For many of us who have experienced the death a family member, we do our best to keep that memory alive or their presence by honoring their birthdays, or at Christmas time or other events throughout the year. We may wear a pendent with their photo, or some other keepsake close to ourselves, we may make an altar, or have a daily ritual. I remember when my Mum died of breast cancer very suddenly in September ’98. I experienced terrible loneliness and grief, and this was felt even more at the first Christmas and my birthday…not having her to talk to (she was in the UK while I live in the US). Every year on her birthday I’ve always done something to celebrate her day, from taking my kids out when they were young for a meal to honor her, to making donations in her name. As time has passed, I still feel her presence with me whenever I walk into a sunlit room, certain smells, being in nature, and around animals! It’s that continual bond that’s so important for us after the loss of someone. However, when we lose an animal companion that need for a continuing bond is no less important for many folks, but unfortunately, it’s not often supported within our society’s!
Disclaimer - I am not a certified Health care practitioner, therefore this content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a/your mental health professional or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your condition. Never disregard professional advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on my website, I provide information as an animal chaplain, not advice!
There are many ways we experience that continuing bond with the loss of our animal companion, when we feel so lost without the ritual of going for walks, feeding time, or that unconditional greeting we receive when we walk through the front door. We can create rituals, or ceremonies, create keep sakes that we can wear. Here are a just a few ways that we can continue the bond –
Two of the hardest things for me was the loss of tactile touch, and the smell of their forehead! Not being able to stroke their fur and smell their forehead’s as I gave them a kiss on there, has been incredibly hard for me. The other thing that was hard was going for a walk around my neighborhood, they were always with us when we went out for a walk. I tried many ways to walk the routes, such as walking in the opposite direction, and missing off parts of the route. But nothing seemed to feel right, and I always seemed to come home depressed. While I was finishing up my certification, I started to walk daily through a wetland area near to my house that we’d take Sherlock and Missy to about 3-4 times a week. I started to notice that I would almost speed walk my route just to get to the wetland area, then once there I just slowed down and stop and just experience this area of wetland. I think it helped that I’m also a Forest Therapy guide, as standing there and opening my senses is such a healing and spiritual experience for me. Sherlock and Missy loved to stop and sniff and listen and look at everything that’s there. When I stand there, I feel like they’re also there with me by my side sensing everything that’s around! This has become a daily ritual for me, even on the days when its pouring with rain, or in the winter when it’s snowed.
If you’re finding going out for a walk without your animal companion by your side is sad and hard to do, you might see if there, is a favorite park, tree, green area, wetland, woodland, etc. that you used to walk with them. If so, can you take your time to walk through or by this area, maybe stopping and opening your senses to everything that’s around you. Even feeling their presence there with you, just as you’re stopping and sensing, imagine them by your side sniffing at the ground, flowers, and trees!
Using your senses for your continuing bond with your animal companion.