Dealing with the death of a beloved animal companion is the hardest thing pet parents ever have to do. And although grieving is a natural process, that certainly doesn’t mean it’s easy.
One way to attend to grief is to memorialize the life of the pet that has passed. Pet memorials come in many forms, from rituals and funerals to volunteering or donating in your pet’s memory or creating a keepsake out of your pet’s ashes or fur.
Here are some ways in which you can pay your last respects and honor your pet’s memory.
Hold a Pet Funeral or Memorial Service
Funerals and memorials are powerful tools for processing grief. A memorial is more than talking or thinking about your pet—it is an intentional action that can help start the healing process.
Gathering friends and family who knew a loved one and laying them to rest is a traditional way to say goodbye, and it’s perfectly valid for pets, too. A memorial service can be a great reminder that you’re not going through this pain alone. Everyone can share stories from your pet’s life and mourn the loss together.
If you don’t want it to be a public event, it doesn’t have to be. You can perform your own private service or ceremony.
Spread Your Pet’s Ashes
After losing a pet, cremation is one aftercare option. This can be done as a communal cremation, where your pet’s body is cremated along with other pets that have passed away, but you will not receive ashes. If you want the ashes returned, you can choose private cremation, which usually costs slightly more than communal cremation.
Many pet parents keep their pet’s ashes in an urn or decorative box. You can also spread the ashes in a memorial flower garden or a place that is significant to you and your pet.
Create Jewelry With Your Pet’s Ashes
Any piece of jewelry may be a token of remembrance of your pet’s life, but some keepsake pieces can be made to specifically memorialize your pet.
Some Etsy sellers will have you send a small amount of your pet’s ashes so they can incorporate them into the jewelry. Another option is to purchase a pendant or ring that can be filled with a small amount of your pet’s ashes.
Create a Pet Memorial Site With a Marker
This option is one that can work with any aftercare that you choose. You may want to mark the site of a home burial by planting a tree or grave marker to remember your pet. You could also mix your pet’s ashes in with the soil if you chose private cremation. Even if you don’t elect to have the ashes returned, you can place a pet memorial stone somewhere that you can see or visit to remember your pet.
There are many unique options for incorporating ashes into a physical marker, such as services that allow you to mix your pet’s ashes with concrete, which is then memorialized in the ocean to become part of a living reef.
Create a Scholarship or Pet Memorial Fund
Some pet parents choose to honor their pets through a scholarship fund that is created in the pet’s name.
Many veterinary students have been able to fund their education through these generous pet memorial gifts, which remember and honor the pet and help aspiring veterinarians follow their dreams.
You can also set up a fund for pet parents who can’t afford their pet’s care. Many local veterinary offices have “angel funds” where you can donate to honor the loss of your pet. You can also donate to funds that are already set up to help people with pet care.
Donate to a Cause or Organization
Perhaps the simplest but most eloquent way to memorialize a pet is to make a donation in their honor to a cause or animal organization.
Pet shelters are almost always in need of pet supplies and cash. Donating to a shelter in your pet’s name to honor your pet is a wonderful way to help more pets. You’ll be preserving your pet’s memory and helping other would-be pets at the same time.
Charities that help animals in need are also a good fit, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t think outside the box. For example, many organizations will plant trees in your pet’s name for a small donation. You can also donate to service dog organizations in your pet’s name. Find a cause you care about and check out the options.
Volunteer Your Time
If you rescued your pet from a local animal shelter, rescue, or Humane Society, why not volunteer there after your pet passes on? It was thanks to volunteers who initially rescued your pet and took care of them that they came to be a loving part of your family. Think of volunteering as passing on the favor.
Make a Keepsake Box
Some pet parents remember their pets by collecting special items that have memories attached to them in a beautiful keepsake or hanging shadow box. Whenever you look at the items, you can remember the bond you shared with your pet. Be creative—keep some pictures, a paw print, a lock of hair, a toy, or a collar to remember your beloved pet.
Create a Picture Book or Scrapbook
You’re sure to have many special pictures of your pet, so why not create a scrapbook or even have a picture book made. This way, you always have something to look back on when you’re remembering your pet, and you can order several copies for friends and family members.
Join Online Pet Loss Groups or Forums
Sometimes friends and family members may find it hard to grasp what you’re feeling after the loss of your pet. If that’s true for you, there are many online pet bereavement sites and social media groups where pet owners come together to remember their lost pets and comfort one another.
Make Paw Prints
Being able to look at your pet’s paw print after they’ve passed can be very meaningful. Paw prints can be made while a pet is still alive or after they have passed. Many veterinarians will offer to make a paw print for you as a part of their euthanasia service. Paw prints are often made in clay, but ink on paper is another option.
Commission a Work of Art
You may wish to display a custom work of art that celebrates your pet. This could be a watercolor, sketch, or even a sculpture that contains some of your pet’s fur or ashes. Many artists specialize in making one-of-a-kind remembrance pieces like this.
Get a Tattoo of Your Pet
You can also honor your pet in a more permanent way, with a custom portrait, caricature, paw print, or nose print tattoo. Other tattoo remembrance ideas include your pet’s name or their silhouette. However you choose to remember them, a tattoo is one way to keep their memory close.
When the time is right and you feel ready, consider adopting again and giving another pet in need a chance at a happy life.
Featured image: iStock.com/Nataba
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