The relationship between humans and animals is special because somehow, when the world gets to be too stressful, or when you seem to face any type of challenge — your pup is there. And your pet doesn’t judge you, doesn’t ask you to explain. Your dog simply lays its head in your lap and loves you. The loss of a pet is a terrible loss. There’s a poem, called the Rainbow Bridge poem, that can help you mourn the loss of a pet.
The Relationship Between Humans and Animals
It starts so sweetly and unassumingly. You bring your pup home. Whether it’s a newborn pup or an older rescue, it doesn’t take long for you to get used to your pet in your home: digging through your laundry, sleeping on your shoes, and licking your eyelids to wake you for a walk.
And before you know it, your pup’s a part of your life. Loves you, needs you… and you need your pet more than you thought you would. It’s strange because they can’t speak… but they understand every word you say (namely “walk,” “treat,” “bath,” and “love”).
So, when the day arrives, and it is inevitable, how do you cope with the loss of a pet?
Of course, some people assume pet grief hurts less than human grief, but they couldn’t be more mistaken.
The human-animal bond is powerful — if for no other reason than that you can truly love one another unconditionally.
The Rainbow Bridge Poem
“Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….”
— Author unknown
In the same way you might hold a memorial for a beloved family member and share words of comfort or play music, you can do the same when losing a pet. The Rainbow Bridge poem is a beautiful way to remind yourself that the human-animal bond is strong, and that your beloved dog gave your life true value
Your dog made your home feel like home; therefore, pet grief can mean feelings of isolation, anger, frustration, and extreme sadness. Losing a pet is never easy, but poems and lyrics like those in The Rainbow Bridge poem might remind you that it’s okay to feel and to remember.
How People Mourn
Of course, mourning is extremely personal — the loss of a pet can be hard because even when you’re alone at home, your pet is with you. The silence when your pet is gone can hurt more than the most deafening sound. So, you’ll want to allow yourself to mourn in a healthy way. Wouldn’t your pup want you to be happy, remember the best, but also move forward, knowing you shared something wonderful?
There are no rules when it comes to how you cope with loss of pet. One potential guarantee is that it won’t be easy, and as stated by the Palliative Care Editorial Board, “Grief… cannot be dealt with in a cookbook fashion”. Your personality, and your particular relationship with the pet who passed, will shape your needs.
Culturally and religiously, you may have ways of handling loss that differ from those around you… that’s more than okay, too. Listen to your heart. Ask for what you need. If you need some time alone, ask for it. Conversely, if you’d rather not be alone, ask for company. Share stories. Look back at photos and reminisce.
Tips on How to Cope with the Loss of a Pet
The big thing to remember when seeking out ways to deal with losing a pet is that you do not have to go it alone. There are several forms of support out there for grieving pet owners. In fact, there are even pet-bereavement counseling options.
And The Humane Society of the United States even recommends calling a “losing a pet” support hotline if need be. Usually, you can find pet-bereavement groups by jumping online. Or there may be posted flyers at your local market, library, vet, or groomer.
If you’re still struggling, or you prefer a more private approach to handling your pet grief, check out books on the subject from the library, read articles in magazines, or search for assistance online.
Here are a few more tips on how to cope with losing a pet:
- You can say to yourself, “I feel the pain of grief. I can sit with this. My dog meant too much to me not to feel this way. It’s okay to feel sad.”
- Call friends, family, other pet owners.
- Ask your local groomer or vet, someone who knows you and loved your pup, for referrals to grief groups. Your vet might even be able to simply connect you with someone going through the same thing.
- Host a memorial for your dog. This can be public or private.
- Keep a pet grief journal. You can write in it for as long as you feel you need to. You can record memories, or let out frustration. And if you want, when you’re ready, you can bury the journal outside.
- Listen to music that allows you to reflect and reminds you of your funny pup and the things they used to do. When you’re ready, switch the mood to some motivational, get-up-and-go beats.
- Get moving. It could help you clear your mind to continue walking at the same times during which you walked your pup.
- Eventually, you will be able to move on. You may decide to get a new pet, and that experience can be as richly rewarding as the last one, even though it’s sure to be different. No dog can replace the pet you lost, but building a new relationship could help you heal and bring you new joy.
Again, nobody experiences grief in the same way, but print The Rainbow Bridge poem out. Keep it with you for as long as you need to. And then, if you happen to come across another grieving dog owner in the future, you can share this poem that has become so popular.
The human animal bond needn’t be mysterious. There’s no need to diminish the meaning of your relationship with your pet just to move on. These things take time. Give yourself that time.
And remember the Rainbow Bridge poem, and that though your pup may be “long gone from your life,” they are “never absent from your heart.”