Animal Companion Rituals: A conversation
I asked a recent client, Virginia, to share her thoughts about our experience working together, before, during and after her cat made his final passage. She did so quite graciously and our conversation is below. Her cat, Leopold, was an elderly gent who had quite a memorable presence. I loved meeting him! His personality came through clearly and we were able to co-create very meaningful rituals for his departure.
When the time comes to face losing an animal companion and choosing to end his or her life, it is so painfully difficult. Especially when we consider this being a true family member. I’ve faced pet loss many times in the past. Experiencing the comfort of ritual first hand led me to offer services for others and their animals: to provide comfort and healing opportunities around a transition that can otherwise feel clinical, sterile and empty.
Virginia chose to perform goodbye rituals herself, at home with her long-time friend, for which I offered her guidance. She enacted these before the at-home euthanasia appointment. She also chose to have me support and guide her during and after the appointment; and when she was ready to part with him, I transported his body for cremation and also picked up his remains. Here is what Virgina shared about this passage of time:
Kristine: Please describe your desire for having ritual guidance and assistance before Leopold’s transition.
Virginia: He was my buddy for many years: I lived with him longer than I’ve lived with anyone else. I’m spiritual, but not religious, so I don’t have any prescribed rituals for honoring relationships and transitions. I needed a way to honor my relationship with him, the joy and comfort that he gave me, and his death.
Kristine: In what ways did you find ritual support helpful during his transition and afterward?
Virginia: Your guidance and support with rituals made me feel like a had a meaningful path to follow: before, during and after Leopold’s death. Before, I spent time honoring our relationship. During, we prepared and honored his body. We also allowed grief to flow, in my home. Afterward, I used some of the same rituals that you had suggested prior, and performed these to remember, celebrate and honor his spirit; and continue feeling connected to him.
Kristine: Please describe any thoughts about how your experience may have been different without choosing ritual assistance.
Virginia: Based on my previous experience with pet deaths, I probably would have felt more like I was stumbling through the process, with emptiness.
Kristine: Anything else?
Virginia: I was so grateful for your guidance: it made my dearest cat’s transition an exceptional and memorable time, which is what I wanted it to be.
Kristine: This is a gift to hear, Virginia. I am grateful for your courage and choices to make it a comforting time of remembrance. Thanks for sharing your experience with others!