Updated: Oct 25, 2018
As an animal caregiver who also works with animals as an Animal Reiki Practitioner, they are sentient beings with great emotional intelligence who feel, and express, emotions of love, joy, pain, grief and loss. One of my own cats, Sam, expressed the depth of his feelings when his sidekick, mentor and hero, an elderly cat called Finlay, died at 18 years old when Sam was young and finding his way.
Grief and Loss
Finlay was a truly incredible creature and it was an honour to have been a part of his life. When he died, Sam wasn’t sure what had happened. He wandered around looking for Finlay, confused why he wasn’t there. He had no one to play with, to chase, to annoy, to groom, to adore and he stopped sleeping in the bed they shared. There is no real way to adequately communicate to an animal that a member of his family is not coming back; there is no way to try to comfort them with words. As humans, we all share the experience of grief and we know that often there are no words when a beloved has been taken from us.
When some time had passed, my partner and I had one of our favourite photographs of Finlay printed and framed, which still holds pride of place in our home. When we hung the photograph, Sam ran up to it, excited to see Finlay return. When Finlay didn’t respond, Sam pawed at the photograph, looking for a response, and then smelled it. When he realised it wasn't Finlay, he retreated into a corner below where Finlay used to sleep, head resting on his paws, eyes downcast. He looked dejected, broken hearted, sad and lost again. It took Sam a long time to come to terms with Finlay’s death.
Our Heart's Sacred Space
There is nothing that can heal the emptiness that the death of a loved one leaves behind, nothing that can fill the space, that great chasm in our heart where they once resided. That's because that sacred space is forever dedicated to them and it will always belong to them. That's where we hold them near to us, keeping our shared memories, treasuring the feelings that bind us to one another, wherever we both may be.
Sharing The Love We Learn
It may take months or years but when we feel ready, we can take the first tentative steps in sharing the love that we learned from that one special soul, and begin to extend this love for others in the same way that this special soul did with us. Eventually, this is what Sam did. He became the mentor for a kitten – well, two to be exact - showing them how to play, chase, cuddle, manipulate for treats and get me up in the middle of the night just for the fun of it. In time, he was able to share the love that he had learned from Finlay.
Animals have the wisdom to show us the ways of grace, humility, compassion and love, restoring our joy and our connections with ourselves and each other as a fundamental part of the rich landscape of life that we humans can lose touch with. Animals are not only our companions, our families, our friends but they are also our teachers.
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