03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Small Grief and Dealing with The Rainbow Bridge

Normal to feel angry
Normal to feel guilty
Normal to feel sad
Normal to hallucinate

That's what I learned recently when my cat Velma died.

When I first met her I didn't expect to keep her. I didn't think I was really a cat person. I mean I had them growing up but wasn't really interested in sharing my grownup home with one. Eleven years ago when my friend Victor was asked by his sister to take in her boss's kitten, I told him I'd help. When she showed up with two kittens, a brother and a sister, I told him I'd take the girl and keep her until I found someone at work that wanted a cat. I named her Velma, after that glasses-losing, unconfirmed sapphic detective on Scooby Doo. I think Velma may have known that I wasn't thinking of keeping her, as it seemed like she tried extra hard to work herself into my heart. I never did find another home for her.

We moved to New York together seven years ago and she adapted without a complaint. She was always there at the door waiting for me when I came home from work. She was always next to me when I woke up early in the morning and always ready to sit on my lap when I was trying to read the paper. Everyone loved Velma and she loved everyone.

She wasn't perfect by any means. I think she must of thought she was still a small nimble kitten while she jumped from the bed to the credenza knocking down all in her path. Ceramic was apparently enemy number one to Velma. I lost several Jonathan Adler pieces of pottery and one really great orange ceramic lamp. Not something you want to hear hitting the floor at 4AM. Needless to say I forgave her time and time again.

Things began to change a few weeks ago when I noticed that she wasn't eating as much and then not at all. I took her to the vet and after a blood test and an ultrasound she was diagnosed with Hepato Lipadosis or Fatty Liver. Now it was up to me to force feed her three times a day, give her IV fluids every morning and try to get her to swallow medication. All this work and it didn't seem to be working. I woke up two Fridays ago with her by my side for the last time. I took her to the vet again and sobbed when the doctor told me it was time to let her go and there wasn't anything more we could do.

Velma passed away that morning while I stroked her head as she drifted away. I was overcome with grief and shock. It was as if she was just with me one minute and gone the next. I felt angry at myself for not being able to keep her alive. I felt guilty and began blaming myself for not being able to figure out how sick she really was sooner. I soon realized after talking to my friends and family and doing some online research that all these feelings were totally normal. I even learned that hallucinations were also common. The first one of those happened the first night without her around. I woke up in the middle of night, opened the bathroom door and saw something white lying on the floor in one of her usual spots. I thought she was back, healthy and alive. It was a cold slap back to reality when it turned out to be only a fallen towel.

When I told my Mom about Velma's death we cried together a bit on the phone and she told me that she had crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. I didn't know what she was really talking about, but last week when I picked up her ashes the card enclosed included a story about this bridge. According to the card, The Rainbow Bridge connects Heaven and Earth and on the other side of the bridge is a place where your pet is whole again and happy. They are simply waiting there for us to join them. I don't know about all this, but heck I do like rainbows and it is nice to think about her happy and in a better place. Apparently, they are simply waiting there for us to join them. I joked to my friend Chris that maybe Velma is there waiting and hoping for my early demise.

I know it is going to take time to get over this and I know remembering when she was healthy will help. I still open the apartment door way too slowly when I come home from work each night. I am working through my anger and guilt and I know that noise in the kitchen isn't her. She is here now. Her ashes reside near a sunny spot where she used to lie. I propped up an old Polaroid I took of her as a kitten against the small box that contains her remains. After I pay off the rest of my vet bill, I'm going to save up for a fabulous Jonathan Adler piece of pottery to put her in. I think that would be most appropriate.