What is the Rainbow Bridge and why does it matter?
If you've ever loved an animal, you know that a pet is so much more than a pet.
The luckiest of us have befriended and built lifelong bonds with a cat, a dog, or another animal. These loyal and dependable companions can quickly become family members. We see ourselves reflected in their eyes. And even the most stubborn and rambunctious of the bunch can open our hearts and change our lives. They offer unspeakable joy and unparalleled love.
For many, pets are also an everyday presence that can affect happiness and anchor daily routines. So when they're gone, the void that remains in their absence is painful and vast.
Losing a pet can be devastating, but many pet parents have found comfort in the Rainbow Bridge during a time of unspeakable grief and loss.
What is the Rainbow Bridge?
According to the multiple versions of this poem, the Rainbow Bridge is a middle place “on this side of heaven.” Love is the cost of entry to this sunny meadow where animals go when they leave us. It’s a place of restoration and reconciliation. At the Rainbow Bridge, our beloved pets run and play, and they are free from pain. They have everything they need, and they are nearly complete. The only thing missing is us. So they wait patiently until the end of our lives. Then we’re reunited and cross over into heaven together.
For some the idea of finding comfort in poetry, rainbows, and meadows is intolerable. It seems silly and cheesy. And yet, if you’ve watched your ailing dog suffer, it’s hard to deny the peace of picturing him playing in the sun once again. The hope of reuniting one day with the cat you miss like crazy might be the one thing that can get you out of bed. It can bring comfort like your kitty once did when she was still here.
In the unexpected way that puppy eyes can melt the hardest heart, this epic dog park on this side of heaven has comforted millions.
Why the Rainbow Bridge matters.
Losing a pet can be as painful as losing a spouse or a child. It can evoke a cocktail of emotions, including loneliness, sadness, insecurity, discomfort, and grief. But sometimes when people lose their pets, they don’t give their grief the same room they do with other losses.
They carry on and try to continue with life and work as usual. After all, “it’s just a dog.” They don’t take time off work. They may not get the pet bereavement support they need. They may even feel embarrassed or ashamed of their sadness. This can cause unnecessary distress and further complicate an already difficult process.
But grief is grief. It’s messy, unpredictable, and painful. We all respond uniquely to the losses we experience. And whether we’re grieving a lost job, a lost companion, or a lost way of life, grief is normal and valid.
Many grieving pet parents have found comfort in the concept of the Rainbow Bridge because it’s more than just a poem.
Validate the grief that comes when a beloved pet dies.
Offer comfort, hope, and connection during a loss.
Bring meaning to a pet’s death.
Help us face our own mortality.
Help to keep a pet’s memory alive.
So if you or someone you care about has recently lost a pet, we hope you each find comfort in the Rainbow Bridge. Read these words, and let them sink in. Share them with someone who needs them. Hopefully, they’ll remind you that even in death, the bonds of love are eternal.
The Rainbow Bridge
“Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. 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 Rainbow Bridge together….”
— Author unknown