Pet parents face some of the most challenging days after their furry family members pass on. If you are one of the many people that is going through this very trying time, know that your grief is understandable and expected. Today, many people view their pets more like children than animals living in their homes. There is nothing wrong with this. However, it is important to recognize just how challenging a time it can be when a loved pet dies. What can you do in these times to get the support you need and make plans for saying goodbye.
Recognize Your Need to Grieve
At the heart of this process is the need for your emotions to run through the grieving process. Every person in your family, even those that may seem to be fine or seem to be unwilling to admit their loss, will need to grieve. The change in your family dynamic is real and it will never be the same. For all of these reasons, pet parents need to first step back and realize that it is okay to cry and mourn the loss. And, second, it is okay to do this together as a family. That can be very helpful to many parents and bring families even closer together.
Paying Homage and Remembering
But, just knowing it is okay to be sad isn’t enough. What else can you do to ensure that this pet, who was the love of your life for a long time, is well remembered and respected in these moments? The good news is there are several things you can do as a family to make sure this happens. Consider these tips and ideas to help you during this time.
One of the ways you can respect your pet is by having a true pet funeral. You can include as many people as you would like. You can create a funeral that fits your family’s belief system. You may even be able to get a friend or certified Celebrant to M.C. and share ceremonial words and memories. This can be a formal event, where everyone is invited to attend. Or, it can be much less formal and simply be a few moments where everyone comes together to pray and remember.
For pet funerals, take the time to create a plan in advance. Write down what you want to say and what will happen throughout the timeframe. You’ll want to give each person the ability to say what they need to. The planning for a pet funeral like this can be a very important part of the healing process. It allows you to recognize the death and at the same time do something to help yourself to overcome the loss. Keep the following in mind as you create a simple pet funeral:
- Invite only those that you know will respect your grief and the way that you feel right now.
- Start with an opening prayer or a simple song that helps you to set the tone of the room.
- Gather people around in a circle or hold hands. Make sure everyone is comfortable.
- Say a few words about why you are here and the importance that this type of event holds for you.
- Talk about what your pet meant to you. Discuss his or her life and what value he or she brought to your family.
- Welcome others who are within you to talk about your pet in the same way. Allow them to share whatever is important or valuable to them without any type of judgement.
- Host a celebration afterward. Bring people together for a meal to talk about your pet and to celebrate their life.
- Ensure there is a closing prayer or thought said by your or another person there. You want to ensure there is a true closing action to help finalize the way you are feeling.
Customize this type of experience to fit your unique needs and thoughts. There is no wrong way to grieve as a pet parent.
Ideas for Remembering and Preserving Thoughts
In most cases, a pet funeral like this isn’t realistic or even desired. Rather, you may want to just find a way to simply share some memories and thoughts about your pet with others who loved him or her. How can you do this? Consider these ideas.
- Purchase a candle to remember your pet. Whenever you feel alone or in a situation where you just want to remember your pet, light the candle. Watch the flame and remember in peace. It may bring a smile to your face.
- Create a memorial for your pet. Perhaps you would like to place his or her ashes in a cremation urn on your mantle. You may want to bury your pet in the backyard under a favorite tree. In either case, create a small memento that allows you to touch something and know that your pet was there.
- Work with a child or a teen who may be hurting significantly to create a memory book. It can be a scrapbook that is filled with pictures and photos. Draw memories out. Write down a story about the pet. Include photos from cell phones and picture albums you have. Creating this type of book can be a key component in the healing process itself. It most definitely will give you a place to always remember your pet.
- For those who are artistic, the options are many here. You can create a drawing of your pet that you place in an area that’s important to you. You may also want to create a special poem or a meaningful display. No matter what you use from your artistic expression, plan to display it in an area that’s important to you.
- Plant a tree in your pet’s honor. Instead of focusing on the death of your pet, bring life forward from it. You may wish to do this, for example, near to wear you bury your pet’s ashes. This way, when you look in that direction, you see a beautiful tree instead of just your pet’s headstone.
- Gather people together for a blessing. You can ask a local minister or someone that is religious to visit your home for a special meal. Ask for a blessing for all that are there. This can be a very important way for you to heal and move forward.
- Honor your pet with a dedication. You may be able to dedicate a park bench in honor of your pet. You may want to talk to the local parks and recreation office about something you can do at the local dog park your pet visited often. Look for a way to let your pet make a lasting mark in the community.
- Scatter your pet’s ashes in a meaningful place or keep them at home in a fitting pet cremation urn. Keep in mind that you can scatter ashes anywhere you would like to as long as it is legally allowed. If your pet went with you every weekend on a fishing trip, that may be the ideal place to do this. You may wish to choose a location that is more important to you than it was to your pet.
Again, there is no wrong way to grieve. Take the time to learn from what you are feeling. For example, you may want to simply sit down and think. Think about the way your pet felt. Remember the way he or she smelled. Remember the first time that he or she came into your home. Think about all of the good times you both shared. Doing this simple act of sitting down and reflecting, whether you are alone or you are with your entire family, can really open the door for you to heal.
Often times, pet funerals are not thought of as important events, but they very much can be. Holding a pet memorial or ceremony that is right for you and based on your beliefs is healing. Give yourself the time to think, plan, and create a meaningful ceremony or memorial like this for your pet. Most importantly, do what is in your heart. You want to ensure that this event gives you what you need. Generally, that will be a sense that things are going to be okay, a sense of closure, and a feeling of love. Remember what your pet brought to you and how important it was to be a pet parent for him or her.