Loss and Spirit
|Our most challenging moments with our animal companions are near the end of our time together For us, it is a painful end to an earthly journey, but if we believe this is end of
our relationship, we rob ourselves and our animals of our greater and everlasting spiritual bond. Animals know the physical world is a temporary and minor stop on the
spiritual journey, and want us to know we don't have to say goodbye. Loving your animal friend by hearing and honoring its final wishes is a blessing to you both.
Too often, at the end of an animal's life, people berate themselves with doubt and fear:
Did I do enough to help him?
How did I miss his pain?
Does she know how much I loved her?
Was there more I could have done?
Is it my fault? Is she angry?
Does he forgive me?
Did I wait too long?
Tell him I'm sorry.
An end-of-life communication helps to dispel doubts and ease the transition so it is a loving, intimate experience for both of you. You learn your animal's true wishes and begin
to release your own undeserved guilt.
I help clients through grief counseling, memorializing pets through ritual and ceremony, and communicating with animals after they depart the earthly plane. (Yes, I
communicate with the animals who have passed over.)
Surviving the Loss of a Pet: Tips to Get throught the Grief
Your animal has died and you are distraught. You have never felt such deep and prolonged loss and are afraid to share this with others who will minimize and perhaps dismiss
your pain as misplaced or trivial. Wrong. All of use who have shared life with (not "owned") animals have entered and emerged from this unavoidable black hole, and we'll
likely revisit it as long as we live with animals whose life spans do not equal ours is measure. What can you do with this grief?
1. Give yourself permission to grieve, and give your self permission to grieve hard. Experience it. Embrace it, even. It's real and it's potent. Avoiding grief, burying it, masking it
its future re-emergence as larger and more devastating threat to your well being.
2. Remember. Remember the joy and mischief, the games and training, the intimacy and the frustration, the quiet support and cuddles your dog gave you when he sensed you
needed them most.
3. Talk about your memories, especially with other dog people who understand and with those who knew your dog. Allow them to share their memories as well.
4. Make the memories visual. Place photographs of your dog around the house so you connect with him or her consiously at ever turn. Our animals want us to remember them
this way. Keep in mind that in their cnsciousness, they have not left us. They have jsimply changed form. They're still with us. We need to focus on that reality their energy
remains with us.
5. Create a memorial, a photo collage, an altar, a scrapbook chronicling your dog's life.
6. Avoid people who do not understand your grief, who tell you, "It was just a cat (or dog or bird). You can always buy another one. " As my grandmother would have said,
7. Do something to connect with your animal in spirit through dreams, where our spiritual selves are free to roam unencumbered by bodies. Before falling asleep, you can look
at photographs of your dog or cat or meditate briefly on your relationship. SEE yourselves together. Hold this as your last mental image as you shut the light.
8. Carry an object with your animal's energy: a photo, a toy, even a "baby" tooth. It will comfort you and connect you to your animal in spirit in a very psychic way. When I
lost my soul mate dog, Seamus, I slept with his collar in my pillowcase for months.
9. Create a memorial service. I've seen quite a few of these and have written some for clients.
Invite friends and family -- even other dogs -- to your home or to a park or favorite outdoor place where you can share stories, read a poem or prayer, and give this loss the
sacred dimension it deserves. Honor your dog's soul. It is just as Divine as your own.
10. Create. If you paint, paint your dog's portrait. If you write, write a story or memoir. Sew. Quilt. Dance.
11. READ about other people's animals for entertainment, to remind you of the joy you shared rather than the grief that sems to impale you. Look for stories about antics and
misadventures. Please -- read James Thurber! You'll relate and and laugh from the belly doing it.
12 . Consider getting another dog or cat, not to replace the one who has died but to HONOR him . The one thing dogs enjoy most is other dogs. They are pack animals and
having loved you as their pack leader do not want you to live alone. The want you to cherish their memory and grieve without losing yourself to that grief. They do not want
you to suffer; they want you to recover. Welcoming another animal, whether it is a puppy from a breeder or an older rescue, is your chance to shower a new friend with the
calibre of love with which you gifted your old friend. Consider the circularity of life and love in that the blessing your animal gave to you will be continued as you bless the new
one in your life. It by no means eclipses the relationship you had with your animal. In fact, it's just the opposite; it strengthens it.
When my first schnauzer, Kasha, died, I was reluctant to consider another one until a secretary in my department gave me this essay to read. When I finished it, I found a
breeder in St. Petersburg, FL readied my home for the entry of a new pup in HONOR of the one I'd just bid farewell. This essay will certainly help you, too. It's Eugene
O'Neill (actually, it was written by Eugene O'Neill's dog), The Last Will and Testament of Silverdene Emblem O'Neill:
copyright 2011 Lisa Shaw
Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement
Cornell University Pet Loss Support Hotline
Coping with the Loss of a Pet
AVMA Guidelines for Pet Loss Support Services
Links to Internet Pet Loss Resources
In Memory of Pets
Learning How to Say Goodbye
and don't forget to search for the many links to the Rainbow Bridge poem