chose qu’on traverse tous à un moment ou un autre. Lorsque j’ai lu “Apprendre à vivre”, de Luc Ferry, un livre qui m’a beaucoup aidée par rapport à ma quête de sens dans la vie à la lumière de l’inévitabilité de la mort, l’essentiel que j’en avais retiré était qu’apprivoiser le deuil, pouvoir accepter les “jamais plus” de la vie, petits ou grands, était le travail d’une vie. Le sens, c’est ça.

On devrait se souhaiter bon deuil. Car le deuil peut être bon, ou moins bon. Et on le souhaite bon pour ceux qu’on aime.

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The Right to Grieve — And That Means Being Sad [en]

The Right to Grieve — And That Means Being Sad [en]

[fr] Avez-vous remarqué comme personne ne veut qu'on soit triste? La tristesse est néanmoins une émotion nécessaire, celle qui nous permet d'accepter une perte, d'en faire le deuil, et de pouvoir continuer à avancer à travers et au-delà de la peine.

Have you noticed how nobody wants you to be sad? Tell people around you that you’re sad, and immediately they’ll want to cheer you up.

Sadness is not bad. Sadness is necessary. It is through being sad that we are able to accept our losses and move on. That is what grieving is.

Our friends don’t want us to feel sad, because they don’t want us to suffer. But refusing to be sad and to grieve brings along a lot of suffering — certainly more, in the long run, than the pain of sadness.

Sadness is not depression. Unprocessed grief can lead to depression, though.

Sadness is the feeling of loss.

A person who is experiencing loss needs the courage to feel sad, and in a world which wants to shove sad under the carpet at the first opportunity, that can be far from easy.

What is valued is staying strong in the face of loss, grief, catastrophe. Not collapsing. Not showing how much pain we’re in.

But what we need when we’re sad and in pain, most of the time, is support so we can dare to feel all this. A safe place to be heard, recognised, and not judged. Love and acceptance that does not desperately want to save us from our emotions, but on the contrary, regard them as part of ourselves and our journey through life.

To grieve and to move on from all the various losses in our lives, all the nevermores, we need to be able to be sad. It is a good thing.

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What Made Bagha Such a Special Cat For Me [en]

What Made Bagha Such a Special Cat For Me [en]

[fr] Un pas de plus sur le chemin du deuil, alors que je m'apprête à éparpiller les cendres de Bagha dans le jardin où il passait ses journées. Tentative un peu laborieuse d'identifier (et de trier) ce qui dans la douleur de la perte de mon chat est proprement la douleur de sa mort, et ce qui est simplement la douleur de la solitude retrouvée.

I started writing this months ago, not long after Bagha died. In India, to be precise. As a way to help me come to terms with his loss, I spent some time trying to write down what made him special for me. What is it exactly that I’m grieving, through him?

Bagha's Floppy Nap 3

I actually tried to blog this once before, and that ended up being the article “Sorting Through Grief“. Like all painful things, it’s tempting to postpone this kind of exercise — but now that I’m preparing to take Bagha’s ashes out of the back of my cupboard to scatter them in the garden he loved, I feel it is time to pick up this list again. I need to move forward. These last weeks, or maybe months, I’ve slipped into a not-too-uncomfortable limbo somewhere along the road of grief. There was a little sideroad somewhere with a bench, and I sat down.

It’s time to start walking again.

What follows is a little raw. It’s also not “perfect” — meaning that I’m aware I’m failing at sorting through some of the things I was hoping to sort through while writing this. That’s the whole point, I guess. Otherwise I would just sail “happily” through grief, if it wasn’t that difficult for me.

So, what made Bagha such a special cat for me? Quoting from my previous post, here’s what I’m trying to disentangle:

  • what it means for me to now be living completely alone (ie, “petless” => by extension, what having a pet — any pet — adds to my life)
  • what made Bagha special, as compared to other cats (his personal caracteristics, pretty objectively)
  • what made Bagha special for me, in terms of the relationship we had and what he meant to me

I’ll start by setting aside the obvious: what kind of cat Bagha was, outside of the relationship I had with him.

Physically:

  • he was big and strong
  • he was a beautiful animal
  • he had a mashed-up nose and ear tufts
  • he had a long non-twitchy tail
  • he slept on his back with his front paws crossed
  • he was long-legged and slim with very sleek fur — had the body of an Indian cat
  • he was a spotted/striped tabby with lovely eyeliner

New Year Bagha 1And also:

  • he slept on his back, front paws crossed on his chest
  • he had a very girly high-pitched meow which was kind of comical for such a big boy
  • he snored gently in his sleep and made little moaning noises when being petted

Character-wise:

  • he wasn’t fearful
  • he liked people and people liked him
  • he was smart
  • he was communicative
  • he was dignified
  • he had an attitude
  • he was cuddly without being needy
  • he was patient and tolerant but not out of fear
  • he had a strong character
  • he was very territorial and peed on all the bushes

It's MY computerThings he did (I’m aware we’re in the anecdotal department here):

  • he opened the fridge
  • he drank out of the toilet
  • he gnawed on drawer handles
  • he played with sticks and chewed them like a dog, holding them between his two front paws
  • he would creep into cupboards the second the door was opened
  • he opened drawers
  • whenever possible, he would rest his head on a pillow (proper or improvised — a laptop would do)
  • he would deftly knock over glasses of water to drink it
  • he would knock things off my bedside table if I didn’t wake up fast enough

The cat and his humanHow he was with me, bearing in mind that this is pretty standard cat-behaviour:

  • he loved having his belly rubbed
  • he liked being carried under one arm
  • he liked being cuddled curled up on my chest
  • he’d sleep with his head and paw resting on my arm

More about his behaviour and interactions with me and other humans, which is maybe a little less “cat-standard”, but not yet the stuff that made my relationship with him so special:

  • he would come back home all by himself, right into the flat, and come and say hello
  • he trained the whole building to let him in and out
  • he would patiently let me give him his meds or put his collar on before going out
  • everybody who met him liked him and saw he was not an ordinary cat

Here we are, now. The cat-companion. This is what the emptiness of his absence is made of.

  • he slept with me every night
  • he would follow me discreetly from room to room
  • he’d sit on the table while I ate
  • he’d wake me in the morning to go out with just one meow
  • he would come and lie down where I patted my hand
  • he would come and cuddle when I watched TV or worked at home

Taking some rest

Trying to rise above the mundane details of daily cohabitation (even if they’re important), here are some of the deeper roles Bagha played for me:

  • he would be waiting for me, always happy to see me
  • he kept me company every day
  • he helped me connect to people in my building and neighbourhood
  • he connected me to India and Aleika
  • he was a constant through all the changes my life went through these last ten years

Of these, I guess the fact he kept me company and was happy to see me are more pet-generic than Bagha-specific.

But the role he played in helping me find my place in my neighbourhood, the connexion to India and Aleika, and the ten years of my life that he saw me through — those are things that are uniquely linked to Bagha. No other cat will ever be able to give me that again. He was a living, breathing, purring witness to these things, no lost forever. I carry those years and that part of my life completely alone, now.

Along the same lines, here are two more things I’d like to add:

  • he made eclau a special coworking space
  • he brought me closer to some of my friends who lived in my flat to take care of him when I was away

Eclau will have other cats, and be a “special” coworking space in that respect in the future. Salem, my upstairs neighbour’s cat, has already taken quarters on the couch, and will probably soon have his own page on the eclau website. Some time next year, I’ll be ready to have cats again, and they’ll come to eclau too. It will always be a kitty-friendly coworking space — but Bagha was the first, and his constant presence in the office was soothing for those who worked there.

The fact that quite a few of my friends cat-sat at some point or another when I was travelling over the last ten years made him a connexion between me and them — connexion which is now gone, like some of those friendships. His absence makes their pastness a little more present.

On a more emotional level:

  • I loved him and cared for him
  • I gladly gave up some of my freedom because I loved him
  • I accepted some risks (like losing him to a car accident) because it gave him a better life

These are things I learned for life because he was my pet, and will treasure for ever. His legacy in me. Traces of his life that his death cannot erase, and which — I believe — make me a better person.

I believe there is no meaning in the world other than the meaning we put in it, consciously or not. Beyond the meaninglessness of life and death, we choose to make sense of our lives so that we can keep on growing.

Maybe Bagha’s biggest gift to me, beyond the ten years of precious companionship he gave me, is in his death. I got to say good-bye. Not at the moment of my choosing, of course — death rarely gives us that — but did get to say good-bye properly. I am saying good-bye.

So here’s the meaning I choose and which makes perfect sense for my life, almost as if it were provided by some intention bigger than and beyond me:

Bagha let me love him for a long time and with all my heart, so that I could learn to love and grieve properly.

Amongst all this, I wonder, what is just the pain of finding myself “alone”, or catless? What does it mean to me to have a cat? I’ve tried to break it down into “plus side” and “minus side”, because part of the grieving process is also greeting the new good things in my life brought about by this loss (I have a blog post draft sitting in WordPress titled “The Bittersweet Freedom of Catlessness” — I will write it someday).

Having a cat means:

  • having company to sleep with me at night
  • having somebody to care for
  • having somebody waiting for me to come home
  • having somebody to communicate with and keep me company
  • having cuddles and affection handy when needed
  • having an attraction for visitors and a topic of conversation to make friends amongst cat-lovers

But it also means:

  • giving up some freedom (no unplanned trips)
  • expenses (food, vet, etc)
  • having to cat-proof the home
  • having to get up to let the cat out, or change the litter
  • worrying that it didn’t come home (or might not)
  • negotiations with neighbours/concierge if it causes any trouble

The pain of losing Bagha is still very present, nearly five months after his death. There is still a terrible pit of sadness in my heart, but it doesn’t overflow with tears anymore when I don’t want it to.

I sometimes try to imagine my future cats, who are maybe not even born yet — I fear that I will not love them as much as I loved Bagha, or that they will not be quite so extraordinary, and I know that I still need to spend some time walking down that road.

Bagha arbre 1

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Twitter Stops Sending SMS in Europe [en]

Twitter Stops Sending SMS in Europe [en]

[fr] Twitter n'envoie dès à présent plus de SMS aux utilisateurs basés hors des Etats-Unis, du Canada, et de l'Inde: trop cher. Oui, ça veut dire que même vos DM ne vous parviennent plus sur votre téléphone. Très déçue et embêtée par ce changement assez important dans l'intégration de mes communications online et offline.

This is a sad day. Twitter has just lost some of its value for me. One very precious feature of Twitter is direct messages. They allow a user to send a private message to another user.

I used to get these messages on my phone, directly by SMS. So, basically, this is giving the nearly 1’500 people following me the possibility to send me a text message without having to know my phone number of have it handy. All they need to know is my username, which is easy: [stephtara](http://twitter.com/stephtara).

Oh well, we had it coming. Sending out all these text messages was costing Twitter a lot of money, we know that. It couldn’t go on like that. They’ve just stopped sending out text messages from the UK number we non-US people use (via [The Next Web blog](http://thenextweb.org/2008/08/14/old-phone-user-so-long-for-mobile-twittering/)). You can still send messages by SMS, though.

However, this means that as of today, DM is not an immediate and secure way to reach me anymore.

This is a big crack in my online/offline integration. Twitter allowed my online world to reel me back in or contact me if necessary by reaching me on my phone. This is pretty disruptive and saddening for me.

Twitter tell us they’ll be working on partnerships with phone companies in various countries. You bet Switzerland won’t be high on their list, given the small market here.

And using data? Well, for one, it isn’t “push”, and for two, it’s still mighty expensive here. We don’t all have the data penetration the US has.

Losing “track” was already sad for me, as it allowed me to receive my @replies on my phone, ensuring I didn’t miss any. Now I won’t even be getting my DMs anymore.

And Twitter didn’t even send me a text to let me know — I could be offline in the mountains waiting for a DM that’d never come.

There is a conversation over on Get Satisfaction if you want to join in.

This is the first time a Twitter problem could make me consider switching to another service. The SMS integration was a huge selling point.

Update: I’m not complaining about the fact we can’t get/send SMS for free anymore. I think we were lucky to get all we did, and for so long (I’m amazed this didn’t happen sooner). What I’m really unhappy about though is that this announcement comes without any alternative. I’d pay. See this blog post for an example I would go with. I’m not saying either that I’m going to switch to another service. But the thought crossed my mind, for the first time.

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