How Animals View Death
Although, my dear readers, the loss of a beloved animal companion can be extremely painful, it can be very helpful to understand how animals view the death experience. Many of us in the Western cultures hold a particular view that is quite the opposite of those from different areas of the world and certain spiritual or religious beliefs.
For many there is the belief that death is the end of life or of existence. Let us say that a person has a missing animal and is questioning their whereabouts, or perhaps if they are even still alive. If I were to simply ask the animal if it was alive, and it had indeed crossed over, the animal would say yes. That is because there is no ending to its existence. It is in the cycle of life, which includes birth, death, the afterlife and the cycle repeats. This is of course a very simplistic explanation. It is simply that they are not in the physical body as we knew them.
They, however, feel quite alive and often quite joyous.
It is comforting to know that animals do not fear death. They have an amazing capacity for understanding this cycle of life. That does not mean that it is always easy for them to leave us. They are in our lives for many reasons, including teaching, healing and assisting us in learning lessons. They are amazingly intuitive and aware, and they come from a place of unconditional love.
We could say that they are like energy sponges. What does this mean in simple terms? They often know, for example, what we could do to help ourselves. They understand our feelings and will sometimes even take on our health issues. When they know that we need them, on some level, they may often hang on to life for us. When an animal has been suffering for a lengthy time we may want to give them permission to cross over when they are ready. We will want to tell them that, although we will go through our grieving, we will be able to let them go. Of course we choose our own words, and what feels right for us.
In the recent past one of my birds suddenly became very ill. Fortunately there was an Avian specialist available to see her that day. She had some serious medical issues, and I did some intensive nurturing and nursing for a few months in order for her to regain her health. That first night, after coming home from her vet visit, I had a talk with her. I let her know how much I loved her and hoped that she would heal and continue to be with us. However, I told her that if it was her time to “go home” I would understand and honor that. I must say I am delighted that as I write this I have a happy and healthy bird who is still with me.
It is also interesting to know that an animal may look physically ready to go. They appear to be suffering greatly, yet they are not yet ready to leave. Sometimes an animal wants a little more time before leaving the earth. For example, a friend’s cat, who was wasting away physically, needed a couple of weeks to connect with the sights, smells and the warmth of the sun outside that she so dearly loved. When I connected with her she told me she wasn’t quite ready. She gave me a clear sign on how she would let her person know when it was time. She would simply place her paw on her friends’s hand. My dear friend said that for a week she was afraid to put her hands near her. Within a couple of weeks her animal friend was ready. Arrangements for a vet to come to the home had already been made.
Many times other animals in the home will want to come over and say goodbye. It is helpful for them to understand what is going on. It can appear that some animals do not have a deep connection with each other. It is amazing how that may not be the case.
Years ago one of my birds died. I simply found her dead in the morning. It is not uncommon for birds and other animals to hide their illness, because in the wild it is necessary to do that. I was devastated and grief stricken. That evening two close friends came over and we held a service for her. We then buried her in the back yard. You may be fascinated to hear that after the burial two of my cats sat vigil outside, one on each side of where she was buried. The animal’s awareness of what is going on is truly remarkable.
In summary, it can help us during our grief to remember that our animals understand the cycle of life. For them there is no fear around leaving their body. Sometimes we must move into the space of letting them know that we accept this, at least on some level, and honor their process.