For many of us our first experience with death and loss is as a child when we lose an animal companion. At five years old I was mystified when I discovered my pet goldfish floating at the top of her bowl. The questions were endless: What happened? Where did she go? Why did she die? Did it hurt? Was it my fault? Would she ever come back? My parents helped me make a tiny coffin from a tissue box and we had the burial service in our backyard. It was the first loss of many animal companions that have graced my life since then.
We often take them for granted, those whose quiet daily presence brings us simple pleasure. They comfort us with affection, make us laugh with their antics, cause us to ponder about the ease at which they get us to do things for them! They will spend years at our side as companions, outlasting many of our human relationships.
Animals have their own intuitive wisdom and they have taught me loyalty, trust, unconditional love, devotion, and especially how to live passionately in the present moment. When these small creatures leave us, the void in our lives can be unexpectedly immense. Finding support when grieving an animal can be difficult when it feels as if no one understands the deep significance of that relationship.
Following are four ideas for focusing your grief in some creative directions:
- Create a memorial in your home or yard. You can remember your companion by planting a tree or flowers on the grave or his/her favorite place to sit or play. Mark the site with a garden statue or memorial stone. Plant colorful bulbs in the spot to surprise yourself with a cheerful memory every spring. Reserve a corner of your home for his/her bed, blanket, favorite toys. Arrange it in a way that brings you comfort.
- Make a memory photo album or website. Gather together the photos taken of your pet and create a personalized book or site you can return to whenever you feel the need to visit. There are many online sites where you can put together public memorials with the opportunity to share your companion’s unique personality with family and friends.
- Volunteer time or donate to an animal shelter or sanctuary. Continue the legacy of your relationship by donating in your pet’s name to organizations that help animals. It may take some time before you are ready to adopt again but in the interim you may find it rewarding to volunteer at a shelter or sanctuary and be uplifted by being around many different animals.
- Treat yourself in honor of your companion animal. You are grieving, be especially kind to yourself! Spend an afternoon at the beach, walking in nature, taking a hot bath, getting a massage. Honor the gift of the relationship you had. Celebrate the generous, nurturing spirit in yourself that enabled you to give your companion such a loving and happy life.
-Singing Luna 11/17/2013
Links to memorial sites you can create:
Find a list of handcrafted and manufactured personalized pet loss memorial markers: