This is probably the hardest article that I have ever had to write; it comes from a place of such sadness, yet gives me the greatest insight into grief and loss. I lost my father earlier this year after he had suffered from a long illness. For the last 15 months of his life my father was in a place where he had lost the use of his legs, he had lost his independence and definitely lost the will to live. As the 15 months unfolded there were so many emotional ups and downs. At no point could I relax, no time where I could truly think. My mind was fogged, my decisions were flawed but most of all I experienced deep anxiety. It was like living in a space that was not connected to this world, yet at the same time I needed to function on a daily basis. Grief is different for everyone; my twin sister was totally devastated crying every day unable to get out of bed. Yet I managed to hold down my job, change to a new job and to find a place within me that allowed me to function on a day-to-day basis. The news of my father’s death hit me like a train wreck.
Charles Darwin wrote a book in 1872 called The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals. He concluded that animals clearly felt emotions given the similarity between human and animal behaviour. He wrote “The young and the old of widely different races, both with man and animals, express the same state of mind by the same movements”. Scientists are still researching, studying, compiling evidence to support/discredit Darwin’s original theories. Yet when you look at your dog when you return from work, you can just see the joy and happiness in their face. You can see how they feel when they go to the vet, you can see their disappointment when they don’t get their walk, the excitement when they get their favourite toy. However we are still studying them trying to prove that we are the higher race.
Darwin was a very clever man and in honesty it does not take a lot of brainpower to see that our animals truly do have emotions. We certainly do not have the monopoly on grief. They feel everything that we feel: disappointment, love, grief, fear and even shame. I have seen my own two dogs who, on every single occasion run down stairs each morning to be let out, on the days they have been mischievous during the night, they hold back until I have gone into the kitchen to see the mounds of tissues scattered all over the floor.
For some reason we expect our animals to be immune to grief, it is not something that is intentional or misplaced, it is because we miss the signs. They may not cry like we do but when you observe them, there are clear indications of grief; looking melancholy, refusing to eat, pacing the floor, lack of interest, wailing and barking. When you think about it from their point of view, their owner has taken their poorly companion to the vet, they wait patiently for your return and in you come empty handed. We don’t explain, why we are tearful or where their friend is (maybe some of you do), they in turn spend day looking for their companion while we openly grieve, we don’t mean to be so insensitive, it is just human nature.
Treat them as you would with anyone who has lost a loved one. Being Irish decent, I returned to Ireland for my dad’s funeral. The custom is that the deceased are buried in three days after their death and they are brought home in an open coffin. My husband and I argued all of the way from the airport about seeing my father dead in the coffin. As I entered my home and saw my grieving family sitting around his coffin, I gulped in a state of shock. I too was seated with my family as a procession of people entered the house shaking each one of our hands and saying “sorry for your loss”. They then stood next to his coffin and reflected in their own thoughts. My husband and my 21 and 18 year old sons ushered people into the room as streams of people came to pay their respects.
Over the next few hours something unexpected happened; having my dead father in the living room became normal, it was not scary, it was almost like he was still part of the family. It helped my sons to understand death. My father stayed overnight and one of us slept in the room with him so he would not be alone. What I dreaded most was seeing my father in a coffin but in honesty it just felt so natural. It got me thinking about how unnatural we treat death in relation to our animals. After my own experience I truly feel that it’s so important that your animal can see the dead body of their companion. By doing this they are more able to come to terms with what has happened to their companion.
Dr. Bach believed that his flower essences worked to support the soul; therefore to work for animals they too have a soul. Our animals truly are sentient beings and that is why flower essences work perfectly with them. Select your essences based on what your animal is feeling at that very moment in time.
“When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure.”
“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”
– Saint Francis of Assisi
Flower Essences For Grief and Loss
- Trailing St John’s Wort (Baileys) – Takes the sting out of the situation and reduces the emotional tension and desperation that are part of your animals grieving process
- Star of Bethlehem (Bach) – Helps your animal to move forward from the shock
- Bleeding Heart (FES) – Bleeding Heart opens their heart up, it offers the ability for them to love again unconditionally
- Yorkshire Fog (Bailey’s) – Encourages shedding of tears and symbolically wash away the anguish that naturally occurs at such times
- Honeysuckle – (Bach) Helps your animal to let go of the memory of their loved companion or owner
- Pink Mulla Mulla (Bush) – Offers deep spiritual healing to your animal
- Chiming Bells (Alaskan) – Is a tonic for uplifting your animals heart energy
In precisely the same way you would treat your animal, take flower essences to help heal your own grief. Animals often “mirror” our own emotional feelings, so don’t be surprised if the essences you need are exactly the same as your animal’s.
Take 2 drops from your chosen essence and mix it with spring water in a 30 ml (1 oz) treatment bottle. Shake vigorously and give 4 drops from this bottle to your animal 4 times a day. Imagine this beautiful life force energy as an uplifting energy hug.
“If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.”
– James Herriot
“There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery.”
– Charles Darwin