Giving myself the gift of death on my 28th birthday

6 min readNov 22, 2020


On my 28th birthday, I let myself die. I let my old self die. My old self that was afraid to be unlikable and cringed when important people disagreed with her. My old self that felt like shaken mud in water if everything was not in harmony at the home front, and would not feel settled unless there was some sense of agreement.

After my cat Jillu passed away, we thought my other cat, who was her litter-mate, Nur, was lonely. So we got Barfi, a cute little Indian stray cat. She wasn’t a kitten but not entirely adult. She was a junior cat. Getting her and Nur introduced was a long and arduous process that took over a month. Initially I just swapped their smells and made them spend time in each others’ rooms when the other cat was not present. Till Nur stopped hissing in response to her smell, we could not make them see each other because first interactions are very crucial in cats. After about 15–20 days, Nur stopped hissing and so we did interactions with the help of a crate, where Barfi would be inside the crate and Nur outside and I’d make them meet twice or thrice a day, with the cat behaviourist on the phone guiding me. While Nur was less scared over time, he was still not too thrilled about Barfi in the house. We increased the resources like food and litterboxes in the home and yet, Nur did not look at Barfi as valuable company.

I stopped using the crate and used my balcony to keep both cats on either sides of the balcony window, and got them to slowly experience each other without chasing off/fighting. The next step was to stop using the balcony as well and to just try and integrate them. However, at that time, Barfi went into heat and would yowl all night. I did not sleep well for a whole week. It was important to neuter her as soon as possible. I took her for her blood tests and then scheduled her surgery.

All these events took a huge toll on me. I was not admitting to myself how exhausting the introduction process itself was, and so, the heat perhaps happened in order to force me to acknowledge my limits. Another huge source of worry was that Jillu died due to a cat fight because my family members believed in letting her out without supervision. I didn’t agree with it and whenever I felt like she wanted to go out, I’d go with her and talk a walk or take some work calls and get her back with me. I did not want Barfi to get injured or die the same way because the medical distress/grief/regret — all falls on me. I thought that given the way Jillu died, we as a family would be more careful of the main door and lobby doors as we left the house or opened the door to people. However, old habits continued and my vigilance increased in response to the fear of Barfi getting injured and dying. This vigilance was labeled as paranoia, no matter what the research says about letting house cats out unsupervised, specially in countries like India.

With great reluctance, I realized that in the absence of family level change, keeping Barfi safe meant either constant vigilance or constant anxiety (when I wouldn’t be home). This was not sustainable. I put a post out for adoption and let the people who had rescued her, also know the situation and asked them to ask around as well. A friend did come forward, and I was really happy because she was one of the two people who got my cats to me — Nur and Jillu, when they were small kittens.

However, Barfi’s rescuers wanted a house which had complete netting on the windows and my friend’s house did not have that, although she did try to reason with them that the windows are never opened anyway due to a local problem with rats, but to no avail. The other resistance I was getting was from home. I was asked to not give Barfi away, because the people at home were “attached” to her. However, this attachment did not come with the responsibility of closing the doors carefully when leaving or ensuring Barfi does not go out because that was “like imprisoning her. If she has to live, she will live. Did Nur not get lost for five days (another event of family carelessness) and still survive? We cannot control fate.” So I was to keep Barfi for another month and “try” while I had no guarantees on collective efforts.

By this time the original rescuers we’re really insistent that I give her back as they learnt the whole situation. They said the only way they’d let me continue keeping her if I could guarantee that Barfi won’t leave the house unsupervised because they had given her to me with the promise of her being an indoor cat. Barfi was going through her post-operative care at my home and I was trying my level best to ensure she is not too active and does not end up opening her stitches. All this pressure from all the ends was driving me nuts.

Finally I decided to stop fighting and gave in to the insistence of the rescuers because I just did not have the energy to fight any more. I realized that with this decision, things might get ugly at home. However, I kept my focus on Barfi’s health and safety and admitted that I could not guarantee her safety if the people I shared the house with had a different philosophy around pets than I did. The difference of course, did not come with any cooperation when consequences arose. I took the cats to the vet alone, fed them medicine alone, dressed their wounds alone, except for one or two incidents where I had some help.

While I was fearful, my mom was by my side. No one but her understood how hard this was for me. After Jillu’s passing, I too was saddened by my empty room and Barfi filling it up was so livening for me. She knew how hard it was for me to acknowledge that we cannot guarantee her safety and neither do Nur and she get along. Even after her neutering and when they could tolerate being in the same room, he responded to her playful efforts by irritated swatting and biting. She saw how torn I was. She saw how much everyone’s behaviour was making an already hard decision even harder.

That is when I realised that this old self that felt like all had to agree to a reasonable degree, that I had to look after the feelings of others — was making me susceptible to blackmail and burnout in this situation. It had perhaps in other situations too, but I had not acknowledged it and had chosen to plough through instead. Maybe it was the fear of things getting ugly and violent, or maybe it was the fear of disappointment and disharmony. But the fear had to be faced. And so, I let this old self die. The decision of the new self came with uncertainty and fear but it also felt right. I was scared, upset and sad for the next few days. Thankfully, things did not go too badly. Mom and dad’s support helped to avoid any mishaps at home and Barfi has now adjusted really well to her new home.

Grieving is trifold now — for jillu, for barfi and for my old self. But I have stopped escaping grief through manifesting chaos now. Sometimes, the grief feels so deep that I feel I will sink. But I breathe through it and it passes. In times like these, the fear of the pain is often bigger than the pain itself. And if we can remember that, we can get through these times.




Love psychology, economics, art, music, books, poetry, blogs, cooking and select sports.A jack of all trades, perhaps master of none. Psychologist.