When the Bond Breaks
by Kaleel Sakakeeny (Rev)
As a grief counselor, my work is to companion those on grief journeys when their beloved animal companion dies.
To help them see that their deep sorrow is not a therapy issue.
That there is no pill for sadness.
That a broken heart is not a mental health problem.
I don’t try to fix or take their away their pain.
Pain has to be faced. Moved toward, not away from.
Gone through. Not avoided.
And we never speak of “closure.”
We never seek “closure.” Who wants to close such love?
Those who share their lives with an animal know beyond words that the bond between them and their animals is a profound one. We are discovering that the connection exists neurologically, emotionally, socially and physically.
Think about it.
How we walk, the tone of our voices, where we sit, when we go out… and how long we are away, all are determined and affected by the connection between us and our animal companions.
It is said that they are the angels of our better selves.
That they bring out qualities in us that few humans can.
They open us to uncomplicated love. Patience. Sacrifice. Kindness .The deepest kind of concern and attention.
They change us forever…and when that bond is broken , severed by death, the pain is bone-marrow deep.
The light goes out, the grievers tell me, and we are again changed forever.
All that we were, had become because of the love, is now in danger of being lost.
Many of us fear reverting back to our less loving, more limited selves.
As a grief counselor I companion those on their grief journeys.
I listen to their stories over and over and over again in excruciating detail. It gives shape to their grief.
They have to be told. It’s purgative and healing.
I may use some somatic approaches like drawing or journaling. They get us beyond words and language, and anyway, the body know the truth. It’s where the pain lives.
Gradually, the mourner moves along the path and begins to see light. Dimly.
The outline of a future without her beloved animal companion.
“Resolution”…the living of life around the loss, the hurt. Incorporating it.
“Will be reunited with our animal on some plane?” I’m asked hopefully. Sometimes desperately.
Is there life after life? Always this question in one form or another.
As an Animal Chaplain, I’m asked this a lot.
I say what will help.
I support their beliefs.
I let them know I too am struggling with the same question.
That there is a reuniting. Somehow.
As a minister, I’m asked, “Will you pray with me?”
And I do. Religion plays no part in these prayers. Faith, longing do.
Regardless, we know we have been on a sacred journey.
A journey of moving into life again without the one we spent so much of it with.
The people I companion never, ever forget the pet that died.
Why should they.
In time they usually find another animal to love.
And their hearts rejoice.
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