Saying Goodbye to a Beloved Pet

Often in conversations with families we talk about saying goodbye to their pet. These “rites of passing” could loosely be equated to a human funeral rite where people gather to remember the life lived and bequeath their loved one on to whatever lies beyond death. When the death is of a pet, our society has no generally accepted way of parting from the pet. Families are sometimes lost, feeling a need to recognize the passing yet having nothing scripted to follow.

Today, Maxine’s mom, Robin, came in to receive Maxine’s cremains. She acknowledged that this loss has been especially difficult since Maxine had experienced many of Robin’s critical life moments. She mentioned that Maxine’s favorite thing in the whole world was snow. Even though this winter (up til recently) has been very mild, on the day Maxine passed, it was snowing. Later that day, Robin and her friend decided to make a snow angel as a way of saying goodbye and wishing her a gentle journey onward.

Days pass and no snow falls, however on the day that Robin comes to take Maxine home, it snows again. She decided to take Maxine’s cremains to the trail where they used to walk. Once there, she had 14 balloons to release, one for each year they had spent together. Then she made another snow angel to acknowledge her desire that Maxine rests peacefully while looking down on her favorite weather–the snow.

It is these activities that help us deal with the loss and give us a bit of control over a situation that is largely uncontrollable. I also encourage families to search for the words, items, activities that they can say or do to help ease the pain. It could be looking at pictures or crafting an urn to hold the cremains. Some families unite at a favorite spot to sprinkle cremains, remembering the happy times spent with their pet and releasing their pet to “be” in that space again.

In one way, it is unfortunate that there are no prescribed rituals to say goodbye. However, this gives us the freedom to express in whatever way we want the love and affection we had with our pet. Snow angels, balloon release or even just a last drive through to get a dog bone at the bank teller window– there are no right answers–only an infinity of options.

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