A dear friend of mine lost her beloved Scout last week. Shannon’s loss has prompted me to write this piece about losing an animal companion. I lost my best friend Willow 2 ½ years ago, which led me to begin writing a book about this very topic. Many of you know that I entered a worldwide spiritual author contest and made it to the top 25 entries. I have not finished the book yet, as I still find it too painful to complete, but do little bits here and there.
Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.“ ~ Anatole France
In my grief I discovered that society often treats this kind of loss as less important than others. I often heard the comment: “He was just a dog.” When I took my Pet Loss and Bereavement Counselling certification two years ago, one of the interesting things I learned was that statistics have found that it takes about 6 years to fully move through the grieving process. For me, the grief is the same… I don’t believe that one can say there is a difference between human loss and pet loss. One of my mentors, Dr. W. Sife Ph.D said this: “We grieve as deeply as we love.” And we love alright – we love our fur babies the same way as our human relationships.
Love is love – loss is loss. Period.
Our pets become our children, our best friend, our most devoted companion, trusted confidante and our greatest teacher – if we let them. They know us like no one else does. The love is wholly unconditional. I would look at my Willow (who could do no wrong) and say to myself, “If I can take this deep and unconditional love that I have learned with Willow, and now extend that out to all humans in the same way – then I have truly learned how to love.” We love them in such a giving, compassionate and non-judgemental way. They teach us lessons we can only learn through bonding with them.
We never forget our loved ones – furry or human. And, it is not about getting over anything either, but moving through the grieving process the best we can – not pushing it away or burying it. We need to talk about it, reminisce, look at photos, cry, be held and heard. Seek unconditional love and support from those who will not judge our grief or attempt to hinder it in any way. Telling someone to “shhhh” when they are crying does not allow them to let go of the energy of that grief. Others hurt when we hurt, and they can’t stand the pain it makes them feel inside, or perhaps stirs up within them – they may feel helpless – it is easier for them if we do not cry. But, we need to let the tears flow – for a time. Masking the grief through busyness only defers it and it will show up – maybe not in tears, but in some sort of physical representation like depression, anxiety, stomach issues etc.
Platitudes don’t work either and although well-intentioned, are honestly – annoying. People tend to say things like: “oh, you will get over it soon,” or, “don’t worry, things will be fine.” In the middle of all the pain and grief, these statements are not helpful. It feels like hell to have that kind of pain and acknowledging that pain is authentic. Therefore, be selective when you share your stories and your grief – you need the support; not encouragement to just get over it.
Most of us get (maybe) 3 days off and that is only for human loss, not the loss of an animal companion.
If someone you know is experiencing loss – hold them with your arms, hold them with your words, hold them with your loving gaze, let them cry and be heard. Just be there, even if it is loving them from afar. Simply offer your unconditional love – that is what sustains us and helps us heal.
RIP – Scout, Willow and all of the furry angels we have known and loved.
This article was written by Cheryl Hiebert. Cheryl is a Personal Wellness Coach with a mind body spirit approach to wellness. Her goal is to help you feel empowered on your individual path and help you jump out of bed every day loving your life. To help you create a life where you feel happy, full of energy and first on your list. You are worth it! Cheryl also wrks with people and their animal companions, such as offering Pet Loss & Bereavement counseling. To see how you can get more support from Cheryl, make sure to visit her website.
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