Your heart is broken. Your beloved pet has died, and the grief overwhelms you. It takes time, but eventually you only recall all the happiness your friend gave you, although memories remain bittersweet. Creating a memorial to your pet is one way to cope with grief while leaving a lasting tribute.
Create an obituary
Writing an obituary for your pet or keeping a journal can aid the grief process. Whether or not you choose to publish it, the writing and memory process is cathartic.
If you bury your pet rather than opting for cremation, or if you decide to bury the cremains, a traditional headstone or grave marker is a classic memorial. That’s true whether the body lies in a pet cemetery or your backyard. You can plant flowers around the grave or create an overall memorial garden. A statue of St. Francis of Assisi (the patron saint of animals and ecology) is a nice touch, as is a sculpture resembling your pet. It becomes a special place to both remember your pet and commune with nature.
If you schedule your pet for euthanasia, ask the vet to make an imprint of your animal’s paw in clay for a memorial. Many veterinarians offer this service for clients, and some charge only a nominal fee.
Choose a decorative urn for your pet’s cremated remains. Not only does this give you a lasting memorial for your pet, but you can bring it with you if you move to another location.
Commission a painting
You likely have many photos of your pet when it was in fine form. Consider commissioning a painting of your pet to grace your home. Some artists may incorporate your pet’s ashes into the paint mix.
Make a donation
Make a donation to your local shelter or animal rescue group in your pet’s memory. If you adopted your pet from a particular shelter or rescue, that organization is probably the most fitting. Your donation helps other homeless pets receive food, shelter and veterinary care. Other options include donating to veterinary research for a disease your pet suffered from, an animal-assisted therapy group or perhaps to a local park where you spent many happy hours with your pet.
Hold a service
If you have pet-loving friends and family who miss your pet or realize the depth of your loss, consider holding a small memorial service. Ask people to share their favorite memories of your pet. You can set up a memorial site online and include photos and videos of your pet through the years. Ask friends and family to contribute their own photos and videos and share memories online.
Plant a tree
If you have room on your property, plant a tree or shrub in memory of your pet. If you live in an apartment or tree planting isn’t feasible, look into memorial tree-planting programs at your favorite local parks.
Some memorial companies use your pet’s ashes to help fertilize a growing shrub or tree in the nursery. When you receive the order for planting, you know that your late friend contributed to the health of the shrub or tree.
If you’re into body art, consider tattooing your pet’s name or their likeness as a way of truly keeping the memory with you all the time.
If your pet was cremated, incorporate some of the ashes into a necklace, bracelet, earrings or other form of jewelry. If you saved some of your pet’s hair, incorporate it into a memorial locket or bracelet.
Adopt a new companion
While your grief is still raw, the last thing you may want to do is bring a new pet into your life. When the time is right, however, one of the best things you can do to memorialize your pet is to give a loving home to a needy animal. One pet can’t replace another, but it can help fill the hole in your heart and the emptiness in your home. If your late pet was adopted, saving another animal is a wonderful way to honor their memory.
Jane Meggitt graduated from New York University and worked as a staff writer for a major New Jersey newspaper chain. Her work on pets, equines and health have appeared in dozens of publications, including The Daily Puppy, The Nest Pets, Horse News, Hoof Beats and Horseback magazines.