I once read a statement that said, “The more you grieve for your deceased pet, the more you loved them.” If you genuinely feel that this statement is correct, you might not read this blog and move onto something about feeding or not over-vaccinating.
Grief is one of the most confusing emotions that humans experience because it is given credit for many things and most of them are incorrect. Grief is a human emotion and we will all experience grief at sometime in our lives. Without the experience, we will not have the ability to truly understand it and deal with it. Not only do we attach a story to our grieving, but we also attach a story to our dog’s grieving as well and that is when things get really confusing and stressful.
Let’s start with defining an emotion. All emotions, grief, anger, worry, sadness, and so on, are feelings in the body. It is our body’s reaction to a though in our mind. All emotions are an expression of a thought, whether conscious or unconscious. Imagine that when you were a child, your mother gave you a good scolding when you were on the swing at the playground. You reacted with a thought that you are bad and your Mom must not love you and with that thought came a feeling of sadness in your body, in the region of your chest. Now, you walk by a park, see a swing and for some reason, you feel sad. You may no longer know why you are feeling sad because the thought is hidden deep in your subconscious. If you attach enough feeling to bad thoughts, you find yourself walking around in a rotten mood most of the time. The same goes for grief.
Now, let’s attempt to be specific with grieving for a deceased pet. The relationship that we have with our pets is like no other relationship. We can do just about anything around our pet and it will still love us unconditionally. Wow, what other relationship can offer that; the ability to be our authentic self without the fear of criticism. When we drop the ego’s defense mechanism, we can truly experience unconditional love. This is the primary purpose our pets offer us, the ability to experience unconditional love.
Just what is unconditional love? Just like it sounds, loving unconditionally, meaning that our ego-driven mind can move out of the way and let love reveal itself. This is how our pets love us and how we can love our pets. The mistake comes when we believe that we get the love from our pet. Our mind reacts to our pet with a loving feeling and we believe that we are feeling the love that our pet is giving us. In truth, the love is coming from us and not the pet. Yes, the pet is loving us, but the feeling we have is, again, coming from us and not the pet. This truth is enormously important when dealing with grieving, because our mind convinces us that when our pet dies we will no longer feel the love because the pet is not present. This is absolutely not the case. The love that we feel when we are with our pet is still present with or without the physical pet being around. Stories, attached with emotions like grieving, actually block the expression of that love that is within all of us.
The problem we humans have is that when we love something we get attached to it. Attachment is derived from the fear of losing something. “Hey, that is my ball. Give it back” vs “Hey, you can have the ball. It’s not mine anyway.” When we have the rare occasion of loving unconditionally, our personal mind automatically creates a story of attachment so that it can find ways to avoid losing that attachment. This is why we go into panic mode when we find out that our pet has a serious illness. Our mind, both consciously and unconsciously tells us stories like, “What will I do without my pet? How will my life ever be the same. I will never feel the same” and so on. With these thoughts, come the conditioned emotions that lead to enormous stress that we often carry over when our pet actually transitions. We are often left with emotions of grief, guilt, sadness, frustration and even anger.
When we have those thoughts hidden in our minds, whenever we think about our deceased pet, the emotions come forward and we feel terrible. I personally know wonderful pet caretakers who refuse to get another pet due to the hurtful emotions that they carry around long after their pet died. Does this even remotely describe unconditional love? Absolutely not. This is not love, it is nothing more than hurtful emotions that come with thoughts based on attachment and fear of loss.
I wrote a blog once titled, Can You Love Me While I Am Dying?” If you haven’t read it you should. It talks about the choices we make when dealing with our sick pet and the realization that it will soon transition. In those moments, we have two choices; fear or love. If we choose fearful thoughts like how my life will never be the same, the results will always be fearful. Those will manifest as hurtful thoughts and emotions. If we choose to unconditionally love our dying pet in each moment, the result takes us to a new level of awareness, beyond our fearful mind and we realize that the love we have with our pet will never die and it will always be present. Then, when we think about our pet that has transitioned, our heart opens and we feel love. That is what our pet wants to leave us with.
In regards to our pets grieving, trying to understand emotions that our pets are having is nothing more than a human attempt to perceive something that is impossible. Our pets do not conjure up stories of attachment and the harmful emotions that people have caused themselves. They focus totally in the present moment. Pets are conditioned according to their species. Dogs are pack animals and the pack functions as a unit just as much as the individuality within the pack. Cats have their own inherited instincts and react to changes according to their inherited reactions. When a member of the pack transitions, the energy of the pack is disturbed and that affects each member of the pack and thy react according to their own personality. One might react with fear, another with grief, another with anxiety and so on. In time, if the energy of the new pack settles, all should return to normal. However, if humans in the pack are suffering from thoughts and feelings due to attachment, then the stressful energy will be felt by the entire pack and normalization will be delayed. In these times, we need to focus on our stress, work on restoring normal energy and it will help the survivors of the pack enormously. Remember, it is your choice always. Love or fear.