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One could argue that the death of a pet can be just as devastating as losing a family member.
A sudden tragedy left the owner of a cat inconsolable, and his wife said she felt "gutted and powerless" when she tried to alleviate some of his emotional pain.
Not knowing where else to turn, ThrowRA74165452 asked Reddit's Relationship Advice column for help.
The Original Poster (OP) wrote:
"I can't (39/F[emale]) seem to comfort my husband (40/M[ale]) after the death of his cat."
"To be brief, my husband is a 'macho' guy. Big, tall, muscular, I love him to death. He's an excellent husband."
"He rarely expresses his feelings. I never saw him cry. His father was also very stoic. I believe it's cultural."
But there was one exception that allowed her husband to get in touch with his sensitive side.
"The only time I see him open up is when he's with me or when he cuddles with his cat."
"We've been married for 15 years and yesterday was the first time I've seen this man breakdown."
"He left the front door open by accident and his cat wandered outside. Unfortunately, he got hit by a car and died on the spot."
"I can't seem to find a way to comfort my husband. I know he feels extreme guilt but this was an accident."
"He did not want me to see, but he cried himself to sleep today. I felt gutted and powerless. I know it sounds crazy, but he was super overprotective and did everything with this cat."
"For example, loud music was not allowed in the house when the cat was taking a nap."
"I'm just venting and painting a picture here to show how important this animal was to him. I have no idea how to help him."
Strangers in the Reddit community weighed in with their thoughts on how she could help him with his grief.
"As someone who is also extremely over protective of their cats, something like this would absolutely break me and there would be no words to make it better."
"All I can honestly suggest is being there for him. I don't think words will help him right now. Be present and supportive." – IUsedAFarcaster
"I'd say don't force him to talk about it. Let him know that you're there for him. If he allows it, hold him."
"Since he has trouble talking about his feelings, he may feel like he has to deal with this alone. Make sure he knows that he can find support with you." – slavetothecustomers
"Some people grieving just want to be left to their own devices. They just need someone on standby for passive support." – ReduceMyRows
"Yeah, I'm wondering if this is a moment where a small touch on the arm or a hug would get much more across to him than anything verbal."
"He might feel guilty about the door, on top of grieving his cat; sometimes just letting him cry in your arms is the best thing to offer." – ehchvee
"As a cat person, cats are like children to us. To him, it's likely no different than his kid dying."
"You can't expect someone to be fine 24 hours after such an incident. He needs more time." – idothingsheren
"When my cat died, I was a mess for weeks."
"It turns out that everything reminds you of a pet's absence."
"Sometimes you just need to ugly cry for a while and there's nothing to be done about it." – p0k3t0
This person who has experienced grief shared how he coped.
"As a stoic man who lost his father last summer, this advice is the best advice. It will take time to process feelings and being asked how he feels over and over will get old quickly."
"Since I don't 'feel' the way my wife expected me to what I found most cathartic was picking up guitar which I have played for years but usually only once a month. "
"I've played close to daily since I started back up and it's been a blessing my father gave me without ever knowing." – THE_BARCODE_GUY
This Redditor stressed the significance of time during bereavement.
"Grief sucks, but you have to grieve to heal."
"What your husband is doing is entirely normal amid natural, there is nothing to fix. As clinical as it sounds, some ritual with body can help, the human brain respond to ritual."
"Burying the cat maybe and planting a tree or plant on it, or maybe get it cremated and have the ash in a nice box, thongs like that can helpful, ask your husband's what He'd like to do. Donations to rescue groups even."
"Help your husband find a way to mark amid honour how important his pet was to him. Hold him when he cried, let him talk about the cat, share stories and memories."
"All these things can help healing from grief. Time however is the best healer. The price of loving something, is the pain when it ends, grief sucks, but is our hearts and minds healing so we can love those that are gone differently and helps us learn how important it is to not take those we love here and now for granted." – waxingnotwaning
"You help him by letting him mourn. The cat just died, not even 24 hours. Of course there is acute pain and guilt. Crying and moping around are normal reactions."
"Let him be. Offer your help but don't make a huge deal about it."
"I'm sorry for you loss." – Princess-She-ra
And this person said there was no shame in seeking professional help.
"I know a man in his 50s who had to get professional grief counseling after his dog died."
"And there's nothing wrong with that at all." – WibblyWib
"This!!! It's super important to be aware of the possibility of getting professional help, and that there's nothing wrong with it."
"Grief is one thing, but grief and guilt? It's the worst feeling ever, because it makes you think you're actually a murderer." – DancingCatflower
A picture can be worth a thousand words.
"I lost my cat last year. She was my soulmate and way more than a cat. My wife knew how much I love the cat and she knew how hard it was for me to lose her."
"When I was at the point where your husband is now, she felt the same. Nobody can help you at this point. But what she did, helped me a lot."
"She printed a picture of her in black and white and framed it. When I came home from work it was beside my bed. This was all I needed. She showed me she was there and I could just be with my pain." – Evo23_
This Redditor reminded the OP that this was an important opportunity for her husband to understand that it's okay to feel his emotions—no matter how much it may seem out of character.
"I'm begging you to not see your husband's grief as a brief lapse in masculinity and rather see it for what it is: This is a rare moment where he's in such pain that it even breaches the decades of social conditioning that programmed him to stigmatize his own emotions."
"This is an opportunity for him to begin to emotionally free himself. Let him feel something. Let him know that it's okay to feel something." – Alexander92W
Redditor logo-mille summed it up best:
"Macho guys need to be held sometimes too."