Life with animals is a journey filled with joy and love; fun and laughter. We welcome the animals into our lives with love, knowing that a time will come when our ways will part and we will have to cope with the loss of a beloved pet and companion.
Saying good-bye to the cats over the last few years has been tough and it also taught me how to navigate such times of loss. The memories never fade, they creep up like waves at times and often take me by surprise.
I pray that today is not that day for you and you do not have to go through that gut-wrenching pain today. In the event you are faced with such a situation, here are 12 steps to help you cope with loss of a beloved animal companion . These are derived from my personal experience with grief and loss.
This is not meant to be a checklist but rather an outline of things to explore and hopefully there will be things from this that everyone can relate to and find some solace. And at any moment if you feel it is all too much, please do reach out to a professional grief counselor.
First, Understanding how Animals View Death
To begin with, understand how animals perceive death and dying. Animals are much more in tune with the cycles of life and normally have a greater acceptance of death. Those living in the wild often go off on their own when they sense their hour has come. The best way to honor them is to acknowledge and allow them to go through this process and support them on their terms.
The rest of the 12 steps to cope with loss of a beloved animal companion are divided into categories – before, during and after the transition. Please skip any phase that is not relevant for you.
The 12 Steps to Cope with Loss of a Beloved Animal Companion
Before the Transition
#1: Create a space for yourself.
As much as your animal companions love you and need you, they are not too keen on having you hover and fuss over them all the time. Equally important is the need to create a space for yourself. This can be as simple as some time spent alone taking a walk, listening to music, watching movies, hanging out with friends and family. When we tend to hover over we are in a state of worry and anxiety. Our animal companions can sense that anxiety and get affected. Take that time for yourself and step away for a walk or doing things you love. Your energy will be more balanced and your animal companion will thank you for this. Do this not because you love them any less, but because you want to love them more
#2: Create a sacred place for your animal companion.
Animals have their favorite chair or cushion or corner of the bed or that spot where they sit and watch the birds. Give them access to that happy space – preferably away from noisy areas and electronic gadgets. Fill it with their favorite things such as that catnip toy. It will slowly evolve into a happy place they can retreat to, when they want to find comfort. If the animal is in a hospital environment try and visualize them in their sacred space.
#3: Animal Communication.
Animal communicators use telepathy to connect with the animals. They are often the bridge between the animal and the human world. If this appeals to you, find an animal communicator you feel connected to. Use their gift to reach out to your animal companions and hear what they have to say and what kind of support and treatment they need. Be open to hearing their messages
#4: Decide on how much medical treatment is needed.
This one varies from individual to individual. Medical treatments help the animal physically. At the same time, there will be times when you might feel that subjecting the animal to vet trips, numerous tubes and injections and surgeries is causing loss of dignity and peace for the animal (and maybe for you as well). Your vet will be best positioned to inform you when too much is too much.
#5: Use holistic remedies (Reiki, Bach Flower).
Reiki and other energy healing modalities can do wonders with helping the animal deal with pain and other medical conditions. Even though he was battling cancer, my cat Amadeus lived his final days in relative ease and comfort as he was supported by regular Animal Reiki Shamanic and Energy Work. He led a relatively peaceful life without having to experience extremes of pain. Find out what works for you and your girl or boy and find a practitioner who can support you through these days.
#6: Be there if possible.
It is very difficult to predict how, when and where that moment will come. This is the most crucial and potent moment of the animal’s life and the energy of this moment is what he or she will carry forward. To the extent reasonably feasible and to the extent you can allow yourself to do this, try to be there at that moment. Also to the extent possible, try to create a calm and peaceful atmosphere (refer to the sacred space of the preparation stage). Now is the time to let go with gratitude. Talk to the animal and tell him or her how much you enjoyed your times together. Allow him or her to make that transition in peace without regrets and without having to look back and worry about you.
#7: Animal Reiki Bridge of Light.
Animal Reiki practitioners can hold the space of Reiki during this crucial time This can be done in advance as Reiki can be offered across all dimensions of time. This helps energetically and enables the animal transition smoothly and in peace into the next world. I have noticed that animals who have gone with the Brigde of Light tend to be more peaceful and also leave behind a profound impact on the humans involved. A street kitten I was working with had died before I could build a Bridge of Light. I built this while she lay limp in front of me. Right after that, there was a difference in the air around her – almost as if you could smell the fragrance of Rainbow Bridge.
#8: Pray with your heart.
Simply light a candle and say a prayer or a mantra. These simple acts have profound influence on creating a space for a graceful transition.
After the Transition
#9: Create time and space to express your grief.
It is normal to feel grief or even anger and guilt. Allow those feelings to come. Use tools such as writing a journal, sketching, water colors or singing to express those emotions. Light a candle each day till you no longer feel the need for candles and imagine the light from that candle illuminating the path of your companion on the next phase of the journey. Remember the good times. As much as there is grief, also remember the happy moments. Would you trade all those happy moments just so you did not have to feel sad? Express gratitude to the animal companion that they chose you to share their journey with. Thank them for they blessed you with their presence in your life. Energy work such as Reiki can help you regain your sense of harmony. Reach out to a Reiki practitioner that you connect with for support. EFT Tapping is another great option that can help you process your grief.
There is great power in prayers and now is the time to rely on them. Pray with your heart and wish the best for both your departed companion and you. Prayers will not only benefit you but also help the animal deal with the next stage. You can follow the ceremonies of whatever spiritual path you have faith in.
#11: Create a memorial.
Folklore says that after our pets die, they go and wait on a rainbow colored bridge at the gates of heaven. They wait there waiting for us to join them and when the time comes both human and animal walk hand-in-paw into the gates of heaven. There are several online communities which will allow you to create a memorial for your animal companion. You can also get support from others who are dealing with similar losses.
#12: Connecting with your Beloved Companion.
If you feel drawn towards this, reach out to a practitioner who can help you connect with the one who has crossed over Rainbow Bridge. Based on my experience with this, these last messages are very profound, will help you see your fur-baby in a new perspective and they can help you as you grieve. When I lost my cat Artemis, I was in shock for a very long time, until I was able to connect with her on the other side using Shamanic Journeying. That Journey helped me see Artemis in a new light as I was able to connect with her true spirit nature. Artemis and later the other cats who transitioned were how I started extending this for others as well. If you are looking for help, you can reach out.
This post is in honor of my 3 cats. The first to leave was Artemis, who left when I was not aware of this world of spirituality and energy work and whose passing I could not honor. I had regretted this for many years and it took a lot of healing to find closure. And I share this post so that you do not have to go through the same.
This post is also in honor of Amadeus & Duchess, who taught me the art of a sacred gentle transition. After their diagnosis, both were supported on their journey by Animal Reiki Shamanic and Energy Healing including a Bridge of Light. I am grateful that this enabled him to live a relatively pain-free life without altering his state of awareness. I was able to be in touch with them using Animal Communication and their messages and wishes were heard and respected. And when the time came, both Duchess and Amadeus breathed their last in front of my sacred altar in my arms.
If you are struggling with an animal companion who is nearing end-of-life and need support, find out how personalized energy work sessions can help.
- The Journey – The Journey is an essay written by Crystal Ward Kent that describes the often overlooked joys that pets can bring to everyday lives. It is a beautiful rendition on how to honor the life we share with our animals.
- Quotes on Pet-Loss – A collection of quotes on pet loss to help you on your journey.