Animal Bereavement is a very real thing to experience. If you have ever loved and lost an animal you will know only too well how much it hurts. You may have even been put off sharing your home with another animal because it hurt so much. Following the loss of our own beloved cat Dippy, I want to share with you some valuable insights that helped my family and me during the key stages of this difficult time.
Just last month my husband and I found ourselves in the difficult position of having to deal with animal bereavement when our alpha female, Lilac Point Siamese cat, while her fancy name was Serendipity, we just called her Dippy and aged 12 she rapidly went downhill. We had suspected things weren’t right for some time, as she had been showing signs of dementia and struggled to keep weight on. One of our other cats had similar symptoms and we had been giving them both extra meals, however, after a few weeks one had picked up and put on weight but Dippy, poor girl, just didn’t and we had to make the difficult decision to help her cross the rainbow bridge.
Being an Animal Communicator did not lessen my grief once Dippy had passed, but it did enable me to prepare for and support my husband with the situation – after all he had shared his heart with her since she was just 6 weeks old.
Dippy’s Gift To The World
For those of you who didn’t meet Dippy, you missed out on her fabulous charisma, character, love, the biggest most demanding meow, and the most gorgeous pretty face and silky toes. Dippy was the queen of being mindful and fully present, her gift to us was to bring us into the present and share her love and wonderful reverbing purrs. She was our investigator cat, first to check out anyone new to the home, always friendly and welcoming, and closely followed by our alpha male cat Nubi – in fact they were inseparable for their whole lives. Wherever she was, he was, and vice versa. She was also really funny, often causing us to laugh out loud at her antics and bellowing meow when she bought you a catnip mouse.
These are the key stages of animal bereavement we went through, and what we did to ease the pain of transition.
Each action at each stage really has helped us through this difficult time, and I hope, should you need, that they will help you through the loss of a much loved animal in your life too.
- Denial. One or both of us went through a period of denying that her ill health was anything more than her being a fussy eater at different stages of her demise. I found that patience was crucial, as was kindness. Just because I recognised that her days were numbered did not mean that my husband reached the same conclusion at the same time as me. Ultimately we live together and being compassionate towards one another during the stage of denial was really important.
- Acceptance. It was crucial for both of us to be able to manage Dippy’s last precious days, once we had accepted the inevitable was happening we were able to connect with her and ask her what she wanted and ensure she got her favourite foods, warm spot on the sofa and most of all, attentive company.
- Difficult Decisions. Deciding how to help her was hard. In an ideal world our animals say goodbye, go to sleep and never wake up. Neither of us had experienced our animals crossing the rainbow bridge like that, ever. Making a decision for our holistic vet to come to the home was crucial and Dippy hung on for that appointment. It was by far the kindest and least stressful situation for all parties. If you can, I recommend it.
- Ceremony. Decide what you intend to do with your animals body, who will make the plan and who will carry it out. We decided to bury our girl in the garden, and my husband wanted to do it very quickly after she had passed. We wrapped her body in a cotton towel and put her into the soil, covering her properly so that she wouldn’t be disturbed by other pets or wild animals that might dig in the garden. Sadly the snow came the very next day so we didn’t get to put a plant on top of her grave right away, however since it melted we chose some pretty and non-toxic flowering plants to mark her special spot in our garden. For us it is really important to put a plant where her body is as a living memorial of her body and to complete the ceremony. Part of our ceremony includes a candle which we light every day until the candle has been used up, our holistic vet wrote us a beautiful card with the kindest words inside, including the lyrics of a Garth Brooks song “Looking back on the memory of the dance we shared, beneath the stars above. For a moment all the world was right, how was I to know that you’d ever say goodbye? And now I’m glad I didn’t know the way it all would end, the way it all would go. Our lives are better left to chance, I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance” , beautiful lyrics which sits in the card next to the candle on the mantelpiece.
- Self Care. Losing a friend is tough, be gentle with yourself, recognise the feelings you are experiencing and let your feelings out, don’t push them away. Dippy was such a character in our home; she was always bright and cheerful and often silly and stupid! It is totally natural that we have moments of overwhelming sadness and heartache. I have had several moments since she passed where I have been very upset; my husband had several moments before she passed where he was upset. There is no right or wrong here, just be gentle with yourself and each other and focus on self-care that feels good like having a bath or watching a good film.
- Support. It is not just us humans that struggle with the hole left in our lives after an animal passes, even their animal friends can struggle with coming to terms to life without their friend around. As our boy Nubi is adjusting we are supporting him with homeopathy, bach flower remedies and extra cuddles. Charlie our other Siamese is much quieter and takes himself off to be alone, he has had the same additional care and they are both starting to have brighter days. Ourselves, we took ignatia, a homeopathic remedy to help us with the feelings of grief and overwhelming sadness, we also had some very early nights and watched some light humour on YouTube, gentle things we could enjoy whilst supporting each other through this time.
- Look for signs. Animals view crossing the rainbow bridge very differently to us. They view it as a transition from one room to another, their soul leaves their body and they move onto the next chapter. Because the soul is eternal and ethereal animals can – and do – visit us after they have passed. They can be ‘seen’ as cat shadows, felt as a tail rubbing up your leg or a meow or even leave us little gifts to let us know they are still around.
- Cat gifts. I was walking in the woods a couple of weeks after Dippy passed and was really struggling with overwhelming emotions, it had been snowing for a few days and I had been ill with flu, so was feeling rather sorry for myself. Spring hadn’t yet sprung and I really felt my heart was torn in two. I looked down and found a beautiful piece of a tree, covered with Dippy like fur, in fact it looked like her toes. As I bent to pick it up and sob at the fact I wouldn’t see her silly face again, I felt her all around me, wrap me with love and thank me and my husband for helping her to go, she told me she was at peace and that she was everywhere. I thanked her for her gift and found great comfort in having communicated with her. I added her gift to our little area on the mantlepiece where it will stay until the candle is finished.
Rest in peace now little girl, run free. You lit up our home with your beauty and dippo-potamus like grace, forever in our hearts you were a one-off xxxx . If you are struggling to come to terms with your own animal bereavement then do reach out, help is one hand.