Why It’s Important to Have a Pet Memorial Ceremony to Grieve the Loss of a Pet

By Dr. Sarah Wooten

 

June 10th is World Pet Memorial Day—a day that honors and celebrates the bond between humans and their deceased pets. This day encourages, and in a sense, “gives permission to” pet parents to remember their pet and say goodbye in a way that brings healing and closure.

 

If you have ever loved a pet, then you know that losing a pet is one of the hardest experiences. I have a goofy Goldendoodle named Alma, and even the thought of saying goodbye makes tears spring into my eyes.

 

Part of my job is euthanizing pets that are suffering after their owners have made the brave decision to let go. I sit and cry with so many people, and I often ask them if they have anything planned to celebrate the life of their loved one. Many people say no or that they had never thought to do something like that. It is amazing to me that still so few people engage in pet memorial or pet funeral services to honor the loss of pets. I guess it is still not common in our society to honor the depth of the bond between human and pet in that way.

 

The thing is, the loss of a pet is real, and the grief is real. When a pet that is close to you dies, your life changes, and change can be hard. If you are walking through this grief now, a closure ritual can help.

 

Closure rituals are powerful tools for processing grief and can really help a person who is suffering emotionally from the loss of pets. A closure ritual is more than talking or thinking about your pet—it is an intentional action that starts to heal the rift in your heart.

 

Here are some ritual ideas for celebrating World Pet Memorial Day and the bond you shared with your pet.

 

Spread the Ashes

 

After losing a pet, the remains can be cremated just like a human and returned in a beautiful  cremation urn. Many pet owners elect to keep the ashes, but you can also spread the ashes in a place that is significant to you and your pet, or hold a pet funeral ceremony with your loved ones, share stories about your pet and spread the ashes that way.

 

Create a Pet Memorial

 

Alternatively, you can bury your pet’s ashes and plant a tree or a bush to remember your pet. You can also choose to mark the spot with a pet grave marker. Even if you don’t elect to have ashes returned after losing a pet, you can place a pet memorial stone somewhere that you can see or visit to remember your pet.

 

Create a Scholarship or 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 that not only remember and honor the pet, but help aspiring veterinarians follow their dreams.

 

Volunteer or Donate to a Cause

 

Pet shelters are almost always in need of pet supplies and cash. Donating to a shelter in your pet’s name or volunteering your time to honor your pet is a wonderful way to put your love into action and help more pets.

 

Make a Keepsake Box

 

Some pet owners remember their pets by collecting special items that have attached memories in a beautiful keepsake box. That way, they can take the items out and remember the bond they shared with their pet. Be creative—keep some pictures, a paw print, a lock of hair or a collar to remember your beloved pet.

 

Create an Online Community

 

Science shows that we process grief better in the company of other humans that care, rather than trying to go through it alone. Consider signing up for a CareCorral through Prized Pals and create your own online community filled with love, empathy and support. This online resource can also be used if your pet is near death, has chronic disease or is in palliative care.

 

Create Art, Jewelry or Poetry

 

Memorializing the special bond you had with your pet is becoming widely accepted, and there are many creative ways you can honor the life of your pet. Companies like Pearhead, for example, allow you to customize pet memorials so you can have a unique way to celebrate your pet’s life. There are so many ways to create a pet memorial that will honor the bond you shared—the sky’s the limit, so let your creativity soar!