Grief Healing: Pet Loss: Spiritual Beliefs and Prayer
The wish to pray is a prayer in itself.
~ Georges Bernanos
A reader writes: I know you’ve worked with people who’ve lost pets and I’m just wondering: Do you follow any particular belief system or religious point of view when it comes to animals? Such as Native American belief in the spirit of all things, or the Celtic belief in pets as familiars or any esoteric school of thought? And do you ever pray for or pray with your pet(s) or other people and their pets?
My response: I believe that companion animals are God’s special gift to us. They are very important, spiritual beings who have much to teach us about life and living in the moment, and about death and dying with acceptance, dignity and grace. With their constant presence, availability and devotion, they are our best source of unconditional love, becoming for many of us the ideal child, mate or friend. They listen without judgement or reproach, and never give advice. They accept us exactly as we are, regardless of how we look or feel or behave. They forgive us readily and never hold grudges against us. No matter how much change we must endure in our unpredictable lives, our animal companions are always there for us. When I looked into my dog’s eyes and he looked back at me, I felt as if I was looking into his very soul. I saw a wisdom and a knowing that I cannot explain, and I felt a deep connection of pure and unconditional love. There is not another person on this earth who listened to me as attentively as my dog.
In my years of working with bereaved animal lovers, I’ve learned that how attached we become to our animals is as individual as we are, but the bonds we have are valid, worthy of understanding, and serve to explain the intense pain we feel when those bonds are broken. When cherished companion animals are taken from us, we need to take some time to think about and remember how closely we were attached to one another. It is only when we identify how much our friends meant to us, and recognize how very much we have lost, that we begin to understand why pet loss hurts so much. The more significant the bond, the greater the loss that’s felt when the animal is no longer with us.
You ask if I’ve ever prayed for, or prayed with, my pet(s) or other people and their pets. Since I work with people mourning loved ones both human and animal, I always include my clients and their animals in my prayers. And it goes without saying that the animals I’ve loved and lost are always in my prayers.
Here is an example of a graveside prayer that I’ve shared with some of my clients:
We have gathered here today to express our love for our faithful friend and companion, [Pet’s Name], as we lay [his or her] [little] body to rest in this grave.
We thank God, the Creator of all life, for the years we were privileged to enjoy our [furry] friend, and for the happy memories [s/he] gave us. Each of us can recall some loveable way [s/he] endeared [her/himself] to our hearts. Let’s take a few moments now to recall some of those loveable traits which endeared [her/him] to us. (Moments of Reminiscence)
These happy memories should gladden our hearts for many years. [Pet’s Name] has fulfilled the purpose for which God gave [her/him] to our family.
[S/he] shared our laughter and our tears, our moods and our meals, our walks and our talks. Now, from grateful hearts, we give [her/him] back to God, Who gave [her/him] to us to love and cherish.
Rest in peace, little friend. Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, we thank You for giving us [Pet’s Name] to love and care for. Now that[ her/his] life among us is over, we give [her/him] back to You, Who gave [her/him] life and breath.
We are grateful for all [her/his] endearing traits, and for the ways [s/he] brought happiness into our home and laughter into our lives. Grant us pleasant memories of this dear [little] friend who shared our family life and gave us happy years. Good bye, faithful friend. Amen.