That’s Emma Lou. My dog best friend. She always had itchy ears until her last year and she liked to steal food. She’s an Angel Spirit Guide now popping in and out to give me angel hugs and advice better than a therapist. I had weird irrational fears six months before I would lose her, but I really didn’t see her departure coming and it knocked me over. She was somewhere between 11 and 12.
There’s a lot they don’t tell you about what you will experience when you lose a long time best friend. It’s assumed that you will just be accepting and move on, or that it’s the same process as with losing a person, which can be just as rough but in different ways. I’ve witnessed many friends losing their special ones lately. And when I was an animal communicator for fourteen years, I felt both sides of the coin — how the animal felt and how the person losing them felt. I’ve lost my own animals and written about that. And I have not been alone this time around. My family has felt the loss also. And with this major loss and the many others I have learned a great deal.
Here is what they don’t tell you, that might help if you find yourself in this unenviable situation:
It won’t be over in a month.
You won’t be over it in two months or six. The shock will be over, the massive hurt and bruising will be over, but the missing stage pops in and that can be hard in its own way. Most of the sympathy that you initially felt from others is gone and they will pretty much expect you to be back to normal and ready to listen to their loss situations. You won’t be and that’s just fine. After a month I could at least talk about what happened without crying and I am not a big crier. At two months I can calmly talk about her leaving but then I find an empty room later and let the waterworks flow in private. You will be pissed that life still goes on for other people. How dare it when your life just stopped! You will feel better, I promise. It just takes lots of time.
There’s physical symptoms. It’s the kind of cry that you don’t feel better afterwards.
There’s physical symptoms of grief I didn’t expect. You might be way more tired and achey. Prone to colds. Your appetite will increase or decrease. All I wanted to do was eat, which is abnormal for me. My chest hurt probably from crying. It’s the kind of cry that you don’t feel better afterwards. Things may shut off. Thinking can be slow. Movements can be slow — you feel like you are moving in mud. Roll with it. Your body takes in the loss as trauma and it needs time to heal.
Everyone grieves differently.
Some may cry openly all the time, or talk about the loss non-stop. Others don’t express anything but act out in ways that may not be helpful to them just to deal with the feelings. Just because I am back to perky and happy on the outside doesn’t mean I stopped feeling the loss.
It’s not just a dog.
No it’s not just a dog or cat (or horse or bunny). Dogs and cats can cross through the barriers of love and communication more than people can. They serve different roles for us too — companion, friend, child, guide. My Emma was alongside me for all the really hard stuff. When my life fell apart she made sure I didn’t end up in some mental ward drawing circles. She was like a good friend you can bounce off of, Hey, remember when this happened? Or, remember the time? (And I am so, so grateful she met my husband and family and was able to be around for that big GOOD stuff). When people minimize that loss I know I am touching anger, a huge part of grief — I want to yell HELLO! SHE WAS WAY MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOU WHO I’VE KNOWN FOR ABOUT TWO MINUTES. THIS IS MY FAMILY. MY HEART. My advice is to stick around those who get it. The fellow dog/cat moms and dads who have had or have besties. The people who knew your animal. Those are your tribe and will support you right now. You are also learning what and who really matters to you and what is important to you. I had one person react to the loss when they talked to my stepdaughter with indifference. That person showed me clearly how important any of my life was to them and I quickly detached my energy and lowered any expectations about them.
Other losses come up.
This loss may trigger memories of other losses. Thought you were over losing your Mom in ’95? Hell no! Here it is again right in your face, and it still hurts?! What is wrong with me? Yeah, that happens. It’s the unresolved parts or even the parts that hurt so much then that they will always jab a little into you when triggered. That’s reality. The good news is the jabbed parts give you an opportunity to lay some things to rest or find new meaning behind them.
It’s harder to be there for other people right now.
Yes, other people are going through stuff too right now and you may have been their Go To Person to help them deal. But you’ve experienced some major damage here to your world. It would be like dragging around a broken leg AND trying to walk AND try to help someone else walk. Not really possible. You need to tend to your own heart right now. You matter too. That animal and you had a routine living together that is greatly disrupted. You need to readjust.
The good news…They do visit.
If they check in and visit this does not mean they are stuck to you and you are hindering their path! Or, that they didn’t move on and are ghosts. It means they love you and are just making sure you are doing okay from the loss before they can do what they are going to do next.
What if you don’t feel them at all? Some souls do just zip forward and move on. My turtle, Speedy, who was a real character, got killed crossing the road after a great escape to get laid (that’s an interesting story in itself for another time.) He left his body and popped into the hallway afterwards to let me know his dilemma, let me know he loved me, and was gone. I never did feel his spirit again. He was my friend for awhile and then POOF. I’m thinking I was a one time mission and the mission was over so he could go turtle frolicking in turtle heaven.
Other times you can’t feel them when they visit because you are too grief-stricken and closed down to pick up their energies. It’s a closed circuit. Your beliefs that there isn’t an afterlife will most definitely make it difficult to feel anything or hear anything. For the truly sensitive, it’s almost impossible to block out the blinking lights, the energies or the shadows you see. In those situations, you are not crazy, you are just open. And that’s not just woo-woo stuff or wishful thinking. I’ve experienced stuff for most of my life and the more you talk to other people, and if they feel safe, they will whisper and share their own after-death experiences.
Some animals do stick around as Spirit Guides. It’s their mission or purpose to help you out like they did when they had a cute fuzzy body. Don’t feel like you are holding them back, this is what they do now. Embrace the hell out of it. It rocks if they are wise when they were in body. I remember years ago my Grandmother popped in when I was looking for a place to live. I could feel her and kept hearing “apartment.” At the time, I had never lived in an apartment and I had a husband, a daughter, and several dogs. It was not the best advice. We did find a house later. Reflecting, I realized that she had always lived in a garden apartment and thought that was best advice for everyone.
Some animals do reincarnate. I’ve seen it so many times with clients and with my own animal companions. It’s a cool thing when it happens. The tough part is it might be the same soul but they might have a little different take on it. I wish Emma would just find another basset body to pop in that looked the same and she would act the same, but being in a different body might make a different experience and have different challenges or personality ticks with it. If I were to pop into a five-foot-nine tall blonde would I be less Ronni and more someone else? (At least I would be able to reach the tall cabinets and my husband’s neck wouldn’t ache looking down all the time.)
Whether they stick around, come back, or meet you when you cross over, you still need to grieve and feel that awful pain that the body they were in that you so meticulously took care of and loved on, is not here. Boy, does that hurt. Quite honestly, I would much rather have dental surgery then experience this. The pain is somewhere around deep lower chest just grinding away. But the only way to deal with it is through to the other side of it. Time does make that better. Grab and cuddle your loved ones that are still around you and feel all that love. Now is the time you need it the most. Do ask for it. And if you still have that connection with your animal, tune it. Let them help you get through it. That’s okay too.
If you like my writing, check out and order my popular books listed on the website and on Amazon, including my animal communication Speak Woof and Meow. And do sign up for the newsletter to receive more articles that will help. I’m currently working on my Idea Emporium Activity Book. It’s got its own website over here that is fun and playful and all about designing.