from Saying Goodbye to Your Angel Animals: Finding Comfort After Losing Your
Pet by Allen and Linda Anderson (New World Library, 2008). All Rights
at the Rainbow Bridge
Oh! Friend, who gave and comforted, who knew
the want of heart and mind,
Where may I
turn for solace now, or find
this unceasing loss of you?
— Theodosia Garrison, “The Closed Door”
Bottom line: It hurts like crazy.
And hardly anybody understands. Family, friends, coworkers sympathized. For a
while. But they expected that you would be over it by now. Maybe they found a
day or even a week of grieving to be acceptable. But after all, this was only a
pet. Why are you still moping around? Why don’t you get another one? Why don’t
you get a life?
So you ingest their words or their
silent disapproval like vials of poison to your self-esteem. You wonder if they
could be right. Are you a hopeless, codependent, overly romantic,
anthropomorphizing weakling? Why do you mourn the loss of your animal companion
more than any other loss in your life? How can this bereavement cause such
emptiness, grayness, and sheer torture? You feel foolish. You are embarrassed.
You don’t want to admit the magnitude, intensity, or tenacity of your pain. You
are tempted to suck it in, shove it under, seal it over.
You yearn for a gentle paw to touch
your cheek, a sweet chirping to greet each day, an exercise buddy to pad along
beside you, or penetrating eyes with childlike innocence to watch your every
movement — just one more time.
Despite the lack of understanding
from others, you realize that the life and death of your animal companion must
not — will not — be forgotten. The brilliant light that illuminated the darkest
corners of your life has to be honored. You have lost a way of living as well
as a dear friend. And it may be one of the most debilitating losses you have
Besides, you are a person who gives
credit where credit is due. You long to acknowledge that an animal companion
brought love, joy, comfort, tolerance, respect, balance, companionship, and
meaning to your life in ways that are unique, admirable, and worthy of
Now, you are ready to read this
YOUR PARTNERS IN
We are Allen and Linda Anderson, authors
of books about the spiritual connection between people and animals. We are a
married couple who have been blessed with two human children and many furry
family members. Over the twenty-five years of our marriage, we have gone
through the losses of Prana, Feisty, Mugsy, Taylor, and Sparkle. We have buried
them, scattered their ashes, held memorial services, missed them, and mourned
them. We have grieved with our children and each other. We have wondered if the
hole that was left when our animal companions died would ever be filled. We
have walked through the valley of the shadow of death into the sunlight once
In our work with the Angel Animals
Network, which we founded in 1996 to increase love and respect for all life
through the power of story, we have received thousands of stories from readers
who have struggled to find their way out of the maze of sadness that confused
them after a pet died. From their experiences and our own, we have fashioned a
kind of framework for your grieving and healing. Grief is messy, so we are
describing for you the process of organic grieving. It allows you to relax into
the knowledge that grief isn’t organized. It has its own natural cycles and
timetable. As you read through the chapters, empathize with the stories of
others, and do the exercises and meditations, your grieving will take on new
meaning. You will have the opportunity to transform into a more spiritually
self-aware person and, in time, feel happiness again. Our hope is that you will
emerge from bereavement as one who looks at life through the clear, bright eyes
YOU HAVE HISTORY
We once did a radio interview
during which a caller telephoned the station with a story about a parrot who
had recently been left at an animal shelter. The parrot sat at the front desk
with staff members and volunteers, who were busily processing adoptions.
Throughout the shelter, the bird’s voice was heard wailing plaintively, “What
went wrong? What went wrong?”
This bird asked an age-old
question. Throughout history, human beings have turned to ritual, prayer, and
commemoration to deal with their grief when a pet died and to figure out what
went wrong. Ancient people’s memorial practices helped them to mourn. Egyptians
mummified their pets with the same chemicals and in the same ways as they did
humans. The grieving family members shaved their eyebrows when a pet died and
buried the animal in the family crypt. Persians, as well as people of other
ancient cultures, established pet cemeteries for their companion animals.
Native Americans shared their dwellings with and welcomed animals into their
tribes. They called upon animal spirits during their vision quests.
Like golden threads, animals have
always been woven into the tapestry of humans’ lives. For many, especially
children, the loss of a pet is a first and profound experience with death’s
mysterious presence. An animal’s passing evokes questions about the
significance of the animal-human relationship, the afterlife, the soul, and
God. Your longing to find answers, explanations, and consolation may bring you
to a spiritual turning point. An animal’s death can cause you to feel doubt,
disbelief, and disconnection. Whirlwinds of anger and denial may compound your
grief and cut you off from normal avenues of community and religious solace.
When others don’t understand that grief for your devoted animal friend is as
real and painful as any other kind of grief, you may find yourself feeling even
more isolated and alone.
YOU HAVE FRIENDS WHO
This book is designed to serve as a
friend who knows how you feel, doesn’t judge you, and wants to help you allow
grief to follow its natural course into acceptance. We have chosen to express
the process of grieving, reconciliation, and healing by using symbolic imagery
of the legendary Rainbow Bridge. Some truly magnanimous and wise person wrote a
story that has since comforted millions of us after our animal companions have
died. No one knows who the author is. Yet we all feel grateful for the story’s
messages of hope.
THE RAINBOW BRIDGE
Just this side of Heaven is a place called the Rainbow
When an animal dies who has been
especially close to someone here, that pet goes to the Rainbow Bridge. There
are meadows and hills for all of our special friends, so they can run and play
together. There is plenty of food and water and sunshine, and our friends are
warm and comfortable. All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to
health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong
again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and
contented, except for one small thing: they miss someone very special to them
who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but
the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. The bright
eyes are intent; the eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to break away from
the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and
faster. You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend
finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again.
The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head,
and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your
life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge
RAINBOWS AND BRIDGES
The first three chapters of this book will help you to
recognize the primary colors of the Rainbow Bridge. These colors of blue, red,
and yellow represent sadness, remembrance, and spiritual growth. Observing and
nourishing yourself with the rainbow’s colors will allow you to become
peaceful. You will begin to understand how the loss of your animal companion
has affected your life physically, emotionally, psychologically, and
The next four chapters offer bridges that will
transport you through the mourning process. These bridges symbolize a
metaphoric range from the practical to the mystical. They are bridges that
commemorate and honor the life and death of your pet. Like the Rainbow Bridge,
they take you and your animal companion to a place where you can be reunited
spiritually. Throughout this book, you will read about the experiences of
people who have seen the rainbow’s colors and crossed the bridges before you.
Their stories offer knowledge, comfort, and wisdom.
HOW THIS BOOK IS
The material in this book runs the
gamut; it will be just as useful to those who have a humanist or secular
philosophy of life as it will be to those who actively practice a religion or
spiritual path. You have the right and the responsibility to decide what and
how much you want to take from these pages. Listen to your heart and your inner
guidance. Use only what makes you comfortable and helps you to feel better.
Discard or disregard the rest.
We have created three types of memorial service that
you can use as written, add to, delete from, or mix and match. If the words in
these services say what you want to say, by all means read them. If they don’t
reflect your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, change them in any way that suits
you and the guests you invite to your ceremony.
Meditations and questions at the
end of each chapter offer prompts for further reflection to help you sort out
your thoughts, feelings, and experiences as you go through the grieving
process. Additional meditations and exercises are scattered throughout this
book so you can immediately reflect and expand upon key points. In the Appendix
there are even more meditations that give specific thoughts and suggested
activities for more completely healing your grief. We encourage you to use the
prompts and meditations for writing about the loss of your animal friend and to
start a journal or scrapbook where you can preserve special photographs and
We use the terms animal
companion and pet interchangeably, because in our vocabulary, pet
is a term of endearment. We do not use the terms owner or master,
because we respect animals as partners and companions of humans in this world.
We don’t believe that you can own animals. Their love and devotion are freely
given, and no price you pay to have them in your life could ever be enough.
We alternate between referring to
animals as male or female rather than using only the referent he. And we
don’t refer to animals with it or that, as if animals were
objects instead of sentient beings.
Because you are an individual and
your circumstances and views of life are unique, no one can fully comprehend
exactly what you are experiencing with the loss of your pet. It is our
sincerest hope, though, that as you read these pages, you will find yourself in
the company of compassionate listeners and understanding friends.
You, your animal companions, the
people who have contributed their thoughts and stories, and we are poised now
to journey to the Rainbow Bridge together. Peace and acceptance are on the
other side. Happiness and joy in celebrating a life well lived await you.
Hold our hands. We offer them to you in friendship.
We will cry with you. We will remember with you. We will honor and commemorate
Let love always be your guide. For
unlike the physical bodies we miss so dearly, love never dies.
How My Life Would Have Been Different
thinking about how different my life would have been without you, I feel even
more gratitude for the gifts you have given me.
were times when I would have chosen another course of action of changed
directions had it not been for the wise and gentle counsel of your example.
What role did you play as a divine messenger for me?
When did you influence my decisions with your gentle
How did you help me to be a kinder person?