When our pet dies, it can be devastating. They are part of our family and give unconditional love and support. We never fully “get over” the death of our beloved pet. However, we can work through the grief and mourning process to days of greater joy and a renewed sense of living. Commemoration or ritualizing the death of your pet is an important, although difficult, part of grieving. This process allows us to express our emotions and thoughts. It assists with a sense of reality that our pet is no longer with us physically. He or she is never forgotten though, living on in our hearts and souls. Here is a list of 12 ways that you can carry on the memory and respect of your pet:
1. Create a shelf or area of your home to honor your pet. In this area, you may place ashes in a box or urn, have photographs up and perhaps add a toy that your pet loved.
2. Plant a garden or a tree to continue the legacy of your pet. For example, if a family cat died, catnip, forget-me-nots, daisies and so forth, could be planted. Add a cement stone or marker.
3. Donate to an organization in the name of your pet. This could be a national or local organization such as the ASPCA.
4. Volunteer. When ready, do volunteer work at a local shelter or at a play space your pet loved to frolic.
5. Have a bench marker for your pet. Perhaps your pet enjoyed a particular park. You could see if they have commemoration benches, where you could place an engraved plaque with your pet’s name.
6. Photo album, cell phone images, photographs. It can be difficult to look at pictures of your pet. When you are ready, you could create a photo album or arrangement dedicated to your loved one.
7. Artwork. You could create an art piece or craft of your pet. Or, you could commission an artist to do so.
8. Jewelry. Etsy.com has beautiful jewelry that can be personalized with your pet’s name, species, photos and charms.
9. Tattoo. Get a tattoo that represents your pet.
10. Writing. You could write memories, joyful, funny and quirky times you had with your pet. In addition, you could pen lessons learned from your pet.
11. Have a burial. Where permitted, you could bury your animal in your backyard or make arrangements with a pet cemetery. They exist!
12. Have a gathering of friends, family, pet lovers at your home, a park, a place of worship, a play center…to remember your pet. Make sure to invite people who will not minimize or stigmatize your mourning experience.
I would like to give a special thanks to my four rescue cats: Violet, Maybelline, Bluebell and Le Tigre. Furthermore, I would like to thank family, friends, colleagues, animal lovers and clients for adding to these suggestions.
Sife, Wallace (2014). The Loss of a Pet, 4th ed.
Wolfelt, Alan (2004). When Your Pet Dies: A Guide to Mourning, Remembering and Healing
Photo Credit: Shannon Richards from www.unsplash.com