Remembering a Beloved Pet
published February 26, 2008
The loss of a pet can be an emotional experience, and many experts agree that you will go through the same process of grieving that you would if a human member of your family were to die. The sense of loss and sadness can also be compounded with a feeling of grief if your pet had to be euthanized. There are a number of things you can do to make the process easier, whether your pet died of old age or needed assistance.
Most important is to recognize that there is nothing embarrassing about mourning the loss of a loved one, even if it was "just" a goldfish. Allow yourself time and space to feel sad and allow yourself to cry if you feel the need.
Forgive yourself and do not dwell on feelings of guilt, especially if you had to euthanize your pet. The word "euthanasia" comes from a Greek word that means "good or easy death", and is one of the hardest decisions a pet owner may have to make. It should be regarded as a great act of kindness if the pet would only live a life of prolonged suffering. It may be difficult to do so, but be kind to yourself and know that you did the best you could at the time, regardless of how your pet passed on.
Decide what to do with the remains, and do what feels right for you. Some people are comfortable simply have the vet or municipality dispose of the pet in the most efficient manner possible, but for others, you may want to consider cremation and retaining the ashes in an urn or container, or burying the body in your garden or a favorite place. There are even cemeteries that specialize in interring pet remains. It is important to note that many municipalities have bylaws regarding the burial of pets (body and ashes), so be sure to inform yourself of the laws in your area before you reach your decision.
Find closure through saying "goodbye" to your pet. This can be as simple as talking to it (in your head or out-loud) and telling it that it was a good pet, that you loved it, and that it will be missed. If you need something more public, you can visit one of the many pet sites on the internet which has forums where you can eulogize your treasured companion. Letting it out, and having the support of like-minded pet-enthusiasts who understand the feelings of loss can be very helpful in coping with the experience. You could even mark the passing with something as elaborate as having a funeral service performed. Many urban centers offer such services for pets and it is recommended you shop around to find the one that suits you best both emotionally and economically.
Donate left over food and pet medications (check best before date before donating) to a pet rescue. Consider a monetary donation in your pet's name, if resources permit and you are so inclined.
Above all, be thankful that your wonderful pet shared their life with you. It may hurt more than you thought possible at the beginning, but over time, you will find that the good memories far outweigh the bad and you will be able to smile warmly at the memory of your treasured pet.
by T.L. Scribe