We celebrate our pets! We have cake on their birthdays. We wrap presents for them on the holidays. We buy them special toys when they are sick. When they pass on, we are sad, but we can also celebrate their life one more time.
Here are a few ways to memorialize your pet and ease the pain of their passing:
Write an obituary. Following human tradition, write an obituary for your pet. Include standard information and add your own personal touch. Include information about when they were born and when they joined your family; their favorite toy, game, and spot to nap; their cutest quirks or tricks; and the people (or other animals) they were closest to. Going through the exercise of recalling important facts about your pet highlights the significance of their life and is very comforting. You can share the obituary personally with a select group of people, post it online, or save it in a special memory box and read it occasionally when the mood strikes you.
Find a suitable resting place. You may find comfort in keeping the remains of your pet in an identifiable spot that you can visit. Depending on where you live and local ordinances, you may choose to bury your pet in your backyard or in a designated pet cemetery. You can make the gravesite special by placing a marker on it or planting a tree nearby. If you have your pet cremated, you may choose to keep the urn in a special location or scatter the ashes in a favorite outdoor area. Some people find comfort in having a tangible spot to visit and reflect, but it is not for everyone. Do what works best for you.
Plant new life in their memory. Living memorials do not have to be at a gravesite. You can plant a tree or flower bed or vegetable garden in any location to complete the circle of life in your pet’s memory. How about the sunny spot in your backyard where he played? Under the tree where she napped? The flower bed where he buried his treasures? Any spot that your pet loved can be a good one to plant a living memorial to them.
Hold a memorial service. If you find comfort in the presence of other people, invite family and friends who understand the relationship you had with your pet. Gather in your pet’s name and share funny stories. Surrounding yourself with people who “get it” and support you can be helpful. Verbalizing fond memories and even laughing a little is a good release for grief.
Create a photo journal. Technology makes it easy to transfer photos from your computer, camera, or phone to an actual photo book. In this printed, bound journal, you can chronicle your furry friend’s entire life. Adding captions will keep memories fresh and serve as a good way to share them with people for years to come.
Create a video journal. Looking at pictures is good, but videos that show your pet in action can be even better. Watching still shots or short videos of your pet set to music can be powerful. If you are not up to the task of creating a video yourself, you can upload photos and videos to one of the many websites that perform this task. Keep the finished video to a manageable length. You will be surprised how many special memories you can fit into two or three minutes.
Use social media as a sharing ground. You can share photos and stories with others who loved your pet and you via online means. Invite friends and family to contribute photos and stories to a central site. They may have photos that you have not seen. How nice to see your pet through another person’s loving eyes! You can even start a blog to capture your pet’s life and death. There are many online resources to help you write your thoughts and accumulate photos, as well as national sites that post them to facilitate sharing with others.
Make your pet a work of art. Your pet was unique…a work of art! Gazing at a framed photo or commissioned portrait of your pet may bring a warm glow to your heart. Or you can make a simple plaster cast of his paw print with supplies ordered online. You may also keep her ashes in a traditional urn or decorative wooden box that rests in a special spot in your home.
Make a donation. One of the best ways to memorialize your pet is to make a contribution in their name to a charity that captures their spirit. Did he love a particular dog park? Donate a bench in his memory. Did she suffer from an identifiable illness? Make a contribution to a research center. Did you get her from a rescue organization or animal shelter? Non-profit groups always appreciate contributions. Did he participate in dog shows or competitive athletic events? Honor him with an award in his name. Did she receive exceptional medical care at your veterinary hospital? Start a fund in her name to help pet owners who need financial assistance in caring for their pets.
Get another pet. It may take a while, but most people who love pets eventually want another furry friend. You can memorialize the relationship you had with your pet by channeling the love you had for him onto another pet. A new pet is not meant to take the place your deceased pet held in your heart. But you will find another spot in your heart for your next pet. And you will enjoy remembering your previous pet as you love your new one.
Loving a pet is glorious. Losing a pet is difficult. Take time to grieve in a healthy manner, focusing on the good things you shared with your pet. You may find that one of these memorial ideas helps you remember those good times and celebrate your pet’s life.