Most of the time here, when I write it’s about how to take care of our beloved pets through the course of chronic or terminal illness, and how to take care of ourselves as we face that process. But it’s important to remember that our relationships with the animals that share our lives don’t end when those animals pass away, and that hospice and end-of-life care also encompasses honoring that bond and supporting the caregivers after a loss.
Our culture has many commonly accepted ways to honor and remember the loss of people in our lives, but often I’m faced with clients who want to find some special way to remember a beloved pet but don’t have an idea of how. So I thought I’d put together a list of some ways to celebrate the memory of a pet that has passed.
- Create a photo pillow – You can take a favorite picture of your pet and make a pillow. If your pet had a favorite blanket, you can use that fabric for the pillow as well. http://inhabitat.com/how-to-make-personalized-photo-pillows-for-your-friends-and-family/
- Make a keepsake box – this can be a way to save treasured items in a special place. http://www.countryliving.com/diy-crafts/how-to/g432/memory-boxes-0704/?
- Sponsor a service dog in their memory – So many animals out there serve as much more than pets for the people who depend upon them. Helping someone get the service dog they need can be an incredible way to honor the bond you had with your pet. http://www.guidedogsofamerica.org/1/help/sponsorship/
- Take part in a charity walk or other event to help support pets in need: Here in Massachusetts the MSPCA runs an annual charity walk; similar events take place around the world. https://www.mspca.org/featured_events/walk-for-animals/
- Write: Tell the story of your pet and your life together. This may take the form of a blog post, poetry, a story, a childen’s book, or whatever form seems most appropriate to you. Whether you share it with friends, the world, or keep the words for yourself, creating the story can be an incredible act of celebration and memory.
- Hold a memorial service: invite your friends and family who also loved your pet to come together and celebrate their life. Ask everyone to share a favorite picture and memory of the pet, and celebrate your time together.
- Memorial jewelry: This can be anything from a pawprint necklace to a bracelet charm made from their collar or tags. There are also necklaces that can be made to hold a small amount of ash, if you have your pet privately cremated.
- Make a memorial garden: Plant a tree, a flower bush, or if you don’t have an outdoor space, a house plant in honor and memory of your pet.
- Commission a painting: have a portrait made from your favorite picture of your pet, to hang in a place of honor in your home.
- Make a memorial stone: Even if you are not able to bury your beloved pet, an engraved stone can still help remember and honor them. You can make one yourself and decorate it with family members, or order one custom-made for your pet.
These are just a small handful of ideas – there are so many other beautiful ways to honor and celebrate those who have passed from our lives – but I hope they can act as inspiration for those of you facing the challenge of how to create a fitting memorial for a pet that you have lost.