Recently, reading a friend’s blog who will likely soon lose her beloved Lab, Fred, and who wrote a beautiful poem about this time of transition, I decided I wanted to write about this topic today.
While it’s hard to say goodbye and lose our pets who are so much a part of our family, I do think if we can find a way to make that last day as special as possible, in the long run, I believe it can help in our own healing.
At least this has been the case for me. So I wanted to share some insight as to how I did this in hopes it will help others. I also realize some are not able to do this as death can be sudden and there wasn’t time.
I’ve written about my last day with Frankie in my book, Through Frankie’s Eyes and my experience with saying goodbye to her— the dog who changed me in a profound way.
When I think back on that day verses the day I said goodbye to my chocolate Lab, Cassie Jo, seven years before, I’m so glad I took the approach I did this time around.
That last day with Frankie, while difficult to not get lost in the impending physical loss from my life, as I did with Cassie Jo, I chose to honor the time I had left with her.
I didn’t do this with Cassie Jo, but instead was swallowed up by how devastated I felt that she was leaving soon. All I could do was cry and before I knew it, she was gone. I was left with regret and wishing I had took the time to really be with her on that last day.
While yes, grief is normal and we all have to grieve in our own way, from my experience, I am left feeling better about having really made a conscious choice to be in the present moment with Frankie as she got ready to transition. There was such a huge gift in that for me personally.
Here is what I did–
So much of our time together was spent out in my writing cottage so that is where I chose to be with her.
I played soothing music.
I lit candles.
I sat with her, holding her in my arms.
I inhaled into my consciousness the smell of her.
I told her how much I loved her.
I took photos of her with John. He took photos of me with Frankie.
I thanked her for helping me become a better human being.
I thanked her for all the lives she touched.
I thanked her for choosing me to be her partner in helping spread a positive message about pets diagnosed with disc disease and dogs in wheelchairs.
I sat in silence with her.
I arranged for my vet to come to my home, so she would be in the place she loved best, and in the arms of the one she felt most secure.
I trusted in what I believe – that animals aren’t afraid to die.
I trusted in what I believe and that I will see her again someday.
I trusted that her spirit would find its way.
I trusted I did all I could for her.
I trusted that her work was done and that I would be okay without her.
I held her in my arms as she was eased from her pain.
I kissed her soft snout one last time and gave thanks for her beautiful life.
There are many ways in which you can be in the moment that last day depending on the health of your pet. Perhaps a walk on their favorite path or playing in a favorite place. Perhaps giving them their favorite treat. Maybe reading them a favorite poem.
For me, it came down to making every effort to be conscious of every single moment left. And to do it in a way that honored all that Frankie was to me. When I think back on it today, I smile, and find peace in it, not sadness. But a gratefulness she was a part of my life.
When I had to say goodbye to Joie it was more sudden as she was in a great deal of pain. But recalling how I had handled things with Frankie, I was able to approach Joie’s end of life in much the same way, just in a shorter amount of time.
As I reflect on this, it is again for me, the conscious choice of being in those present moments, no matter how short or long, that have made a difference as I moved on without them.
I also believe their spirits live on and for that I find a great deal of comfort too. So for me, they are never really gone – just transformed to another realm of where I trust and believe they are well and happy. And that in turn makes me happy and grateful.
For those that the death of a pet is sudden, I believe you can still do something as a way to honor your pet.
-You can create an altar.
-Play soothing music.
-Create a special album of photos.
-Talk out loud or in your mind thanking your pet, telling them how much they meant to you.
-Sit in silence and meditate.
-Recall fun and happy memories.
-Give thanks for how much they had a positive affect on your life.
-Journal your feelings or write a poem about what they meant to you.
-Talk with an animal communicator (I did this before Frankie passed and since I didn’t have much time with Joie, I did this after Joie passed away. Both times provided helpful insight).
Everyone will be different, but I think finding a way that feels right to you as you go through this transition is what matters and can help the healing process in the long run.
A book I often recommend to others is by Jon Katz, Going Home, Finding Peace When Pets Die.
From Jon’s book and what our dogs might leave with us as a final thought (just a portion of what he wrote):
By for now, you must know that there is always a goodbye hovering in the shadow of a dog. We are never here for long, or for long enough. We were never meant to share all of your life, only to mark its passages. We come and we go. We come when we are needed. We leave when it is time. Death is necessary. It defines life…
Thank you. It was nothing but a gift.
And finally I ask these things of you:
Grieve for me.
And then, when you can, let me go, freely and in peace.
When you are ready, do me the great honor of bringing another dog into your life, so you can give and receive this gift again.
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