Our pets are members of the family but, unfortunately, their lifespans are usually shorter than what we wish they could be. Losing a dog, cat, or any other pet who meant a lot to you can be difficult — and is a very real grieving experience. While there are so many resources and outlets for other forms of grief, it can feel isolating not knowing where to turn when you’re grieving a pet. We’ve put together a list of ways to start the healing process while also remembering the pet that gave you so much — from keepsakes to local support groups for grief. Read on for resources, tips, and ideas to memorialize, remember, and cope with the loss of your beloved pet.
Make a Scrapbook
A great way to remember all of the best memories of you and your pet is with pictures and other keepsakes from your adventures together. By putting them all in one place, you can revisit the great times. While it may be tough to put together, it will bring you years of joy when you look back fondly on your best friend’s life.
Make a Donation
Our pets give so much to us and, by making a donation in your pet’s honor to a deserving animal welfare group, you have the opportunity to give a pet a chance at a forever home. You gave your pet the best life imaginable — it’s a wonderful feeling to be able to pass that on.
Save Your Pet’s Favorite Toy
While you can definitely just hold onto a favorite toy, there are also unique ways to reuse or recycle it. First, you can pass it on to the next pet who enters your heart and home. You can also have it cleaned and remade into a small pillow to sit with you on the couch. Check out Etsy’s makers who have options like this available.
Paw Print Keepsake
Before your pet is cremated or buried, your vet is able to create a paw print keepsake so you can touch those little toes forever. The paw print can be displayed in your home or copied to make another keepsake to cherish. Here’s an example of a paw print mold.
Jewelry with a Picture and/or Pet’s Name on It
The best part of having a pet is the time we spend together with them. If you want your pet to be with you at all times, having a piece of jewelry made with a picture, paw print, and/or pet’s name is a great reminder of the love you shared. Your pet will always be with you in spirit — but a piece of jewelry can help add a physical reminder, too.
Plant a Tree, Flower, or Memorial Garden
Where there is death, there is life and, by planting something, you can watch something come alive through the passing of your pet. You can pick special plants or a tree that reminds you of your pet and visit that space for some cathartic reflection. There are also pet urns and “caskets” that you can bury that will grow a beautiful plant in your pet’s honor.
Join a Support Group
Pets mean so much to us all and you are not alone in your grief. There are many support groups online and in person to help you process — though the majority are online at the moment. Here are a few local options to explore:
- Virtual Support Group for NJ/Pennsylvania: Jenna Tarrant LCSW. Jenna specializes in pet loss and holds support groups for it weekly as part of a 6-week program. The fee is $350 for 6 sessions, though there’s a sliding scale available for those in need.
- St. Hubert’s Virtual Support Group for Pet Loss: This Madison-based shelter offers sessions twice a month, on the first Tuesday of the month at 7PM and the third Sunday at 11AM. Registration is required and there’s a minimum donation of $5 per session in order to attend.
- Nancy Osgoodby, LCSW at Oradell Animal Hospital in Paramus: This is a free group (currently held on Zoom) that is open to the public. It runs every two weeks, and you can register for a session here.
Your pet will always be in your heart and you in theirs.