Losing a pet can be a devastating time in your life, and it can be difficult to talk about your pet’s death with family, friends and children. There are many things to consider, from memorializing your pet and making final arrangements to dealing with your own grief and the grief of others.
Here is our list of 11 ways to memorialize your pet, and some advice to cope with letting go.
Urns are a popular choice to store your pet’s remains if they are cremated. Urns come in varying sizes depending on the animal, and they are available in many different materials. Some are eco-friendly for ashes distribution while others are made of wood, marble, metal or ceramic, and there are many designs to choose from. Some of them may be customizable.
Headstones, grave markers and pet garden memorial stones offer unique and custom designs. Most of these come in granite, marble or stone, but there are additional options as well as choices of 3-D shapes, ground stakes and plantable bones.
3. Engraved Plaques
Plaques can be created to be placed on items that are not able to be engraved. Some of these are placed on stands while others are adhered to urns, boxes and other types of memorial containers. Most companies offer engraving, and some can even have your pet’s picture on the engraving (done from a photograph).
4. Window Decals
You can apply window decals to windows or other smooth surfaces and customize them. While some people may list the pet’s name or dates on the decals, others may choose to go with “I miss my pug” or “Honk if you love huskies,” so the creative options are there for you to choose something you are comfortable with displaying. Decals are usually UV resistant and made of heavy-duty material.
5. Photo Album or Book
Viewing photos of your deceased pet can be an aid to the grieving process, and there are many options online to upload your photos into a print book or album. Some services offer custom covers, lettering and a variety of material options.
6. Paintings and Portraits
A custom work of art can be a beautiful way to display your pet. There are services and artists that can create a beautiful painting or graphite sketch of your pet for display. Custom or handmade work is usually more expensive, but it will be unique.
If the thought of burying or cremating your pet is too much to bear, there is an option to have a taxidermist restore your pet so that it can be displayed. Some taxidermists decline to stuff pets, but others do specialize in the service and charge an average of $800 to $1,800 depending on the size and work involved.
Many types of jewelry are able to be customized with your pet’s information or photograph, and some are designed to hold a small amount of your pet’s ashes to keep them with you always. Jewelry types range from pendants and charms to actual paw print and nose print engravings on gold and silver.
9. Memorial Services
Another way to honor and remember your pet or celebrate its life is by holding a memorial service. This can be as simple as having the family plant a tree in the backyard to a full service inviting friends and family to a church, park or garden. You can also light a candle online and invite your friends and family to light a candle in honor of the pet.
If you have photographs or videos of your pet, you can create a video with those images, and add text, music or whatever you desire. Some professionals offer this service, which averages around $100.
11. Weird and Odd Ideas
There are many nonconventional ways people remember their pets, even though other people may find them strange. Some of these include having your pet’s ashes made into a record, putting ashes into a pillow you can hug, getting a tattoo, creating necklaces from their fur and many more.
Coping With the Loss
Everyone goes through the various stages of grief (denial, anger, guilt, depression, acceptance) in different ways. Some people may choose to grieve alone or reach out to family and friends. Choosing a way to memorialize their dog, cat or other animal can be comforting to owners dealing with the loss, but not everyone will be ready to discuss those options until some time has passed.
I had to have my cat euthanized because of a long-standing health condition that even with medication could not sustain her. I was able to comfort her and talk with her in the examination room, but I was unable to remain with her for the procedure. The thought of watching her die was too much for me to bear, and I sat in the lobby crying for what seemed like hours. I have not chosen to memorialize her as her passing was so difficult for me to endure and would be a constant reminder of that pain.
There are ways to cope with the loss, one of them being writing or journaling about your feelings or writing a letter to your pet. For example, this article is therapeutic for me to tell my story and offer ways people can cope and remember their beloved companions. Besides choosing a memorial option, you can also talk with your friends and family, reach out for support from others, check for pet loss support groups in your area or call a pet loss helpline.
How to Help Others Cope
Children can form incredibly close bonds with animals, and their method of coping can vary as much as an adult’s. Explain what happened to their pet in a way your children can understand for their age and religious beliefs. They may be scared, blame themselves, or experience anger or guilt. Let them know it is okay to express their feelings and that they are not at fault. For children with religious beliefs who may be comforted knowing their pet is in heaven, there is a service that will mail a “letter from pet heaven” to them from their pet based on information you provide.
Telling your children the animal ran away might not be the best idea. They will have to deal with the loss of a pet and constantly wait for the animal to return. I believe being honest with them is best, but parents with children who have had troubling or severe problems dealing with any form of death in the past might consider this as an option.
If the person who lost a pet is a parent or senior, he or she may need extra attention from friends and family to help with the grieving process. Losing a pet can also trigger depression in older adults and bring about thoughts of their own mortality. This can be especially true for someone who lives alone and lost his or her only pet. Try to check in on this person often, offer support and encourage him or her to reach out to a support group. Offer ideas such as our list above in case they may help the person deal with the loss.
The following video montage of a dog named Cooper may offer some ideas for your own video or memorial:
Getting another pet right away can be a difficult decision. Focusing on another pet may seem like a fast way to get over your pet’s death, but it can also prevent you from properly grieving. This may make your grief worse when it surfaces and may make it difficult for you to be around the new pet.
Don’t forget your remaining pets. Other animals may have been very close to the deceased pet or will sense a change in their environment and inhabitants. Animals can get depressed and experience sadness, lethargy and whimpering, and may refuse to eat or drink. They will need lots of love and attention to deal with this period.
If you have recently lost a pet, allow yourself time to grieve and don’t feel shy about telling people when you’re ready to talk — and when you’re not. If you know someone who has recently lost a pet, offer this person a chance to talk about it, or arrange a lunch meeting, bring dinner, or visit with him or her when you can.
- ASPCA: Pet Loss and Hotline (24 hours)
- Rainbow Bridge’s Grief Support Center: List of Support Groups and Hotlines
Photos: Stirling StoneWorks International (top), redcargurl, In The Light Urns/Flickr