Grieving Over a Pet?

(Written especially for young people)

I'VE had pets most of my life--turtles, guinea pigs, cats, dogs, fish, hamsters, mice. Since people tend to live longer than many animals, I know from experience that it isn't easy when a pet dies. Suddenly that friendly face isn't there to greet you, and it seems as if there's nothing but a big hole in its place. It can be tempting to try to fill that hole with tears.

But there's a better way to deal with death. It's to turn to God, the One who created both you and your friend. Understanding God as Spirit will tell you something special about creation, namely that it is not material but spiritual.

What this means is that each of God's creatures is an idea, not a material thing. If we think of God as infinite Mind, and creation as consisting of Mind's ideas, we begin to see that an idea can't ever be taken out of the Mind that creates it. Even if you can't see your pet, its identity as a spiritual idea can't be lost from Mind. Christ Jesus made this point very clear a long time ago when he asked, ``Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?'' Luke's Gospel tells us that Jesus went on to say, ``Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows'' (12:6, 7).

God loves us and all of His creation. Does this seem hard to believe when a pet has died? It helps to keep in mind that death doesn't come from God. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, says in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``It is ignorance and false belief, based on a material sense of things, which hide spiritual beauty and goodness'' (p. 304). One way to begin overcoming this ignorance in ourselves is to see that what we love about our pets isn't really their material bodies but the qualities they express in special ways. Each may have its own way of loving, but if we can perceive the qualities our pet expresses, we can find these qualities right with us wherever we are.

I learned this some years ago when a fish I loved very much died. He was a Siamese fighting fish, and when he died, I felt terribly sad. Then, unexpectedly, I happened to go by a pet store that had on display many bowls, each one with a Siamese fighting fish. As I looked at these fish, I saw different aspects of my friend. One had a cocky look, as he had had. Another looked especially intelligent. Another had his snappy manner of swimming. And of course each one was uniquely beautiful.

I began to see that what I had loved about him hadn't been his physical body half so much as his individuality--the total of the qualities he expressed. The intelligence he expressed in so many ways, for example, surely came in some degree from God, divine Mind, whose idea he was. And there was no question in my mind about the fact that his beauty was definitely divine!

Suddenly the feeling of loss didn't seem quite so strong. I began to understand at least a little bit that the qualities he had brought to our relationship were not lost. I just needed to look for them everywhere. Eventually, I ended up with not one, but three, Siamese fighting fish. And they taught me a lot more about the spiritual qualities that come from God. Since then, I've had many other kinds of fish, and each time I've learned more about God's creation. By my discovering and appreciating the qualities they express, my life has grown richer.

It isn't always easy to make the transition from the beloved pet to the qualities that we actually valued so much. But each time we succeed we will see more clearly the good that God is giving us, and will be learning that because it is spiritual, this good can never be lost.

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