Does life really go on after your pet goes missing? What if you never find each other again? Does it mean you are a bad pet parent if you call off the search? Animal communicator Shannon Cutts delves into the difficult topic of lost pets who are not found.
But what happens when a lost pet goes missing and just stays missing?
If tracking missing pets is challenging, accepting that a pet may not be found is doubly so. For you, the grieving pet parent or caregiver, it may feel like your heart will never heal. You don’t know where your animal love is, how they are faring, if they have what they need, if they are safe or even alive.
A missing pet can place a strain on the whole family – human animals and non-human animals alike. Each family member will deal with their loss and grief differently.
For example, you may have disagreements about what to do next in your search or if/when to call off the search, especially as the daily wear and tear of searching starts to take its inevitable toll on every level.
The lack of closure is perhaps the most taxing part of a lost animal situation. The not knowing that never goes away.
Even if you think you are holding it together reasonably well during your waking hours when you can distract yourself with family life, work responsibilities, errands or chores, the stress may begin to crop up at night, interrupting your sleep or creating disturbing dreams. As you lose out on sleep night after night, your waking life with the rest of of your family may begin to suffer.
I know this all too well. I have navigated three missing pets over the last six years. On two occasions I was able to be reunited with my animal loves. The third time, things went differently….at least thus far.
(All that to say, if you are reading these words and wondering where in the world you can find someone who empathizes with the unique agony of unresolved missing pets, just know that you have found someone. I do get it.)
But does it get better? Or at least easier to bear? Is there any peace to be found, if not now, then maybe down the road a bit?
Yes, it can get better…if “better” is the right word for it. Which it really isn’t.
More realistically, with time I have found it is possible to put some boundaries around the pain. So at least the ache and the not-knowing gets less intrusively painful in your daily waking life. At night, there are ways to put up some boundaries as well if you need them.
At this point, there is a lot of personal choice in the mix.
You can choose to stay stuck, frozen in grief, closed to new connections (of any species), afraid of opening your heart and allowing any light or laughter or love or trust into your life again. You can decide you are to blame and spend the rest of your days punishing yourself (or allowing others to blame and punish you or shame you for staying stuck).
Or you can make a different choice. You can choose to go within. To listen to your gut and heart. To recognize when the toll of continuing to search for your missing pet is exacting a price you can no longer safely afford to pay. To trust that somehow, in some way you may never understand, your animal is on their own path either here on Earth or across the veil and that path has its own value and validity.
But how could that be? How could you possibly rest, relax, enjoy life again, trust that all is well again, until you find your pet or at least find out what happened to your pet?
It starts by recognizing that animals are not here only to serve humans. Each animal, whether wild or pet, is a fully alive and sentient, conscious being who has thoughts, feelings, dreams, goals, plans and – most importantly – free will.
It continues by asking yourself whether, just perhaps, your animal needed to leave or even wanted to leave. Could it be that your pet aspired to have other experiences beyond what their daily life with you could allow for?
Many moons ago, a mentor told me something that has stuck with me. People may enter our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime. I submit that it is the same for pets. Some pets stay with us for the balance of their lives. Depending on the species, some pets may even stay with us for the balance of our lives.
But some pets also come into our lives for a reason or for a season. In these relationships, our lives intersect for mutual benefit. Then our lives separate again, and again it is for mutual benefit.
What kind of benefit could possibly arise from enduring the agonizing experience of a pet gone missing?
At first, nothing may come to mind. You are wallowing or perhaps drowning in worry and grief. You are blaming or shaming yourself. You are working through the shock, the trauma, the drama, the massive internal and external reorganization that must occur any time a member of our inner circle suddenly departs.
As that initial wave of overwhelm subsides, this is when you get your opening to contemplate how losing your love is pushing, stretching or even forcing you to grow. This is when it is worth starting to ask yourself how you are evolving as a being in the hours and days since your pet went missing.
Are you stronger? Quieter? Braver? More grateful?
Are you a better listener? Do you notice you are less apt to take other treasured connections for granted?
Have you developed a new resilience to anxiety or stress?
Are you learning new life skills, breathing more deeply, choosing to search out meaning in the midst of seeming meaninglessness?
What is the state of your faith or trust? How is your approach to the value of all life, of your pet’s life, of your own life, different now?
Perhaps at some point in the process you made a decision to work with an animal communicator or lost pet tracker. At first you thought the sole benefit of this would be to find your lost pet and be reunited. This didn’t happen but a lot of other beneficial experiences came your way because of it. You got to know your animal better. You got to know yourself better. You learned valuable lessons you might not have had the opportunity to encounter in any other way.
These are the types of questions that (I believe at least) are worth considering in any lost pet situation. The longer your pet stays missing, the more worth asking they are.
And certainly at any point in the journey inquiries like these offer a productive place to park your worried mind for a bit of respite here and there.
In my own journey to cope with a long-term missing pet situation, I have also come face to face with one simple fact.
The story of us – of you and your missing pet, of me and my missing pet – is never over.
What I mean by this is that ever day is a new day to realize that being connected on the outside, skin to skin, face to face, eye to eye, is not ever the only type of connection available to us. Arguably, it is not even the most important type of connection available.
Another type of connection, an inner connection, is also always available. And this inside connection, heart to heart and spirit to spirit, is not breakable. It cannot be interrupted at any time by any means for any reason.
By choosing to take the brave action of going within and looking for our missing pet there, we may just make the most significant discovery life can offer – there is continued life after heartache, separation, even physical death.
If that sounds too deep for you or if your own missing pet situation is too fresh and raw to allow it, I encourage you to table it for now. There is a time and place for contemplations and experiences like these, and now may not be the time for you. At least not yet.
Save it for later. Come back to it from time to time. See if perhaps one day you discover you are ready.
For now, if you are worrying, vibrating with anxious energy you don’t know what to do with, exhausted from doing just one more thing until you have literally forgotten there is any more to life than the search, there is one more idea I would like to share and just invite you to consider.
As another one of my mentors likes to say “this is a friendly universe.”
What do I mean by this?
What I mean is, in a friendly universe, my missing pet and your missing pet will have what they need even if we are not the ones who are providing it. As in, some of that worry generated when a pet goes missing comes from forgetting to believe our animal has their own self-efficacy to find water and food, locate shelter, create a life for themselves outside of our care. This includes even the choice to find a new keeper or family who can provide these necessities for our missing pet.
Maybe, just maybe, we have no idea what our pet is truly capable of. Maybe our missing pet is stronger, more able, braver, more enduring than we ever dreamed possible.
All this to say, I have discovered there is actually life to be found outside of searching and worrying and grieving for my missing pet.
There is a deeper perspective and wisdom to be gained when we stop thinking of our pets as pets and start perceiving the animals in our lives as fully fledged sentient beings living their separate lives alongside us. Not only is this a perspective that can free us from the prison of worrying and waiting. But it is a perspective that, in time and with continued contemplation, might just save the planet.
Are you working through the trauma and grief of an ongoing missing pet situation? I can help.