Losing a beloved pet is never easy.
Rather than trying to ignore the pain, experts believe recognizing and validating it will not only help you heal, but it will also honor the one you lost.
Coleen Ellis of The Pet Loss Center helps pet parents deal with loss on a daily basis. Coleen is a nationally recognized expert in pet loss and grief. An educator, business owner and all around charismatic pet lover, Coleen has a unique way of helping pet owners, veterinarians and other pet professionals understand pet grief and memorialization.
The Honest Kitchen: One of the services you offer through The Pet Loss Center is a memorial service. Can you tell us a bit more about what a pet memorial service is like and how it can help owners through the grieving process?
Coleen Ellis: In the beautiful words of Starhawk, “Rituals build community, creating a meeting-ground where people can share deep feelings, positive and negative, a place where they can sing or scream, howl ecstatically or furiously, play or keep a solemn silence.”
Therefore, having a service or a ritual allows pet parents the opportunity to do one more thing to honor the life they shared with their pet. Rituals, or a memorial service, to honor a life shared with a beloved pet can look like a variety of things. It can be things like:
Taking a walk along a familiar path
Planting a flower, tree or shrub with family
Setting up a tribute table with special items to honor a pet, possibly taking time to gather around the table as a family to share stories and memories about the pet
Conducting a service, complete with readings, poetry, songs, and the sharing of memories
Having a ritual for a pet should be designed to represent the personality of the pet and how they fit into a family’s life. For instance, if the pet loved running outside, consider having the service outside. For our cat-lovers, possibly the service is best held inside where the cat spent its days. And, if the pet loved to go to the local dog park, think of having the service there, with the other dogs and families who shared in those beautiful days of the park as well.
Also, think about how the pet can be honored even more with taking memorial donations for a local shelter or money towards research to cure a disease in that pet’s name. For the beautiful lab, Tara, who loved her tennis balls, attendees to her service were invited to take a ball in Tara’s honor. For the balls that were left after her service, the family took them to the local dog park and hid them for the other dogs to enjoy.