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. We may try not to think about that moment, but we cannot alter what is in store. It is possible that we will have to hold them through the sufferings of old age and illnesses. It is also possible that it might be sudden and unexpected leaving no space for farewells. However, it is certain that we will have to experience the gut-wrenching pain of losing them someday.

I pray that today is not that day for you and you do not have to go through that pain today. In the event you are dealing with the transition of a beloved animal companion, here are some tips to help you on the journey. These are solely based on my personal experience with the world of animals. This is not a checklist of things to do – rather these are to be used as possible options to explore. The best option is always things that you feel connected to. At any moment if you feel overwhelmed with the situation, please please reach out to a professional grief counselor for support.

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.

(If you are reading this post the passing, you can skip to the section on ‘After the Passing’)

Preparing for Transition

"Love and a sense of calmness are the only things you need to bring to the experience of death."
Sandra Ingerman

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 24*7. Be kind and give them their own space to breathe. Let them be. Equally important is the need to create a space for yourself away from the animal. This can be as simple as some time spent alone taking a walk, listening to music, watching movies, hanging out with friends and family. This helps stay grounded and centered and aids release stress and associated negative emotions. 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 toys and chewies.  It will slowly evolve into a place they can retreat to, when they want to find comfort. If the animal is in a hospital environment, try to recreate the happy setting there to the extent permissible – sights of happy photographs they like, smell of familiar toys, play tracks on sounds of nature (e.g. birds and water). There are several options for such music on the internet.

3. 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.

4. Use holistic remedies (Reiki, Bach Flower, Homeopathy). Reiki, Bach Flower remedies and homeopathy can do wonders with helping the animal deal with pain and other medical conditions. Bach Flower and Reiki help with emotions and can work hand-in-hand with conventional veterinary treatment. I used homeopathy to ease my cat’s pain from the tumor growth. In addition, I also relied on weekly Reiki sessions to support him on this path to transition. Energy work supports the animal across physical, emotional, mental and spiritual layers. He led a relatively peaceful life without having to experience extremes of pain.

5. Animal Communication. Animal communicators use telepathy to connect with the animals. They are often the bridge between the animal and the human world. Animal communication works across geographical barriers and physical presence is not necessary. 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.

6. Establish a normal routine. Animals can sense deviation from patterns and know when things are off. For instance my cats know they are going to be taken to the vet because my morning activities vary on those days. Having a normal routine provides a sense of assurance for both human and animal. Also if there is a long-drawn illness, then staying in a crisis pattern for elongated periods of time will cause additional stress and illness for both animal and human.

7. Take refuge in your spiritual practices. If you are inclined towards spiritual practices this is the perfect time to rely on them – Tai Chi, meditations, prayers and mantra recitation will help both animal and human stay calm and find the strength to deal with the situation. Writing a journal and sketching also work great.

Moment of Transition

1. Be there if possible. It is very difficult to predict how, when and where that moment will come. To the extent reasonably feasible and to the extent you can allow yourself to do this, try to be there at that moment. 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. So to the extent possible, try to create a calm and peaceful atmosphere (refer to the sacred space of the preparation stage). Put a temporary pause on any expression of grief just for this moment. That time will come later. Now is the time to let go with a happy heart. 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.

2. Reiki Bridge of Light. Contact a Reiki practitioner who can offer Reiki for the moment of passing. 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.

3. Pray from your heart. If you are religiously inclined, now is the time to reach out to whatever higher power you have faith in. Light a candle and say a prayer or a mantra.

After the Passing

"The highest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude."
Thornton Wilder

1. 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.

2. Pray. 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.

3. 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.

4. Remember the good times. Thornton Wilder said, “The best tribute to the dead is not grief, but gratitude”. 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.

5. Heal yourself. 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.

Personal Dedications

This post is in honor of my 3 cats who share this journey with me.

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.

This post is also in honor of Amadeus, who taught me the art of a sacred gentle transition. After Amadeus was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he was supported on his journey by homeopathy, Reiki including a Bridge of Light, Animal Communication and plenty of prayers and mantras. I am grateful that this enabled him to live a relatively pain-free life without altering his state of awareness. He was able to convey what he needed and when he needed it. And then on a morning after the full-moon, Amadeus breathed his last in front of the altar in my arms. I am also eternally grateful to the monks of the monastery of which I am a student – they helped with the passage rites as per the tradition of my refuge.

Duchess was supported by Reiki and Shamanic Healing in her senior years. So much so that she lived comfortably till her illness was revealed about a month before her transition. Even after her diagnosis, she continued to gleefully jump up to her spot by the window and teach manners to the young kitten who had recently joined the family. She too died peacefully in my arms and was supported by the monastic community with lamp offerings at Boudha Stupa in Nepal and prayers for navigating Bardo.

My personal writings honoring them for who they truly were are at:

Other Resources

  1. 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.
  2. Quotes on Pet-Loss – A collection of quotes on pet loss to help you on your journey.