I plan to discuss different elements of this topic, such as caring for a terminally ill companion animal, the types of messages I often receive from animals (that are in the light) to pass on to their humans and dealing with grief & mourning.
It is a topic that could and does fill books. The loss of an animal companion can be devastating. For this week's post I would like to focus on an aspect that tends to be unique to persons whose animal family member has passed.
Generally when a person's human family member dies there are societal and cultural rituals that help us process and express our grief. Celebrations of life, cards, food, some expected time away from work and much concern from loved ones.
I am incredibly fortunate that when my first sons Jarvis & Juneau crossed over in 2012 and in 2013 I was surrounded by sensitive and understanding friends and family who realized the immense grief my husband and I were going through and who lovingly reached out. We were also lucky to have each other and a shared sense of loss. I was able to communicate with Juneau and Jarvis once they were in the light and I imagine how much harder still it would have been without that gift.
However, I often come across people that don't have this level of support. They are expected to go to work immediately after facing the death of their beloved animal. Sometimes they can't even bring it up at work if the environment is unsympathetic. I've seen comments of "support" on social media asking the mourning person when they will "replace" their cat or dog or "get" another one. This may be well intentioned but to a grieving animal parent it is very insensitive to gloss over the mourning period and jump ahead to a time when they may be ready to adopt again. Everyone handles grief differently and there is no right or wrong way. For some it is best to adopt fairly soon and allow a new animal family member to help lighten their heart and for others they need to take more time. It is highly personal & individual.
We have come a long way, but there is not yet a cultural consensus accepting that the loss of an animal family member is as traumatic as that of a human one.
If you have never experienced this kind of loss: please, simply be kind to those that have.
If you are the grieving party: please know that your grief is real. Try to ignore anyone that does not understand. It is valid to mourn your loved one (s) for as long as you need to and however best comforts you. If you just said goodbye (for now) to your animal child or best friend your heart is broken and even if you understand they are in the light and most likely will be visiting you in spirit or dreams you still desperately miss having them with you physically, sleeping on the bed at night, waking you up at ridiculous times to eat, playing, snuggling and gazing at you. Be very gentle with yourself and seek support from those who do understand, either in person or from books & online support groups. Allow yourself as long as it takes. When it feels right consider ways that you can honor your love for them, like gathering photos for a special photo album or maybe planting a small garden in their name. Know that they will visit you in spirit and check on you and that the love you shared is forever.