My stages of grief are a little bit different from those of other people.   Let’s take a look.

Stage 1: Fear.  If you have not knelt on the ground staring at the morning sun with both eyes open praying to God for it to just STOP, you have never experienced fear.

Stage 2: Numbness.  Less dramatic.  While my dead cat was lying in state on the living room couch, I was cleaning the house, stopping clocks and covering photographs, washing and putting away in a special place all of the things connected to him that I would not be able to deal with later.

Stage 3: Irrationality.  In the middle of my purification ritual, my ex called me from the road on the way to his lecture and I just let him have it because he called my mother and told her about it.  I said, “If you wanted to be so involved, you could have stayed for 15 more minutes with us!  How DARE you call my MOTHER???  She lives half a country away and all she will do now is WORRY.  Now, you call her back and tell her everything’s all right, and don’t you even THINK of calling the police.  I will KILL anyone who knocks on the door.”  And I hung up on him.

A couple a minutes later, there was a knock on the front door.  I never answer the door while I’m alone but it was not an aggressive knock, and the people outside looked harmless–a couple of young men wearing overalls.  Besides, I was feeling homicidal.  If these guys were dangerous, I had a giant shovel by the door for self-defense.

Guy #1 introduced himself as a roofer.  We had a couple of hailstorms recently (along with the tornado that skipped our town and destroyed completely another one), so every roofer in our state and even some surrounding states had descended on our area rubbing their hands.  Nearly everyone in town has one of those advertisement signs in the front yard that say something like “SKY WIDE ROOFING” with their phone number.  We have already been solicited by at least fifty roofing contractors by phone, mail, e-mail, and personal appearances.  We don’t understand why people are doing this now.  By the end of the week, there may not be any roofs left to repair.

Anyway, after introducing himself, the guy asked me if I was doing all right today.  I’m pretty sure he already had a clue as I stared at him through unblinking, bloodshot eyes, and he was sorry he asked the minute the words left his mouth.

“No,” I replied, and started to sob.  “My cat just died–I’m all alone here–and my husband’s out of town.”  Tears poured down my face while the two guys stared at me, probably evaluating the veracity of my behavior.  I think they believed me.  The first guy handed me a business card and said something sympathetic, and both of them backed away and were gone as soon as they leaped into their pickup truck to escape.

[NOTE: Ladies, I’ve only done this a few times before, and out of genuine sporadic emotion, but I highly recommend it if you want some sales-bodies to leave you alone.  You only need to be unkempt, red-eyed and slovenly.  Minor hysteria seals the deal.  Just don’t overdo it, or they might feel compelled to come in or call an ambulance.  This is such a friendly state.]

Stage 4: Self-Medication.  Once your purification ritual is over, drink, smoke if you’ve got ‘em, take a few pills and a shower.  This leads to…

Stage 5: Unconsciousness.

Most of these stages repeat themselves with every new day AND night.  This is Day 12.  I have experienced some very extreme emotions, but this feels like every tragedy in my life rolled into one.  I spent nearly every day of the last ten years with this cat.  He was there for me for better or worse, richer or poorer, and in sickness and health, till death parted us.  Even my ex couldn’t hack that drill, which is why we aren’t married anymore.  At times it seemed that my cat was more than an animal.  He was the child my ex and I couldn’t have.  He loved us unconditionally, just as we loved him.   The pain of missing him is more than I can bear.

People go through grief in their own ways.  I don’t eat very much, I drink, take pills, and cry my eyes out.  My trouble is that I can’t seem to make the grief go away.  It leads me to other dark places.  How will I face death in the future?  How will I even finish dealing with this spring and summer?  “I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep,” but this house is empty now, my ex wants us to go out of town and isn’t sure I’m strong enough for the trip, and the weather is so unstable that our state made the national news.  By the time he gets back, there may be nothing but rubble and reporters wandering around with bleary eyes asking the same stupid question, “So, what are your plans for rebuilding?”

I’d love to see one of these miserable people who have just lost everything they own give the following answer: “Well, hon, we ain’t plannin’ on rebuildin’.  Think we’re just gonna take the insurance money and head on up to Wyoming.  Can’t be worse than this.”

Maybe I’ll say it myself…if I’m still here.  Screw the phony-baloney pablum of “Rainbow Bridge.”  That’s a story for simpletons.  I’m going to wait for an F-5 tornado to suck me up like a cheap vacuum and let it take me over the rainbow…through the mysterious snow-covered mountains of Tibet…and drop me smack dab in the middle of Shangri-La.

Lost Horizon, James Hilton.  Read it.