It is called the Rainbow Bridge because of its many colors. Just this side of the Rainbow Bridge is a land of meadows, hills and valleys, all of it covered with lush green grass.
When a beloved pet dies, the pet goes to this lovely land. There is always food and water and warm spring weather. There, the old and frail animals are young again. Those who are maimed are made whole once more. They play all day with each other, content and comfortable.
There is only one thing missing. They are not with the special person who loved them on Earth. So each day they run and play until the day comes when one suddenly stops playing and looks up! Then, the nose twitches! The ears are up! The eyes are staring! You have been seen, and that one suddenly runs from the group!
You take him or her in your arms and embrace. Your face is kissed again and again and again, and you look once more into the eyes of your trusting pet.
Then, together, you cross the Rainbow Bridge, never again to be separated.
The “Mourning Journey”
Grief – what we feel on the inside.
Mourning – the public showing of grief. Grief gone public. What people see when a bereaved is crying, is angry or yelling; a physical showing of hurt in a variety of other ways with the loss of a precious love. Many times physical demonstrations of emotions that the majority of our society is uncomfortable seeing.
Mourning is an essential part of a healthy grief journey. “He who mourns, mends.” In fact, the journey should be called a “mourning journey” more closely describing the activity needed to reconcile the loss, the grief, fully into a person’s life.
In reality, active mourning for some is one of the hardest things to do, for a variety of reasons. Many people feel weak for showing their emotions and would rather cover them up to appear strong. Some people were raised in an environment of “big boys don’t cry” or with a “buck up philosophy.” Others may feel like they will be shamed if they show their grief, in particular with the death of a beloved pet. Therefore, it’s easier to hold the grief in and to not have to possibly endure the hurtful comments from people, such as “just get another cat” or “why are you crying, it was just a dog.”
Active mourning is doing the necessary rituals and activities to take the grief, the loss, public. While some people may be uncomfortable to be around those that are grieving, this “mourning journey” is fully and completely about the person that’s grieving. In providing support for the bereaved heart, a grieving heart might need permission to take this mourning journey and to do those activities necessary to mend their grief.
What does active mourning look like? This will vary as everyone’s needs and ways to handle loss are unique to that individual. But whatever those unique active mourning processes are, the bottom line is, do something! Take time to include mourning in your daily activities. Here are some ideas to help with active mourning:
Light a candle in honor of the pet. This can be done daily and can then be accompanied by some quiet time to pay reflect on the life that was shared.
Start a journal to chronicle the life of the pet and to daily record your thoughts and feelings.
Write a letter to the pet or about the pet. Let them know what you appreciated about them and what you will miss. Also use this process to ask for the pet’s forgiveness if you feel it’s necessary.
Have a memorial service.
Plant a tree or flower in honor of the pet, taking time daily to sit by the tree or flower and remember the pet.
Take a daily walk, using that time to remember the pet and the lessons that were learned from the pet’s life.
Attend a pet loss support group to be with others who, too, are mourning the loss of a beloved pet.
Create a video that fully depicts the pet and their personality. Take the time in creating the video to search for those lessons that the pet taught.
Coleen Ellis lost her “baby girl” in 2003, and she was devastated. No one understood how she could be so upset over losing “just a dog,” and she could never really say goodbye to her terrier-schnauzer mix, Mico.
To help pet parents everywhere, she opened the first standalone pet funeral home in the United States in Indianapolis. In this guidebook, she helps pet parents, veterinarians, death-care professionals and others celebrate the special bonds we share with our animal companions.
Drawing upon her experiences helping thousands of pet parents and pet care professionals, Ellis provides:
ideas to help celebrate the special bonds people share with their pets;
checklists to choose the right cremation provider or funeral home;
heartwarming stories that show how pets can be honored in life and in death;
information on how death-care professionals, veterinarians and others are taking steps to serve pet parents;
additional resources to help people remember their pets the way they want.
People everywhere want to honor the lives of their pets, and even if you aren’t a pet owner, you need to understand why this is important. Help yourself and those you care about with Pet Parents: A Journey Through Unconditional Love and Grief.
The Pet Loss Center has put together an active mourning journal to help guide you through your grief journey. The journal is filled with a year’s worth of weekly activities and several helpful articles to assist you during this difficult time. Email us HERE for your complimentary journal.
Epitaph to a Dog
Near this Spot are deposited the Remains of one who possessed Beauty without Vanity, Strength without Insolence, Courage without Ferocity, and all the virtues of Man without his Vices.
This praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery if inscribed over human Ashes, is but a just tribute to the Memory of Boatswain, a Dog who was born in Newfoundland May 1803 and died at Newstead Nov. 18th, 1808
When some proud Son of Man returns to Earth, Unknown to Glory, but upheld by Birth, The sculptor’s art exhausts the pomp of woe, And storied urns record who rests below. When all is done, upon the Tomb is seen, Not what he was, but what he should have been. But the poor Dog, in life the firmest friend, The first to welcome, foremost to defend, Whose honest heart is still his Master’s own, Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone, Unhonoured falls, unnoticed all his worth, Denied in heaven the Soul he held on earth – While man, vain insect! hopes to be forgiven, And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven.
Oh man! thou feeble tenant of an hour, Debased by slavery, or corrupt by power – Who knows thee well, must quit thee with disgust, Degraded mass of animated dust! Thy love is lust, thy friendship all a cheat, Thy tongue hypocrisy, thy heart deceit! By nature vile, ennobled but by name, Each kindred brute might bid thee blush for shame. Ye, who behold perchance this simple urn, Pass on – it honours none you wish to mourn. To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise; I never knew but one — and here he lies.
The Last Will and Testament of Silverdene Emblem O'Neill
I, SILVERDENE EMBLEM O’NEILL (familiarly known to my family, friends, and acquaintances as Blemie), because the burden of my years and infirmities is heavy upon me, and I realize the end of my life is near, do hereby bury my last will and testament in the mind of my Master. He will not know it is there until after I am dead. Then, remembering me in his loneliness, he will suddenly know of this testament, and I ask him then to inscribe it as a memorial to me.
I have little in the way of material things to leave. Dogs are wiser than men. They do not set great store upon things. They do not waste their days hoarding property. They do not ruin their sleep worrying about how to keep the objects they have, and to obtain the objects they have not. There is nothing of value I have to bequeath except my love and my faith. These I leave to all those who have loved me, to my Master and Mistress, who I know will mourn me most, to Freeman who has been so good to me, to Cyn and Roy and Willie and Naomi and — But if I should list all those who have loved me, it would force my Master to write a book. Perhaps it is vain of me to boast when I am so near death, which returns all beasts and vanities to dust, but I have always been an extremely lovable dog.
I ask my Master and Mistress to remember me always, but not to grieve for me too long. In my life I have tried to be a comfort to them in time of sorrow, and a reason for added joy in their happiness. It is painful for me to think that even in death I should cause them pain. Let them remember that while no dog has ever had a happier life (and this I owe to their love and care for me), now that I have grown blind and deaf and lame, and even my sense of smell fails me so that a rabbit could be right under my nose and I might not know, my pride has sunk to a sick, bewildered humiliation. I feel life is taunting me with having over-lingered my welcome. It is time I said good-bye, before I become too sick a burden on myself and on those who love me. It will be sorrow to leave them, but not a sorrow to die. Dogs do not fear death as men do. We accept it as part of life, not as something alien and terrible which destroys life. What may come after death, who knows? I would like to believe with those of my fellow Dalmatians who are devout Mohammedans, that there is a Paradise where one is always young and full-bladdered; where all the day one dillies and dallies with an amorous multitude of houris, beautifully spotted; where jack rabbits that run fast but not too fast (like the houris) are as the sands of the desert; where each blissful hour is mealtime; where in long evenings there are a million fireplaces with logs forever burning, and one curls oneself up and blinks into the flames and nods and dreams, remembering the old brave days on earth, and the love of one’s Master and Mistress.
I am afraid this is too much for even such a dog as I am to expect. But peace, at least, is certain. Peace and long rest for weary old heart and head and limbs, and eternal sleep in the earth I have loved so well. Perhaps, after all, this is best.
One last request I earnestly make. I have heard my Mistress say, “When Blemie dies we must never have another dog. I love him so much I could never love another one.” Now I would ask her, for love of me, to have another. It would be a poor tribute to my memory never to have a dog again. What I would like to feel is that, having once had me in the family, now she cannot live without a dog! I have never had a narrow jealous spirit. I have always held that most dogs are good (and one cat, the black one I have permitted to share the living room rug during the evenings, whose affection I have tolerated in a kindly spirit, and in rare sentimental moods, even reciprocated a trifle). Some dogs, of course, are better than others. Dalmatians, naturally, as everyone knows, are best. So I suggest a Dalmatian as my successor. He can hardly be as well bred or as well mannered or as distinguished and handsome as I was in my prime. My Master and Mistress must not ask the impossible. But he will do his best, I am sure, and even his inevitable defects will help by comparison to keep my memory green. To him I bequeath my collar and leash and my overcoat and raincoat, made to order in 1929 at Hermes in Paris. He can never wear them with the distinction I did, walking around the Place Vendôme, or later along Park Avenue, all eyes fixed on me in admiration; but again I am sure he will do his utmost not to appear a mere gauche provincial dog. Here on the ranch, he may prove himself quite worthy of comparison, in some respects. He will, I presume, come closer to jack rabbits than I have been able to in recent years. And for all his faults, I hereby wish him the happiness I know will be his in my old home.
One last word of farewell, Dear Master and Mistress. Whenever you visit my grave, say to yourselves with regret but also with happiness in your hearts at the remembrance of my long happy life with you: “Here lies one who loved us and whom we loved.” No matter how deep my sleep I shall hear you, and not all the power of death can keep my spirit from wagging a grateful tail.
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