One of the most heart-rending, but also gratifying, services I provide to my clients is the transition ritual. Saying goodbye to a dying pet companion produces more guilt, grief, and emotional baggage than almost any other human experience. The pain can be so great that people either run out and adopt/buy/rescue another animal almost immediately or vow never again to have another pet in the home. Supporting human families through this difficult time can turn the pain into a loving ceremony that lives on in their memories and often brings them closer together as a family.
Recently, I was called to help a family with an older dog who had renal failure, and was refusing food and water. All he wanted to do was lie on the grass near their house and rest. The family had four older children, and everyone was unsure of what to do to help their dog. Was it best to take him to the vet for euthanasia? Was he in pain? Would he forgive them if they mad the choice to "kill" him before it was time? Here is what we did.
On a beautiful, calm summer evening, we met at their home. We moved the dog to the back yard, placed a lightweight, soft shawl over the blanket covering his body, and set several small battery-operated tea light candles around him. The family gathered in a circle and sat close, while I connected with him and transcribed his responses to their questions on my laptop. We asked how he felt, what he wished them to do for him, and what advice he had for each of them. They were struck by the individual messages he provided, and each person was able to say goodbye, either aloud or silently. There was a great deal of crying, and a lot of emotional release for all of us.
Drumming, carefully chosen music, and a respectful environment that honors all present are all essential components of this kind of ritual. Using several essential oils to anoint the body also helps to ease the transition from physical to spirit bodies, and as I passed around each oil, I explained how it was used historically, and each person either inhaled its essence or applied some to the skin. We swept the Frankincense, Myrrh, and other essences through the energy field of their dog, and released him to leave his body, whenever he chose to go.
In our Western culture, we seldom witness the death of either people or animals, and this kind of ceremony is almost always a post-death ritual. Many of us are terrified to stay with our animals during euthanasia, and hope to avoid being present when our dear family members or friends pass from this Earth. Our understanding of death is limited, and the animals can teach us a great deal about how beautiful it can be to choose our moment of transformation into the spirit of pure love that is the seed of each and every living being.
Listen to your animals and they will tell you when it is time for them to leave. There is help if you need it, and a formal goodbye can be the way to turn your fear, guilt, and grief into a loving memory. Please post your comments and questions, and we'll help each other to a deeper understanding and a less painful way to help our dear pets make their last journey.
Image courtesy of [Maggie Smith] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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