Excerpts from Rainbows & Bridges: An Animal Companion Memorial Kit by Allen and Linda Anderson.
Copyright 2005. All Rights Reserved.
Table of Contents
Your partners in grieving • You have history • You have friends who understand • The Rainbow Bridge • Rainbows and bridges • How this book is designed
Chapter One: Rainbow Blue
Organic grieving • Phases of organic grieving • Shock, doubt, and denial • Anger, confusion, resentment, and blame • Guilt, bargaining, and regret • What to do with regrets and guilt • Meditation • Sadness and depression • Meditation • Relief, resignation, and acceptance • Try this exercise
Chapter Two: Rainbow Red
Who was this animal to you? • Try this exercise • The day you met • Meditation • Daily-life memories • Try this exercise • Prior to the passing • Remembering the moment of death • Try this exercise • Meditation • How to remember your animal companion's death • Try this exercise
Chapter Three: Rainbow Yellow
Try this exercise • Our personal beliefs about animals, souls, and death • Meditation • Yellow is the spiritual nature of animals at death • Meditation • Prana's contract of love
Chapter Four: Covered Bridges
Family and friends • Try this exercise • Seeking professional, online, or group support • Consoling the surviving animals in a multiple-pet family • Children and pet loss • Meditation
Chapter Five: Swinging Bridges
Recognizing what is missing now • Try this exercise • Letting go of anger • How to handle a disagreement with your religion's beliefs • Meditation • Rituals to help you mourn • Try this exercise • Lasting tributes to your animal companion • Meditation
Chapter Six: Memorial Bridges
Keep it simple • I Remember You memorial service • All God's Creatures memorial service • Together Again memorial service • Include the other animals
Chapter Seven: Golden Bridges
Afterlife visitations by animals • Communicating with animals after their death • Try this exercise • Spiritual plane animal advocates • Meditation • Dreams of animals who have died • Try this exercise • Grief gauges • Try this exercise • Getting back into the rhythms of life • How do you know when you're ready to adopt another pet? • Try this exercise • Do animals reincarnate? • Meditation
About Allen and Linda Anderson
Excerpt from Introduction, Rainbows & Bridges by Allen and Linda Anderson.
Oh! Friend, who gave and comforted, who knew
So overwell the want of heart and mind,
Where may I turn for solace now, or find
Relief from this unceasing loss of you?
-- Theodosia Garrison, "The Closed Door"
Bottom line: It hurts like crazy. And hardly anybody understands. Family, friends, coworkers sympathized. For a while. But they expected that you would be over it by now. Maybe they found a day or even a week of grieving to be acceptable. But after all, this was only a pet. Why are you still moping around? Why don't you get another one? Why don't you get a life?
So you ingest their words or their silent disapproval like vials of poison to your self-esteem. You wonder if they could be right. Are you a hopeless, codependent, overly romantic, anthropomorphizing weakling? Why do you mourn the loss of your animal companion more than any other loss in your life? How can this bereavement cause such emptiness, grayness, and sheer torture? You feel foolish. You are embarrassed. You don't want to admit the magnitude, intensity, or tenacity of your pain. You are tempted to suck it in, shove it under, seal it over.
You yearn for a gentle paw to touch your cheek, a sweet chirping to greet each day, an exercise buddy to pad along beside you, or penetrating eyes with childlike innocence to watch your every movement - just one more time.
Despite the lack of understanding from others, you realize that the life and death of your animal companion must not - will not - be forgotten. The brilliant light that illuminated the darkest corners of your life has to be honored. You have lost a way of living as well as a dear friend. And it may be one of the most debilitating losses you have ever experienced.
Besides, you are a person who gives credit where credit is due. You long to acknowledge that an animal companion brought love, joy, comfort, tolerance, respect, balance, companionship, and meaning to your life in ways that are unique, admirable, and worthy of remembering.
Now, you are ready to read this book.
Excerpt from Rainbows & Bridges by Allen and Linda Anderson.
The Rainbow Bridge
Just this side of Heaven is a place called the Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies who has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to the 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 and 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 contented, except for one small thing: they 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. The bright eyes are intent; the eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to break away 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 the Rainbow Bridge together..
Excerpt from Rainbows & Bridges by Allen and Linda Anderson.
What to Do with Regrets and Guilt
No matter how you look at it, whether you chose to end your animal companion's suffering or prolong his life, you're likely to regret something. And what if later you realize that you didn't do everything possible to keep your pet alive and healthy? Perhaps you have more information now than you did when you decided to opt for euthanasia. Or perhaps you're looking back at a previous stage of your life and wondering, "What was I thinking?"
A sixty-year-old woman named Barbara wrote to us about a moral dilemma she faced years ago. The decision she made had filled her with regret, and she longed to ease her guilt. Barbara said that after her husband of twenty-three years died of brain cancer, Mouse, her Chihuahua, had brought her great comfort in the lonely weeks after her husband passed.
A year later, Barbara met a man with whom she fell in love. She moved into his house. And that's when the trouble began. The man told her that he didn't want to have a dog in his home. Barbara wrote, "In a moment of desperation and because I was trying to please this man, I took Mouse to the Humane Society. I would not have given up Mouse for any other person. When I returned home, he was angry about what I did because he felt guilty. I was heartbroken. The man had such mood swings that I thought [if I retrieved Mouse], he would change his mind, and I'd have to go through this again if he said Mouse had to go. Also, Mouse wasn't happy around the man. So I did not go back to get her from the Humane Society. The dog was a popular breed, and I hoped she would be adopted right away."
Later, Barbara realized that this man was very selfish and she ended her relationship with him. But Mouse was gone. She wrote, "I can still see that dog turning around to look at me when the intake person from the Humane Society took her away. I asked him to call me if they could not find a good home for Mouse. He said that they were not going to call. He advised that if I wanted to keep the dog, I should take her back now. I didn't check to see if Mouse had been adopted. Now, I live my life with regret over the decision to send Mouse away. I do not know what I was thinking back then." Barbara has been filled with remorse ever since. She phrased her desperation this way: "I need absolution and I don't know where to get it. I don't know how I could have been so stupid. How do I get rid of this pain?"
When we published Barbara's letter in Angel Animals Story of the Week, readers from around the world came through with affirming and compassionate responses that may help ease your own burdens of guilt and regret.
Marty Tousley, a bereavement counselor, congratulated Barbara for having the courage to share her guilt about Mouse with the rest of the newsletter readers. Marty suggested that Mouse had, in a sense, given her life to protect Barbara. The dog had enabled Barbara to see what a selfish man she was involved with and how destructive their relationship was. She wrote, "Mouse became your guardian angel, and I'm sure she's somewhere out there watching over you still."
In a situation similar to Barbara's, Carol gave up her two twelve-year-old cats. When she visited the University of Minnesota's Arboretum in Chanhassen, Carol was able to heal with the help of a wandering golden tabby who looked like one of her previous cats. Carol wrote, "The cat fearlessly sat in my lap in that cold autumn weather and let me hold and pet him for over an hour. I felt as if I was being given a blessing of love by this cat that allowed me to forgive myself."
After the kindness and understanding our readers expressed, Barbara wrote back to thank them. We published her letter in the next newsletter. She wrote, "I guess it's true that we usually punish ourselves far more than others would."
In Animals and the Afterlife, author Kim Sheridan writes, "When guilt is justified, it's important to honor the guilt, learn from it, and vow to do things differently the next time we're faced with a similar situation. However, once we've acknowledged the guilt and truly learned from it, it's time to release the guilt and move forward. Usually there's a lesson in it so that we can make better decisions in the future, or else the tragedy is turned around by becoming a catalyst for something positive. We always get a chance to 'make things right' in the end."
Following are ways to move beyond guilt, regret, and the need to keep trying to strike bargains with powers outside yourself.
1. Forgive yourself. Remember how much you loved your animal companion. Know that you would never have done anything to hurt her. Think about what your pet would say to you and offer those words of forgiveness and compassion to yourself.
2. Talk about your regrets and guilt with someone who will not judge you. Choose your listeners carefully and let out all the pain, doubts, and confusion surrounding the loss until you start to realize that you did all you could or knew to do at the time.
3. Write about your feelings of guilt and regret. Write to your pet and tell him that you're sorry for what you did or did not do for him. Tell your story. If you are justified in having regrets, write a letter to a pet publication or a Web site that accepts such stories. Educate others with what you have learned and would do differently.
4. Give yourself thirty minutes of self-judgment. Rita Reynolds in Blessing the Bridge writes, "When I've laid my cards on the table, so to speak, I give myself exactly thirty minutes to sort them out. During this time I can berate myself, forgive myself, allow myself to be absolutely wretched and self-pitying. It is important to bring all those feelings up into the light. After that, it's time to let them go. If, after thirty minutes, I haven't completely resolved my guilt, I simply ask forgiveness of myself. Then, with as much calmness and clarity as possible, I turn within to my own center and ask for help and guidance."
Can you reflect upon the circumstances of your animal companion's death and forgive yourself? What would your pet say now that might make you feel better about your decisions?
Sampling of Endorsements
- "The Andersons have created an ingenious heavy-duty cardboard box of inspirational materials to ease the pain of pet loss."
--Joan Lowell Smith, Herald & News, Dec 25, 2005
- "This kit is an amazing toolbox of resources that offers a wide range of healing activities, wise information, compassionate reflection, and practical help for honoring and memorializing the life of your pet."
--Dr. Marty Becker, resident veterinarian on ABC's Good Morning America
- "Let me say this about Rainbows and Bridges: I love it. I treasure it. There exists no better exploration of this Landscape of Loss than you will find here."
--Susan Chernak McElroy, author, Animals and Teachers and Healers and All My Relations