He prayeth well who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.
He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Pet owners are courageous people. They open their hearts, form timelessly deep bonds, and then must say farewell to their “dearest of the dear” when death calls. Sometimes, there is simply nothing we can do to save an animal’s life. At that point, it is time to let go. As one sage said, “I’d rather be hurt a thousand times than lose the capacity to love.”
In this chapter, I will offer suggestions for using each of the twenty Spirit-in-Nature Essences to comfort grieving pet owners and, hopefully, to help them move forward in their lives. Flower essences can assist the individual facing the passing of a pet; the person whose animal has died in the recent past; or the individual who, though his animal companion died many years ago, still harbors unresolved issues.
The essence program for the animal who is passing on is much more simple. Typically it is Pear, for inner peacefulness, especially if the animal has been in an accident and has sustained trauma. This essence will also help him deal with the unsettling emotions of his human guardians, who are usually quite distraught themselves as they prepare for their pet’s transition. Pear Essence will help an animal to regain his composure and reestablish his connection with Nature’s natural rhythms. Strawberry Essence, too, can help an animal to reclaim his nature-given sense of dignity as his time of passing approaches. (See “Strawberry Essence for Animals” in chapter 6.)
Pear can also offer vibrational solace to the owners in preparing for the passing of a pet. One woman phoned our office to say how profoundly Pear Essence had helped her family immediately before and after their cat’s death. The nine-year-old calico had fallen off the roof and irreparably broken her back, gone into seizures, and subsequently was put to sleep. Pear comforted everyone involved.
Remember, animals deal with discomfort much differently than we do. Pain, to them, is simply another event in their existence. (However, if their suffering is ongoing, Orange Essence assists them in dealing with lingering difficulties.) Plus, nearly all animal communicators report the same thing: Animals are ready for their own passing and are basically fine with it. It is the grievously upset owners whom our pets are concerned about, as they will love and serve us until their last breath. They pick up on our worry, our unwillingness to let them go, and our fear about how we will continue without them. For these reasons, their passing provides us with one of the greatest possible lessons: unconditional love. The highest service we can render them as their time of transition approaches is to love them freely and to free them from any attachments we might hold within our own hearts and minds.
Much of our pain around a pet’s passing is our concern about ourselves—how will we get by without our special friend; who, or what, will fill the void once he leaves us; how can we face day after day without his endearing company?
The way individuals deal with the subject of death is, to some extent, culturally defined. In India, for example, a greater acceptance and even celebration of a loved one’s passing is the cultural norm. An elaborate ceremony generally accompanies the event, with much honoring and respect for an incarnation well lived. A strong belief in the continuation of life through its changing forms sustains the loved ones left behind. This is not to say that the departed person is not missed, but their acceptance of death, and lack of resistance to it in the greater scheme of life, mitigates the sense of loss.
Age, illness, or a serious accident can indicate that the time is nearing for our pet to leave this world, possibly confirmed by the veterinarian through lab work indicating, for example, kidney failure or a diagnosis of great discomfort for the animal due to terminal illness or a serious accident. We may have to watch our pet’s existence prolonged through torturous medical procedures or, when all else has failed, face the option of euthanasia. Accepting the reality of the situation, based on a diagnosis that you believe accurate, is one necessary step. Facing the situation with a flower essence program for yourself can be a significant means of support. What is the best way to determine an essence program for ourselves? A good rule of thumb is this: Whichever essences we feel our pet needs as the time of his passing approaches are most likely the essences that we ourselves may find beneficial.
One owner phoned my office from upstate New York regarding her ten-year-old Pekinese. Having raised Fred since the age of eight weeks, she seemed unwilling to agree with the prognosis of terminal cancer. He would surely heal, she assured me. The woman then requested the following essences for him: Orange, to help him deal with the depression of his condition and physical pain; Blackberry, to remove any negative feelings around his possible passing; Cherry, for his typically grumpy temperament; and Raspberry, to counter any residual hurt that Fred might be experiencing.
And what a perfect essence program it was—for her: Orange, to comfort her in her grieving and deep sense of loss; Blackberry, to help with the denial inherent in her conviction that he would survive, despite the veterinarian’s diagnosis of an animal in a tremendous amount of discomfort and pain; Cherry, for getting through the ups and downs of recovering from the loss of a pet; and Raspberry, to forgive herself for feeling responsible for his illness, any regrets about her care for him, and the emotional hurt of his imminent absence from her life.
The experience of a pet’s passing gives us the opportunity to love without condition—one of life’s greatest lessons—as animals love us. In his book Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramhansa Yogananda relates an illustrative story on this subject. Many years ago at his boys’ school in Ranchi, India, twenty-five acres of land provided grazing for pets and wildlife alike. One such animal befriended the young Yogananda—a small fawn who was wont to sleep in his room and greet him with a loving nudge each morning upon arising.
One morning, the master teacher left early for business in town. His unheeded warning to the students to not feed the deer, unfortunately, cost the animal’s life. By the time he returned later that day, the nearly lifeless animal lay slumped in a heap. Beside himself with sorrow, Yogananda prayed fervently for the deer’s life to be spared. In response, the animal stood on feeble legs and rallied his tiny form to respond.
Later that night in sleep, he dreamt of the deer, who prayed to be released from his pained body. Awakening at the moment of agreement with the dream-deer’s plea, Yogananda found the little fawn dying. Thus he recognized the selfish nature of his attachment to the animal, expressed through his prayers that the deer remain with him, and was then able to release his hold on the little fawn’s life.
We, too, can hold our animals back. Entire books have been dedicated to the subject of pet loss. And since we outlive our animal friends by many years, we may experience the death of many animals within our own lifetimes. Well-meant phrases like “Well, you had him for a long time” or “You can just get another one” offer little comfort.
Pets grieve deeply as well when their friends die, both animal and human. Tasha, a seven-year-old husky, suffered immensely when one of her owners passed away. Gone were the long walks in the countryside and the many hours they had shared in the garden. Listless and moping, head and tail cast downward, Tasha began virtually living at a neighbor’s home that same week. After two days on Grape Essence, her owner reported, she had perked up and would lick the drops out of his palm.
Euthanasia is a Greek word meaning “good, or merciful, death.” Sometimes we are confronted with this option for our beloved animal companions. For many people, euthanasia is one of the hardest issues they will ever have to face. If these animals were not in our domesticated care, instinct would tell them when the time had come to walk off into the woods. Or, in their weakened and infirm condition, predators would be the natural cause of their demise. Through our intervention and advances in medical technology, pets today often face the possibility of life spans extended far beyond their natu- ral years. Many people feel that, since we take responsibility for their lives, we must sometimes do likewise for their passing.
It may be time to allow an animal to move on if prolonging his life involves any or all of these procedures: repeated overnight hospital visits; injections or forced medications; multiple surgeries; or frequent trips to the veterinarian’s office that, for some animals, are traumatic in themselves. Maintaining a sense of dignity is important to an animal, expressed through his ability to remain independent in feeding and evacuating. Being able to relocate from place to place without assistance—as locomotion is one of the primary distinguishing features of the animal kingdom—fosters an animal’s innate sense of dignity.
Here are twelve suggestions to help pet owners face the possibility of euthanasia and to mentally and emotionally prepare themselves for the experience. Many of these issues also apply to the natural passing of a pet.
- Has everything possible been done medically through a veterinarian whom you trust?
- Have you gotten a second opinion if you felt it was necessary to do so?
- Are you prepared to say good-bye to your pet?
- If not, why? What can you do to prepare?
- Is every household member included in the decision and able to prepare as well?
- Is the animal’s condition severe and irreversible and such that his life would be seriously compromised or incapacitated if he were to remain alive?
- Would he still be able to walk, retain the faculty of his senses, and maintain control of evacuation?
- Will the extension of his life, possibly by medical means that are sometimes costly and uncomfortable, be worth the suffering it will cause him? Or you?
- Have you done everything you could for your pet to avoid the if-only-I’d-done-it-differently syndrome?
- Do you have a special ceremony or service planned to commemorate his passing?
- Do you have spiritual or religious beliefs to turn to for solace and inspiration?
- Are there friends or support groups with whom you can connect?
One of my long-term clients and a rescuer of abandoned cats and dogs called one evening in tears. Her thirteen-year-old cat had reached the final stages of struggling with stomach cancer. The veterinarian could offer no other options; euthanasia seemed the only solution. She placed the cat on Pear Essence to comfort him, herself taking Grape Essence the night before and on the morning of his passing. “I never could have gone through this without the Grape,” she explained. “He passed peacefully and is no longer suffering so terribly.”
Flower Essence Assistance and Essence Enhancers
It is quite natural and understandable for a grieving pet owner to experience many emotions—such as anger, denial, and depression—as he comes to terms with the passing of a dear friend. And although guilt is not exactly an emotion, many people experience this self-blaming state. If not properly handled, these powerful feelings can be damaging to the owner as well as those at whom he directs them. For instance, the veterinarian or the driver of the vehicle that may have caused the accident to the animal are easy targets for vented anger. With some reflection and the aid of a flower essence program, the owner may be able to see that these people are themselves saddened by the loss of the animal. Anger may then be replaced by forgiveness; denial, by calm acceptance; depression, by joyful gratitude; and guilt, by a healthy clearing of self-negation.
People innately understand the power of ritual as an opportunity to collect their feelings, establish a sense of closure, and come to terms with significant events of joy and sorrow alike. Many people find comfort in a ceremony for their deceased pet. In honor of the depth of the pet/owner relationship, one can now find pet condolence cards in card shops. Along these lines, an official commemoration day entitled Pet Memorial Day—the second Sunday of every September—has been created by the International Association of Pet Cemeteries.
Another means of recovering from the grief of a pet’s passing is the use of natural remedies. The following section listing essences for owners to take when their pet dies also illustrates the basic philosophy of flower essences: Treat the personality, not the symptoms. The symptom, in this case, is the pet’s passing. Although we can always suggest Grape Essence for this issue, each individual—according to his particular temperament—will deal differently with the grieving process. Here, you will be able to see what essence, or essences, by definition match your special needs at this time. If several remedies seems appropriate, you may wish to prioritize them in order of immediacy for the single-essence dosage method. Or try a combination of several remedies if you are more comfortable with that approach.
In addition, I have suggested some supportive measures, entitled “Essence Enhancers,” as a means of supplementing the remedies. These activi ties are designed to match the unique temperaments of each of the twenty Master’s themes as well as the positive states of the essences themselves.
Almond Essence helps the owner with excessive sadness to the point of obsession. When he cannot work through the grieving process but rather is consumed by it, Almond Essence is most helpful. Reliving the tragic parts of his pet’s passing over and over is not. When his upset interferes with the rest of his life and his ability to function normally after a reasonable time has passed, this remedy helps to restore balance.
Essence Enhancers: Take a few deep breaths. Inhale calming memories of your pet; exhale disturbing thoughts. Allow yourself time for quiet activities of your choice that you find especially calming to the mind and nervous system.
Apple Essence encourages the owner to resume a healthy lifestyle—to return to an exercise program, get lots of fresh air and sunshine, and basically get back to business as usual. Apple Essence reminds us that life goes on and that continued worry, fear, and doubt are injurious to health on all levels. This individual will be able to speak of his pet in conversation with healthy memories of their time together.
Essence Enhancers: Exercise! A good cardiovascular workout is known to help lift depression. Even if unwilling at first, many people report that once they get going, the benefits are practically miraculous and miraculously practical.
Avocado: Good memory
To remember a departed pet and to learn the lessons of our shared experiences with him is the message of Avocado Essence. That we are changed, that we have grown immeasurably through our interactions with each animal who has spent time with us, is a wonderful legacy to the richness of their friendships. Avocado helps us to integrate the precious experiences we have shared with our animal companion, enriching us as we move forward through each moment of every day.
Essence Enhancers: Put together a scrapbook of photos of your pet, or rearrange a book that you have previously compiled. If photos of your animal friend fill your home, you may want to put them in a special place to look at when you are prepared rather than seeing them when you may be caught off guard and have to struggle with still raw remembrances.
Banana Essence, with its calming quality of humility, gives us perspective on our pet’s passing and on the re-creation of our lives as we move forward from that point in time. Banana Essence allows us to see the bigger picture and to understand the nature of suffering and death in a broader context. It depersonalizes the experience, thereby removing layers of our emotional pain. Some good questions to ask ourselves when taking this essence are, What suffers? What dies?
Essence Enhancers: If you have friends, family members, or co-workers who have recently lost an animal companion, send them cards of condolence and allow them the time to talk to you about their experiences.
Often, people can react negatively to the death of their pet. For people who interpret death in unfavorable terms, this essence can be of great assistance. Especially for those who say that they will never have pets again, Blackberry Essence helps remove the sense of pessimism or the focus on the difficulty of the situation. These thoughts are like shadows that pass with time and the use of Blackberry.
Essence Enhancers: The best possible support when taking this essence lies in repeating affirmations. You may either custom-design one for yourself in relation to your specific needs or repeat the following affirmation, first loudly with great will behind it, then more softly to draw it deeply into the mind, and finally mentally only with eyes closed: “Pure thoughts, harmonious actions. I see goodness everywhere and in all things.”
For the owner caught in bouts of moodiness after the passing of a pet, Cherry Essence is a helpful remedy. Notably if the moods seem to come and go, Cherry is indicated. The owner may feel temporarily OK in healing from his grief, and then another round of sorrow returns. Cherry provides a foundation of even-mindedness so that, eventually, the emotional heaviness will lift, replaced with a lighthearted cheeriness and pleasant memories of the departed pet.
Essence Enhancers: As Cherry Essence embodies the quality of cheerfulness, anything you can think to do that is light, fun, or playful will be a step in the right direction. Sing—even if you have to force yourself—in the shower, while doing laundry, while preparing meals. Dance—even if it feels unnatural—while running to the mailbox, the car, the bus stop. Lastly, if you can, whistle. It works.
Coconut Essence is important for the pet owner shortly before the passing of his pet, especially if euthanasia is considered. This remedy helps the owner transmute his sense of imminent loss with the realization of the gift of his pet’s companionship in the context of his own life. As the coconut grows many feet off the ground, its essence allows one an expanded, bird’s eye view of the situation. Solutions are found in the very core of the problems they address; in this case, the owner finds an inner resolution within the context of his sorrow.
Essence Enhancers: The coconut tree grows in balmy climates, an image that leads the mind to thoughts of faraway, tropical vacations. Likewise, engage your mind in activities that disengage it, especially from its problem-oriented state. In other words, take a vacation from your regular mind-set. Go to the theater or cinema to watch plays or films with themes of heroism. Study the lives of people or animals who have championed against great odds.
A perfect essence for helping the owner to face his future with energy and enthusiasm, Corn is the “moving forward” remedy. With respect for the natural grieving process and its timing, it is not so much that one needs to grieve for an expressed length of time but rather to deal with all the issues involved in the grieving process. The owner will find this essence helpful especially in cleaning out his departed pet’s bedding and belongings, including toys, photos, and special mementos. With Corn Essence as a natu ral facilitator, the individual taking this essence may indeed find himself ready sooner rather than later to adopt a new friend. (Also see “Tomato Essence Enhancers.”)
Essence Enhancers: Now is the time for new experiences, both outside and inside the home. Take up a new sport, take a day trip to a new place; or at home, remodel, rearrange, or splash on a new coat of paint.
Date: Sweetness, tenderness
Date Essence will help to replace the owner’s sorrow with sweet remembrances of his beloved pet. As though piecing together a mental scrapbook of memories, Date Essence allows for a sense of closure. This remedy will also help the owner to relate to other animals as though they were members of his closest family. He can learn the lesson that having loved once, he can love deeply once again.
Essence Enhancers: Read stories of animals, even children’s books, of breeds and species different from the departed pet. This will serve as a means of expanding your kinship with other animals. If it is not too painful, you can also practice an exercise of spotting a particular feature or quality in other animals whom you know that express some aspect of your departed friend. For the grieving pet owner who needs Date Essence, this is a time to reach out to others and to spend more time with family and friends and even neighbors with whom you have not yet become acquainted.
When a pet with whom we have intricately shared the ins and outs and the ups and downs of our daily existence is no longer around, many simple adjustments need to be made. The care we lavished is no longer required. For some people, adjusting their schedules causes renewed sadness or difficulty. Fig Essence supports the owner in making changes in his routine.
Essence Enhancers: Set up a new routine in your life to replace the one you previously shared with your pet. If feeding time was a special event, add something new in that time slot—a radio show, an inspiring lecture or book-on-tape, or a classical music program. Fill in that space in your daily planner with positive activities to which you can look forward.
Grape: Love, devotion
Grape Essence, as mentioned at the beginning of this chapter (see also “Grape” in chapter 6) is the classic essence for bereavement. Countless testimonials report the same experience: This essence helps people to understand the true nature of love, and it diffuses a personalized sense of loss. Much like Date Essence, it also helps us to see the endearing qualities of our deceased pet in other animals—a sparkle in the eyes of a newborn fawn or a certain way that the neighbor’s dog wags his tale in expectancy of his owner’s return.
Regardless of their individual temperaments, people in general experience grief over a pet’s passing, resulting in the need for Grape Essence. Grape affirms that no love is ever lost. We can, in fact, continue loving our departed friend and express that gift of love over the years to come.
Grape Essence assists pets and people alike in recovering from bereavement, helping them to rebuild their lives in the absence of a lost loved one. Remember that when using Grape for these issues, one may need to remain on it over a period of time and possibly in several cycles as the grief returns.
Essence Enhancers: Whenever thoughts of the departed animal return to your mind, send out love to him. It may feel silly to say aloud, “I love you, Buddy,” but grieving pet owners are allowed to do silly things. This is our opportunity to love more, not less, to remain open and not close down.
On Lettuce Essence, excited emotions around the issue of a pet’s passing can be put to rest and replaced with calm feeling. Lettuce represents the calm after the storm, the storm symbolizing the pain of loss. Lettuce will not suppress the natural grieving process. Quite the opposite—it merely smooths out the rough edges, allowing for a quiet reconciliation of the owner’s deeper connection with his animal companion now gone.
Essence Enhancers: Any activity that calms the mind is recommended, such as yoga postures or tai chi movements. Meditation, too, is highly recommended. You may also want to create a sense of closure on the grieving process by writing an inspiring story about your pet, either for yourself or to share with others.
This is the classic essence for grieving and depression. A supportive measure while taking Orange Essence is to house-sit for friends and relatives with pets. This opportunity will allow you to keep your heart open to other animals; they can assist you through your healing process and communicate through their own joy that life, indeed, goes on.
Essence Enhancers: Do not allow yourself to dwell on any negative subjects related to your pet or his passing. Find little joys—watch other animals in the park or visit pet stores. Treat yourself to little things that amuse or entertain you; in temporarily releasing your mind from sadness, you can begin to build on the happiness you experience until it outweighs the times of sorrow.
Peach Essence, for mothering, is important in healing from grief over the loss of a pet. This remedy helps us to focus on others and their needs, which then frees the sadness from our minds and hearts. It is easy to lose perspective when a pet, with whom we may experience tremendous depths of undying love, is no longer around. Peach Essence helps to restore a sense of the expanse of the heart; like a bottomless well, it nurtures all who drink from it.
Essence Enhancers: Volunteer for special projects in your community or religious organization, if you feel drawn to do so. You may want to help out at the local animal shelter. If this is not an option, joining the Humane Society or an animal-rights group is another possibility. For more information, the Internet offers endless potential.
Pear Essence is a classic emergency remedy to help the grieving owner reach a state of inner peace and calm resolution. Pear offers a vibrational message much like being patted on the back and told that everything will be OK. It helps to balance and harmonize any emotions that are still unsettled. “Rest in peace” is a saying not only for the departed animal companion but for those left behind.
Essence Enhancers: Long walks in nature, if possible, are a perfect supplement to Pear Essence. Just as animals are nurtured and restored through fresh air and brisk walks, so people can benefit from reconnecting with nature’s healing essence.
Loss of a pet can be somewhat confidence-shattering, especially if the pet and owner were very close. This individual, to some extent, has defined his personality in relation to his pet. For the owner who feels that a part of himself has passed away along with his pet, Pineapple Essence helps one to “pick up the pieces” of his life. If or when he does want to adopt another pet, Pineapple can assist him in confidently selecting the right companion to match his lifestyle and household.
Essence Enhancers: If you are planning on bringing another pet into the household, this is the time to prepare for it—a larger pen, repair work on the fence, a new birdcage. Add as much creativity and personal style as you like.
Raspberry Essence helps the owner who blames himself after his pet’s passing for improper caretaking while the animal was alive. This owner may somehow even feel responsible for his pet’s death, either consciously or unconsciously. He may be heard to say, “If only I had done this or that.” Raspberry helps the owner to forgive himself, gently accepting whatever has happened in relationship to his pet’s last days.
Essence Enhancers: Get to know some of the neighborhood animals. Perhaps you can help with care and feedings while the owners are gone on vacation. The more you connect with them through eye contact—gently, not invasively—the more you will find a response in your own heart as it heals.
Spinach Essence supports the restoration of a sense of playfulness and fun—both being signs of healing from the grieving process—and a childlike sense of the possibility of new adventures. This essence also addresses the owner’s ability to trust that his pet had a wonderful sojourn with him, that his animal friend entered and exited his life at exactly the right moments.
Essence Enhancers: This is a perfect time for a trip to the zoo. To spend time in the company of other animals—especially to see the endless variety of bodies and behaviors—is a delightful treat. Also helpful is watching children at the zoo as they observe the animals.
Strawberry Essence, with its ennobling qualities, helps the owner to regain his sense of poise and grace. When we lose a pet, we may often feel as though the ground were taken out from under us. Even as the luscious strawberry fruit grows low to the ground, this essence helps return our sense of grounding. Sometimes prolonged sorrow can obscure our own awareness of the beauty around us. Strawberry Essence allows us to see through these veils of sadness.
Essence Enhancers: Read books about heroic animals who have saved the lives of other animals, their owners, or even strangers. Focus on the nobility of spirit that leads them to such actions.
Tomato: Strength, courage
For the strength to endure great loss and to know that we will love animals again, and love them heroically, Tomato Essence is suggested. To face challenges and fears without their animal friends, these owners can learn the lesson of putting their lives in order. Especially for people who lose a treasured pet and then say that they will never again have animals in their household or on their property, Tomato Essence allows them to take the first tiny steps toward being open to adopting other pets.
Essence Enhancers: It may be time to consider another pet—possibly another species or a different breed. Remembering that we can never replace a departed friend, we can still take comfort in expanding our sympathies through loving again.
We love, we lose, and the grief is real. In the case of deep loss, we tend to heal in stages. It is important to understand that flower essences do not take away the pain of our loss; they do, however, help us to live with and understand it better. Time, as the saying goes, heals all wounds.
Dogs and cats, studies have shown, require one to six months to adapt to a friend’s passing, and it may take a year or more for people to heal from the death of a pet. If you are considering adopting another pet after the death of an animal companion, be sure to take Grape, or other essences in the list above, until the grieving has either lessened or subsided. Yes, the animals we lose are irreplaceable; they cannot be substituted by other pets. But we can love again. We can bring new pets into our home to care for. Pet stores, breeding establishments, rescue centers, shelters, and pounds abound with animals just waiting to love and be loved.