Dog and cat playfully rolling in the grass together

What Is the Rainbow Bridge?

Talking About the Afterlife and Our Pets

If you’ve spent much time around pet parents online, you may already be familiar with the idea of the Rainbow Bridge. Perhaps you’ve seen someone say, “Muffin crossed the bridge today,” or seen someone express sympathy as, “Play hard at the bridge, Buddy.” Or you might have seen a motif of rainbows and bridges on cards and memorial items and wondered about it. What is the Rainbow Bridge, and what does it have to do with pet loss?

Just This Side of Heaven…

In the early 1990s, a prose poem titled “Rainbow Bridge” became popular on online bulletin boards, where it was frequently posted and re-posted. It describes a mythical location in the afterlife where pets who pass away wait for their humans to join them so they can enter Heaven together.

The authorship of the original poem is debated. Paul C. Dahm, a grief counselor, published a book titled The Rainbow Bridge in 1997, which references the poem and the idea of the Rainbow Bridge. But the idea had been circulating for years before that. Many people credit Edna Clyne-Reky, a Scottish author, as its originator.

As the story goes, she wrote the poem for her son in the 1970s, and he later posted it online without attribution. Several other people have also claimed original authorship, including William Britton, author of Legend of Rainbow Bridge, and Wallace Sife, founder of the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement.

The exact origins of “Rainbow Bridge” are less important than the impact it has had on pet parents. Different versions of the poem, including tone in verse written by Steve and Diane Bodofsky, appear across the internet and in vet’s offices worldwide. And the language and imagery of the Rainbow Bridge have become a common shorthand for the experience of grief and pet death.

Does Talking About the Rainbow Bridge Help with Grief?

In some ways, the Rainbow Bridge provides a helpful shared language for talking about a topic that can otherwise feel painful, awkward, and taboo. The mental image of a beautiful meadow where pets are restored to healthy bodies can be very comforting. Motifs of lush grass and bright rainbows can be appealing subjects for memorials.

At the same time, the idea is not for everyone. Just as not everyone has the same views on a human afterlife, not all pet parents will take comfort in the myth of the Rainbow Bridge. Some might embrace it as a metaphor, but others may feel it conflicts with their personal beliefs. There is no wrong way to feel.

The Risk of Euphemism

Whether you believe in a literal afterlife for pets or not, acknowledging the reality of losing a pet is important. This is especially important for young children who may not truly grasp what death means. Children who believe their beloved pet has passed on to another physical place may think that their pet could come back and might feel angry or guilty when that doesn’t happen. When explaining the loss of a pet to a child, you’ll want to use simple and direct language and avoid euphemisms.

For older kids and adults, it’s up to your judgment whether speculating about a real or metaphorical afterlife is helpful or harmful to the grieving process.

For many, it is helpful to feel an ongoing relationship or bond with the pet who has passed away, and thoughts about the afterlife can support that bond. This is also why pet cremation jewelry is so popular. It allows pet parents to keep their companion close after they’re gone.

Other people find a greater sense of closure and peace in scattering ashes and saying goodbye for the last time, allowing a companion to become a memory. These people may find greater peace in creating a memory book or photo album, or in investing their love and energy into a new pet or charitable cause. All of these methods are valid ways of coping with the pain of loss.

Best Friends Pet Passings and Cremations is here to support Albuquerque pet parents through the loss of their furry family members in any way we can. From cremation services to memorial jewelry for pet ashes, we can help you lay your fur baby to rest in a way that will make saying goodbye a little more peaceful. Call us at 505-345-5615 with questions.

Dog and cat playfully rolling in the grass together