This past weekend, I attended a retreat on Love and Death. We opened with a beautiful quote from Rainer Maria Rilke: “Love and death are the great gifts that are given to us; mostly they are passed on unopened.” I thought about my beloved animal companions who have passed on. As the tears rolled down my face, I felt incredibly raw and open.
While love and death are realities in any loving relationship, the accompanying emotions can be particularly intense with our animal companions. We bond with them at the core of who we are. It allows us to experience deep unconditional love and acceptance. The extent of the love we share also means that our grief at their loss will be fierce.
Most of us can see the gifts of the love that our companions bring. While this is true, sometimes we do not fully allow ourselves to experience all that they have to offer us. We tell ourselves we are too busy when our beloved wants to play, invites us to go for a walk, or wants to curl up in our lap.
Noticing the gifts their death presents can be even more challenging. The emotional pain at the passing of my beloved animals has felt almost unbearable at times. With these losses, I have also experienced moments of grace that have brought growth and wisdom. It has allowed me to become the person I am today. I have internalized my animals and the lessons they taught me in life and death. They have all become part of the texture of my being.
Let this be a reminder, an invitation to look at all of the gifts your beloved animals offer you. Cherish and savor each one. Immerse yourself in gratitude for the love. When the time comes to part ways in the physical realm, remember that this is no less intimate. Enter it with love and tenderness for yourself and your beloved. Your grief is an expression of that love. Let it wash over you as it will, as it is a gift from your beloved.