The Rainbow Bridge Poem
“Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….”
~ Author unknown
I Wish I Could Have a Do-Over to Saying Goodbye
I grew up with dogs, specifically a Doberman (Fonzie), a poodle mix (Bo), and a schnauzer (Ziggy). We lost all three dogs within a short amount of time. I remember doing a lot of mourning alone. It felt weak to grieve too long over an animal, and everyone else seemed to keep moving forward without much pause. Those three animals live in my heart to this day. I wish I could have a do-over to say a meaningful goodbye.
We tend to recreate what we lived as children. As an adult, I found myself with two cats, and my love for them was no less than what I’d felt for my childhood pets. Both went into kidney failure around the same time, and I was faced with putting them to sleep within a month of each other. I approached this very stoically. I took Andre and Carlo to the vet by myself without the inclusion of my young children or my spouse. After a brief goodbye, the vet took the cats into the back to euthanize them–I did not have the strength to watch. Both times, I left the office holding back tears clinging to a small, memorial imprint of their paw. Again, I’d like a do-over.
3 Ways To Say A Meaningful Goodbye To Your Pet
Fast forward a dozen or so years later. I have an elderly shih tzu named Chloe and a young rescue named Ava. Chloe struggles to see, and I know she is in the last years of her life. This time, my goodbye to Chloe will not be swept under the rug, but will be made meaningful. A pet is a family member that deserves a proper goodbye. The lessons about unconditional love we receive from these animals necessitate a loving end-of-life and an honorable tribute.
Cloe (left) and Ava (right)
1. Grieve Together
If possible, surround your pet with family in its final moments. Don’t send it to be euthanized alone, or have it suddenly disappear. As a family pet, a meaningful goodbye should include all family members. Grieving together connects us and validates not only our love for the animal, but also our sadness. It lets children know that death is a natural part of life, and it’s okay to feel sad. It shows them that sadness is not weakness, and we never have to be sad alone.
Suggested Read: Don’t Flush Your Goldfish. Say Goodbye.
2. Celebrate Your Pet’s Life
Hold a memorial, and read eulogies that express your love and gratitude for your pet. Make a tribute to your pet in the form of a shadow box with keepsakes, a stepping stone or plaque for its grave or the garden, commission a painting or a stuffed animal version of your pet, plant a tree, or donate to a favorite animal charity in your pet’s name.
3. Claim Your Grief
Don’t let anyone negate your loss. Pets are a miraculous gift that fill our hearts with love and teach us valuable lessons. Give yourself time and permission to grieve. This loss is especially difficult if the pet was your sole companion at home. Reach out to pet-loving friends or an online support community to share your grief. Be patient with yourself. Healing is a process and just because it was an animal that passed instead of a human does not make the process any shorter or easier.
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