Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post a reflection on grief as I continue to explore its landscape and listen to you. In the sharing of our stories with each other, we find encouragement and build a community of support.

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Grieving Our Pets

Pets start out like children. They end up our elders.

There are differences, of course. Some of our pets will never grow to be smarter than a fifth grader; the rest don’t think we need to know that they know what we want them to do. Our pets will never go to college or move out of the house.

I don’t think it’s a matter of being dependent on us as much as it is that they choose to stay with us. They become our companions and friends. They love us no matter what is happening or what we do. They accept us as we are, which is no small feat, and encourage us to do better.

They demand nothing of us, other than food, daily walks, and rubbing their heads now and then. And if we’re depressed, sick or crying, they will cuddle up beside and keep us company. They let us know they understand our emotions when we share our struggles with them, even if they don’t understand the particulars.

What we value most about our pets is not their agreement but acceptance.

When they are sick, they don’t want to bother us, but we sense they are ailing and try to help without knowing the extent of the problem. As they grow older, gray hairs appear. We see the fading look in their eyes, their struggle to move around, and their difficulty in jumping up in our laps. They are always around, until they aren’t.

Knowing that they will die before us does not make their deaths any easier to accept. They become family, and we grieve their loss as much as we grieve the loss of any close friend. Do we grieve them less because they were not human?

Love is not a matter of IQ or species, but a matter of heart. Our pets show more compassion than some humans we know. I believe that all sentient beings share a common consciousness. We simply articulate this awareness differently.

When any relationship of the deep heart ends, we grieve. And terribly.

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