The bond that we share with our animal companions is one of unconditional love and devotion. The life lessons they share with us are simple and yet profound, be present, live in the moment, greet each morning with joy and wonder, maintain your curiosity, and enjoy all the sights and smells that come your way. Quite naturally they experience their emotions in perfect balance with ease and grace. There is no space for worry about the past, fear of death, anger over a perceived slight, sadness related to loss, or trying to be something they are not. These are just a few of the lessons they share and model during their brief time with us.
My beloved animal companions have all shown me over the years that death is not to be feared but rather embraced. Young, old, sudden, prolonged, unexpected, expected, assisted, unassisted, death can elicit feelings of guilt, deep sadness and loss. Death of a beloved sentient being is never easy. Unresolved and deeply buried feelings often surface catching us off guard and unprepared for what is to come. This is a time when we are in most need of emotional support from understanding friends, family, and bereavement support groups. In an emotionally safe and supportive space we can begin to allow our feelings to flow, washing over and through us like a fountain, our broken heart beginning to heal, growing and expanding.
I was reminded of the importance of allowing feelings to flow during our December pet bereavement group. As members of the group shared their stories I could see they were holding their breath. All exhaling ceased. Holding, stuffing and storing precious feelings of guilt, sadness and grief tightly and firmly like a dam holds back water in a reservoir. Often the feelings, we keep dammed up, may appear to be our only connection with a dearly departed loved one and our natural inclination is to cling to them. Unfortunately this can take a toll on our physical, mental, and spiritual health. Disrupting sleep patterns, feeling tired and drained, dissolving our appetite for life, guilt, grief and sadness become an oppressive burden. Life comes to a halt and the pressure on the dam builds. Even the strongest dams crack and break under extreme conditions resulting in destruction and havoc downstream. Water, like our emotions and our breath must flow to support life.
My beloved horse, Princess, who was with me for thirty years, died in June of 2000. I was devastated and felt as though I had fallen into an emotional bottomless pit. She had been such an integral part of my life that life without her was unimaginable. It was during this time that I discovered the art of Jin Shin Jyutsu, a Japanese form of acupressure. Jin Shin Jyutsu, as many of the healing arts works with the breath. Exhaling down the front, from head to toe, letting go of guilt, grief and sadness. As we consciously exhale creating space to acknowledge and honor the gifts our beloved animals have shared with us in life and continue to share from spirit. Inhaling, up the back, from toe to head, we are able to fully receive these precious gifts.
Our animals understand the deep sadness and grief we will experience as they prepare for their journey back to spirit. There is no fear as this is the natural rhythm of the universe. We mourn deeply the absence of our physical connection with them. As we are able to let go of guilt, grief and sadness through the breath our broken heart begins to mend and we are able to once again experience joy. A profound joy, infused with wisdom and grace, that penetrates our being and serves as a bridge to our soul. As this soul consciousness grows and expands we begin to build the foundation from which we have the opportunity to nurture a spiritual connection with our beloved animal. Transitioning from a physical to spiritual relationship prepares us to receive the precious gifts they have lovingly offered.
As the members of the bereavement group began to consciously exhale the mood of the room lightened and while there were tears, smiles also began to appear, and the stories were now of a life well lived. When we remember that death is not an ending but a new beginning the perfection of the process becomes visible and guilt dissolves. When we choose to be a fountain rather than a reservoir and let our emotions flow the healing process will naturally occur. If we are lucky we will experience the ebb and flow of life and death many times throughout our lifetime. Strengthening the foundation of our soul connection we create a beautiful and glorious bridge back to spirit. Following this path we honor our beloved animals and with an open heart receiving their eternal gifts of joy, laughter and light.