As an animal communicator as well as an individual, I have been involved in twelve counseling conversations within the last six months concerning the passing or imminent passing of a companion animal. These conversations are often uncomfortable for the guardian as it becomes clear that the transition is near, but I think having the discussion in this writing can help unravel the doubts we all carry and help answer the two leading questions we have: When is it time to release our companion? And did we do the right thing?
We tend not to be kind to ourselves in these situations, especially if our animal friend needs our assistance. We tend to convince ourselves we can somehow, on some level, change the circumstances of the event if we wait, that the decision will be taken out of our hands. Sometimes waiting is not an option and the helplessness and doubt we feel can easily turn to guilt. But if we can feel secure in the knowledge that we have done the right- the true thing- we can eliminate the dreaded guilt that can amplify into a wet, woolen cloak of guilt weighing us down, dragging us to unrivaled depths of despair, leaving us to slowly drowned over the course of weeks, months and sometimes years compounding our grief.
How can we avoid the guilt of the decision?
By taking a step back from the event for a moment, being honest with our own desires and emotions and allowing the immense love we have shared with companion to become larger than our grief. These steps can make the transition easier for everyone. Death is an intimate and intensely personal event. Ultimately it isn’t about us or our needs or impending grief. It is about the companion’s transition.
To ease the burden for our companion and ourselves as well, we can begin by having a conversation with our companion. Bring the life we have shared together into focus- the tender moments, the tears, the things they did that made us crazy and laugh at the private moments we shared. Thank them for being such a huge part of our lives and how we will miss them more than words can express….then give them permission to leave us. This is much easier to say than to do, particularly if we are not in a mental place to allow the release. Stepping back can help us realize that we cannot stop the process and hanging on can cause them to remain long after their own wishes. We must, for a moment, put our grief aside and consider only our animal’s needs.
Our unfettered release of a loved one is complex on many levels, not the least of which is our doubts of timing. We do not want to lose them and deep down we fear being left alone. If we were honest with ourselves we would admit that at times part of us just wants it to be over, especially if it is a slower process of disease or aging, because the emotional stress is overwhelming… we just need to move past it and begin our grief so that we can conclude it. Or we cannot stand what is happening to our once vibrant partner; the loss of vitality, the degradation of the body, the perceived loss of dignity. All these things influence our decisions. When pain enters the equation our decisions can be simpler and possibly clearer but not always.
When these thoughts creep into our experience we must look at our transitioning animal with eyes that see only the beauty and energy of them in their prime. We should allow no pity to enter the conversation in our heads so we may endeavor to see them not in their current physical process but only their perfect state. Experience has shown me they do not see themselves as in a state of anything less than perfection. They are not as attached to the physical body as we are because the companion sees himself or herself as spirit, though they know in what type of body they reside.
When it is a matter of pain, it can still be confusing. How long do we wait? Is it intolerable? Is the pain being managed appropriately? In these cases it can sometimes be beneficial to ask an animal communicator, but again experience has taught me that the guardian, because the bond is so complete, has the answer and that I as an expert in non-verbal communication only validating and reassuring them of what they already know. And no one can tell us when it is time to assist except our companions.
We must turn a deaf ear to well-meaning friends, families, vets, animal communicators and our own doubts and listen only to the one that matters- the animal making the transition. If we ask them to give us an unimpeachable sign that they need assistance- they will always oblige. I have never had a guardian miss this sign, whether it is an companion I have been working with and ask them to give a sign or whether I had nothing to do with it and they were just enlightening me of a situation.
We can remove all doubt and self-deprecating talk in the future if we simply ask our companion for a sign, see our animals as the beautiful spirit they are, give them permission and get our grief out of the way for this one moment of time.
Our love must be more powerful than our own grief. When the task is complete then we are free to grieve as hard and as often as we need, knowing we have given them our very best and honored their wishes. And at the time of transition, they are the only ones to which we must answer.