When Your Animal Dies: Actively Moving Through the Grief


Your animal  has died and you are distraught. If it's the first time you are experiencing such unmatched sorrow, you feel as if your world has just shriveled to nothing.  If it's not the first time, you feel as if your world has just shrivled to nothing.  The emptiness is vast and your suffering prolonged, yet you hesitate opening up to others who may  dismiss your pain as fleeting.  All of us who have cherished the love on an animal have sunk into this black hole which we'll likely revisit it as long as we live with a generous heart and bring in dogs, cats, birds, horses..... Animals, whose life spans are fractions of our own, leave permanent on our hearts, but we learn to  survive their a loss by actively moveing through the  pain.

1. Don't shelve the loss.  Feel it fully by granting yourself permission to grieve for as long as you need. Grief is not bound by schedule; Confront it because suppressing the paint will result in its intensifying later when you are  least prepared.

2.  Revel in the great panorama of your life together: the joy and mischief, the silly games of "gotcha!" thes shoe-eating reprimands, the rainy night cuddles and the barefoot steps into that unexpected pile of.....  Remember the surprise lap hugs and face licks your dog gave you when you needed them  most.

3. Share your memorieswith other "animal" people who understand your loss.   Local humane societies often host a monthly grief support group where you can develop find comeraderie with people who want to hear your story. .  You will find equal comfort in lending yoru support to others.

4. Create a  visual memorial of your life together. Place photographs of your dog or cat around the house so you connect with him or her consiously at every turn.  Use art as an open eyed meditation -- construct a photographic collage or compile a picture book  The solitude of the activity will be healing, and focusing on the photos will transport you from bleakness to hope.
5. Turn to nature.  If you have the space,  design a memorial garden in your yard.  Digging into the earth and connecting with the environment will draw  you closer to your animal in spirit.  Nurturing and watching the garden flourish will renew your spirit.. Plant a tree in your animal's name.  Our animals want us to remember them this way. 
6. Reserve a corner of  the house for  an altar, a sacred place to honor your animal's life, where you can connect to his energy.  Add objects such as your pet's collar, favorite toy,  photos, crystals, candles, incense.  Make it a point to walk by, touch it, close your eyes and breathe consciously a few times a day.

7.  Select your company carefully. Avoid people who don't understand the human-animal bond, people who say, "It was just a cat (or dog or bird). You can always buy another one. " Spend time with supportive friends,friends who have animals and who understand the depth of your feelings.  Physically connecting with their animals is healing.
10. Read about other people's animals for entertainment, to return you to the joy you shared rather than the grief that seems to stun you. Look for amusing  stories about antics and misadventures. Please -- read the stories of James Thurber! You'll relate and you'll  laugh, and as Dr. Bernie Siegel has taught us, laughter brightens our dimmest moods.
In their consciousness, our dogs have not left us but have simply changed form, and they mourn when they see you in self-deprivation mode.  Use your highest senses to touch their new lightness  and you'll be uplifted,  If you're like many of us, you will see they  want us  to fill the empty physical space they left by entering a relationship with a new animal. If this is your first loss,  don't linger into the purgatory of reluctance. Moving forward,you might learn that the greatest way to honor past love is by beckoning new  love.
Lisa Shaw is an animal communicator, professor,and intuitive counselor who lives in South Florida with her four legged and winged family. Her e- book, Illumination: Life Lessons from Our Animal Companions, is available on Amazon.com.

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