Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Grieving Our Pets

Pets start out like children. They end up being 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 them being dependent on us; it’s more that they choose to stay with us. They become our companions and friends, and love us no matter what is happening or what we do. They accept us as we are, which is no small feat for some of us, and they encourage us to do better.

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

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 have become family, and we grieve their loss as much as we grieve the loss of a 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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