People who have never bonded with an animal may not understand the pain involved when you have to say goodbye to a pet. The loss of a buddy who was so much a part of your life needs to be cared for the same as any other injury or loss. Everyone deals with grief differently. But hopefully this article will help in saying good bye to a beloved pet -- at least a little.

spaniel drawing by Jane Schwartz Gates

It doesn't matter much about your age, maturity, lifestyle or anything else. When it comes to bonding with an animal, the caring is just as real as love for anyone else. Just like other beings who impact our lives, pets stay in our hearts our whole lives. But at the time of loss, it is natural to feel angry, robbed, abandoned and lonely. What is important is to respect your own grief and be willing to deal with it however works for you. There is no one way to deal with loss any more than there is one way to deal with gain or life itself.

Only time will heal the hurt of loss. As hard as it seems at the time when you and your pal go separate ways, you will someday smile again when you think of him or her. But first you need to give yourself time to say goodbye to your pet in whatever way feels right to you.

Remember that no matter how much it hurts, even all this grief is worth all the laughter, the good times, and the joy you've shared.

Rainbow woman

The 'RainbowBridge' connects our hearts even after we say goodbye to our pets.

There is an anonymous poem known to many of us who have had, worked with and loved many animals in the past. It is called "The RainbowBridge". The poem goes:

"Just this side of heaven is a place called RainbowBridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to the RainbowBridge. There are meadows and hills for all of 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 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 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. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run 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 RainbowBridge together.... "

Cat drawing by Jane Schwartz Gates

Pets enrich our lives and are hard to let go. Don't let anyone tell you "It was just an animal." Love is precious in all forms.

Dog Portrait by Jane Schwartz Gates

For me, the best way to process grief when I have to grieve for a lost pet is to let myself experience the pain as much as I can. Delaying it or stuffing the feelings only seems to make the misery last longer. So I go off by myself and throw myself into whatever it takes to express the hurt. It helps me get through to the other side. This may or may not work for you. Everyone has their own process. Do whatever you need to do. Be kind to yourself. Your dear pal isn't suffering. You are. Allow yourself whatever it takes and try not to judge yourself.

Bird portrait by Jane Schwartz Gates

Grief is a very personal thing. But remember it will pass one day soon and you will smile as you think of your little friend and be thankful that he or she was a gift to your life and you -- yes you -- were such a marvelous gift to your pet. And you can handle the loss of your pet.

Please note that each picture included in this article was drawn or painted in honor of the lost pet depicted, and this article is written in respect and appreciation for those animal lives who so enrich our own human ones.