How do I say goodbye to my sweet Yoda?
I write this post today with great sadness in my heart because I had to say a final farewell to my sweet cat, Yoda.
Yoda came into my life over 16 years ago. It had been 2 years since I had said goodbye to my beloved cat, KoKo, and I mentioned to a vet that I felt ready to have a new cat enter my life.
He said that he has the perfect cat for me because she would benefit from my psychology background. The vet tech took me to the backroom where they had all the animals in cages.
My first glimpse of Yoda was of her cowering in the back of the vet’s cage. My very first thought was that she looked exactly like the character of Yoda on Star Wars . . . square body and huge ears. Although she was only about 3-months-old, they explained that she had been abandoned in a field and had been fending for herself for several weeks.
When they handed this scared little kitten to me, Yoda clung to my shoulder for dear life. My heart melted; and the rest, as they say, is history!
Our pets bring us gifts
All of our pets are gifts from Spirit, and each one brings us lessons. Yoda was definitely a gift.
Yoda was semi-feral, which meant she was never “cuddly.” As a result, I spent a good part of my 16 years with her doing whatever I could to get her to relax and trust me, even a little bit.
One of the challenges I quickly encountered was her sensitivities. Perhaps because of her very large ears (which she never outgrew), she was always HYPER sensitive to sounds. A friend of mine often said that, “Yoda always acts as if the sky was falling”!
All of this was actually a gift. Yoda taught me what it was like to take care of a highly sensitive cat. In the process, she taught me how to take better care of myself . . . a highly sensitive person. (NOTE: For a great book on this topic, I strongly recommend The Highly Sensitive Person’s Survival Guide: Essential Skills for Living Well in an Overstimulating World by Ted Zeff, Ph.D.)
Yoda usually kept her distance. However, I figured out that she enjoyed being with me when I was working at the computer. I think it was because my attention wasn’t on her but was on the computer.
To accommodate having her nearby, I moved a chair up next to mine. She would sit/sleep there beside me most of the day. As long as I kept my eyes/focus on the computer, she didn’t mind if I touched her. I would put my hand on her while I worked, and we would sit that way every day . . . 7 days a week. (NOTE: The picture above is of Yoda on her chair beside me.)
In this way, Yoda became my “Computer Buddy.” Additionally, I believe she shared her energy with all of you because I often was at the computer handling emails and creating educational material for my classes.
The psychological impact of losing a pet
When I was working as a Psychologist, one of my areas of specialty was grief and loss. Therefore, it made sense that I would transfer that clinical interest into serving as a medium.
Collectively, I’ve spent over 40 years providing support to many people who have lost a pet. For many people, this is one of the most painful types of losses they will experience.
In fact, for some people, losing a pet is often reported to be more intensely painful than losing a human companion. This can be confusing until you understand the differences between these types of loss:
- Loss of a Human Companion: Human relationships are complex. They can (and often do) involve both positive and negative experiences. The negative experiences make the grieving process more complicated.
- Loss of a Pet: Our pets, on the other hand, provide us with nothing but unconditional love. They greet us at the door and make us feel very loved and special. When we cry, they catch our tears in their fur, feathers, or scales. Almost all of our interactions with them are positive.
To summarize, the grief we experience with the loss of a pet can be more painful because our relationship with them and the love that we received was less complicated and, therefore, more “pure.” Consequently, some people report that this type of loss hurts more deeply than the loss of a human companion.
If this description fits you, please understand that this is very normal and natural. It does not mean that you didn’t love your human companion deeply. It’s a type of grief that is uniquely associated with the loss of a pet.
The difficult decision to assist a pet to the Light
In addition to the possibility of the grief being intense when you lose a pet (see last section), there are other emotions that can complicate or intensify this type of grief process.
One of the hardest is the fact that with our pets we have the option to assist them to cross into the Light. With humans, this isn’t a legal option in most states.
The timing of this decision is often gut-wrenching. It is often reported to be one of the most difficult decision the person has ever had to make. Even when the choice is obvious (e.g., major injury, severe illness), the decision often brings up the question, “Was it the right time/choice?” This can take time to work through.
There are many websites that will help guide you through the process of making this difficult decision. One organization that I recommend is called Lap of Love, but there are many others.
A final gift from our pet
I just want to add that a loss of any kind can bring up past, unfinished grief. This could be grief related to the loss of a different pet, or it could be the loss of a human companion.
However, I have found that the activation of unresolved grief is more common when we lose a pet. It is related to the “purity” of that love, and I always think of it as our pet’s final gift to us. They provide us with an opportunity to heal at a deeper level.
Especially when grieving, it’s very important to let these emotions come up for expression, whether they relate to the present loss or to any unresolved grief that comes up. Actually, it’s often hard to tell the difference. The pain just comes up as a jumbled mess. That’s normal! You don’t need to sort it out. Just let it out!
It’s also normal for the grief to come in waves . . . for days . . . for weeks . . . even for months after the actual loss. You will think you are fine, but then you suddenly burst into tears when you walk down the “wrong” aisle at the grocery store and end up in the pet food section.
If you let the waves of emotion move through you, then I guarantee that you will notice that the time between waves grows longer and the waves are less intense. It will get easier . . . day by day. Time really does heal.
The Rainbow Bridge
I want to close this post by sharing something that was given to me by my very good friend Don Lawson. He shared it with me when I unexpectedly lost another cat many years ago. Since that time, The Rainbow Bridge has provided me with such comfort, and I do my best to share it with everyone I know who has lost a pet.
It reminds me that our pets never die. As with our human companions, they will be waiting for us on the other side. I share this wonderful piece of writing with you with my blessings.
To Yoda: You will always be loved, never forgotten, and always missed. I will eventually see you at the Rainbow Bridge . . .
THE RAINBOW BRIDGE
Just this side of Heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water, and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals that have been ill and/or 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 content, except for one small thing; they each 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. This special friend’s eyes are intent and its eager body begins to quiver. Suddenly, this special friend begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, its legs carrying it further and further.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. Then 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 Rainbow Bridge together . . .
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By Anne Reith, Ph.D.