Did My Cat Go to Heaven?

Question from a reader:  I have been grieving the loss of my cat for some time now, and the pain does not go away. I am still very sad and wondering what kind of help you can give me.  I keep thinking—did my Mittens go to heaven or not?  I had a very tight bond with this cat.  I miss her companionship every day and I miss her so much.

Marty Tousley, CNS-BC, FT, DCC, responds:   I’m so sorry to learn of the death of your beloved cat Mittens, and I offer you my deepest sympathy. Having lost my own beloved Tibetan terrier Beringer just last month, I certainly can relate to what you are feeling. 

You’ve asked if your dear little Mittens went to heaven. I’m not a biblical scholar and I cannot point you to any passages in the Bible that address the issue of whether animals go to heaven, but I can tell you that you are not alone in asking that question. Many bereaved animal lovers struggle with whether they’ll be reunited with their beloved pets in the afterlife.

I can also tell you that, whenever we are confronted with a significant loss, it is absolutely normal for us to question the spiritual beliefs that we’ve held all our lives—the really big ones, like “Is this all there is?” and “What is the meaning of life?” and “Where do we go when we die?” There is no denying that death is a very spiritual event. When one of our cherished pets dies, it is evident to us that the pet’s spirit is no longer in his body. So where did that spirit go? What happened to it? Is your cat’s animal spirit okay? Can you still communicate with her spirit in any way?

As a grief counselor who also specializes in pet loss, I have worked with many bereaved animal lovers over the years, all of whom have their own spiritual beliefs. Some take great comfort and peace in the belief that their animals are okay and being cared for in a different realm (see, for example, the Animals’ Eden and Rainbow Bridge stories you’ll find on my website’s Comfort for Grieving Animal Lovers page). Others believe their animals may come back and be reincarnated in a different form. Still others experience a crisis of faith, questioning everything they ever believed before.

This is what I consider to be one of the great Lessons of Loss, that such a profound life crisis forces upon us an opportunity to re-examine our basic values and beliefs and pushes us to grow. I encourage you to think of your Mittens’ death as an opportunity to explore your own values and beliefs, in your own way, in your own time. Don’t let anyone (relatives, friends, neighbors, co-workers, clergy) tell you what you should believe or even what brings you comfort. We can look to others and their beliefs as models to learn from, but in the end we each must discover and clarify our own beliefs. We can find comfort in them and let them serve us.

I can also tell you that there are a number of books out there about this subject, which in itself tells you that you are not alone in your search for an answer to your question. Some are better than others, of course. I happen to prefer children’s books, because their message is simpler and less preachy, they are so beautifully illustrated and they bring me more personal comfort. But there are books directed at adults as well. Here are just a few of both types: 

 Blessing the Bridge: What Animals Teach Us about Death, Dying and Beyond  ©2001, by Rita M. Reynolds

Animals and the Afterlife: True Stories of Our Best Friends’ Journey Beyond Death ©2006, by Kim Sheridan

I Will See You in Heaven ©2010, by Friar Jack Wintz

I Will See You in Heaven (Cat Lover’s Edition) ©2011, by Friar Jack Wintz

Bill at Rainbow Bridge ©2010, by Dan Carrison

Will I See Him Again? (A Look at Pets in Heaven) © 2005, by Tom Waldron

Who Says Animals Go to Heaven? © 2008, by Niki Behrikis Shanahan

Cold Noses at the Pearly Gates ©2008, by Gary Kurz

Goodbye Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet © 2006, by Gary Kowalski

Will I See Fido in Heaven? © 2005, by Mary Buddemeyer-Porter

Paw Prints in the Stars: A Farewell and Journal for a Beloved Pet ©2008, by Warren Hanson

All God’s Creatures Go To Heaven © 1996, original story by Amy Nolfo-Wheeler with illustrations by N. A. Noel  

For Every Cat An Angel © 2001, by Christine Davis

For Every Dog An Angel © 2004, by Christine Davis

If you click on the titles above, you’ll be taken to Amazon’s description and reviews of each. I’m sure you could find one or more of these at your local library, or you could ask your librarian to order some of them.  Be sure also to visit some of the wonderful sites I’ve listed on my Memorializing a Pet page.

 I hope this information proves useful to you, my dear, and I hope it helps to know that I’m thinking of you and your precious companion at this sad time.

© 2011 by Marty Tousley, CNS-BC, FT, DCC

Reach Marty through her Web sites, http://www.griefhealing.com and http://www.hovforum.ipbhost.com, or her Blog, http://www.griefhealingblog.com  

 

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Marty Tousley

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As both a bereaved parent and a bereaved daughter herself, Marty Tousley, CNS-BC, FT, DCC has focused her practice on issues of grief, loss and transition for more than 40 years. She joined Hospice of the Valley in Phoenix, AZ as a Bereavement Counselor in 1996, and for ten years served as moderator for its innovative online grief support forums. She obtained sole ownership of the Grief Healing Discussion Groups in October, 2013, where she continues to serve as moderator. A frequent contributor to health care journals, newsletters, books and magazines, she is the author of Finding Your Way through Grief: A Guide for the First Year: Second Edition, The Final Farewell: Preparing for and Mourning the Loss of Your Pet, and Children and Pet Loss: A Guide for Helping. She has written a number of booklets for Hospice of the Valley including Explaining the Funeral /Memorial Service to Your Children and Helping Another in Grief, as well as monthly columns, e-books and online e-mail courses for Self-Healing Expressions, addressing various aspects of grief and loss. With her special interest in grief and the human-animal bond, Marty facilitated a pet loss support group for bereaved animal lovers in Phoenix for 15 years, and now serves as consultant to the Pet Loss Support Group at Hospice of the Valley and to the Ontario Pet Loss Support Group in Ontario, Canada. Her work in pet loss and bereavement has been featured in the pages of Phoenix Magazine, The Arizona Republic, The East Valley Tribune, Arizona Veterinary News, Hospice Horizons, The Forum (ADEC Newsletter), The AAB Newsletter, Dog Fancy Magazine, Cat Fancy Magazine, Woof Magazine and Pet Life Magazine. Marty’s Grief Healing website and blog offer information, comfort and support to anyone who is anticipating or mourning the loss of a loved one, whether a person or a cherished companion animal. She is certified as a Fellow in Thanatology (Death, Dying and Bereavement) by the Association for Death Education and Counseling, as a Distance Credentialed Counselor by the Center for Credentialing and Education, and as a Clinical Specialist in Adult Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing Practice by the American Nurses Association. Marty and her husband Michael have two grown sons and four grandchildren. They spend their winters in Scottsdale, AZ and Sarasota, FL, and enjoy their summers in Traverse City, MI. Marty welcomes reader questions and comments, and can be contacted at tousleym@aol.com or through her Web sites, at GriefHealing.com, GriefHealingBlog.com, and GriefHealingDiscussionGroups.com.

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