About ten years ago I made a pet loss movie and put it on the web, and to this day I still get emails about it. I’ve written a lot of consoling replies to people who are experiencing one of the most painful things a person has to endure. Usually it is a dog or cat but sometimes bunnies, horses, or ferrets. It doesn’t matter what kind of animal it was, they have suffered a genuine loss of a companion.
After all, those wonderful creatures shared a life with them. They took part in their daily routines, recreation, work, meals, holidays, crises, celebrations, and family traditions. They had nicknames, habits, traits, likes, and dislikes. They had individuality all their own and when they are gone it is devastating.
Our critters are taken from us so unfairly quickly on this Earth. Why is their life span so much shorter than ours? Why do we receive them into our lives knowing that it will end in heartbreak a few years later?
We all know the cliché answers like “Life’s not fair” or “It all happens for a reason,” but trite statements like these are hardly consoling. I don’t have the magic answers to those questions, but there is something you can do to deal with some of your grief.
Create a project to memorialize your pet.
The act of making something to remember them by will aide in your grieving process. A lasting memorial that will illustrate how much they meant, and that they were important. Something that says, “You will be missed.”
When my German Shepherd Baloo died, I went through my pictures of her and got copies made of a really gorgeous shot of her in our back yard. I mounted them on the front of blank greeting cards and included a printout I wrote up. Writing about Baloo was difficult but I wanted to let the world see her though my eyes. To give them an idea of what kind of dog she was when she was relaxed with the family. When I mailed them out, to all our friends and family, I felt I had done something constructive.
Mind you, it did very little to ease my pain at that time, but looking back it was therapeutic having a dedicated project that was all for her. The time and effort it took to make them all was my labor of love. It hurt, and it was not easy, but I did it for her. I did it to show that she mattered. To show that she was important to me, and that she would be loved and remembered forever.
The important lesson is that doing something proactive was a good thing. It works out some of your feelings and puts them into a creative endeavor.
Utilize your artistic ability to make a commemorative project about your lost pet. It should be a significant effort. Don’t just put a picture in a frame, do something that took some time and thought.
Feel free to use my idea of sending out cards to friends and family with their picture and your words of tribute.
Here are some other suggestions:
Gather a collection for a shadowbox frame and include toys, collar, bowl, a poem, and other mementos. Line the back wall with a collage of pictures of them.
Make something handmade to contain their ashes. There’s no rule saying it has to be in a ceramic urn. Get a metal or wooden box “blank” and decorate it with a mosaic of their name, or decoupage with pictures and words.
Make a slideshow with music and photos. Use PowerPoint for PCs and Keynote for Macs.
Make a charm bracelet with mini photos of them and themed charms.
A hand drawn or painted portrait of them.
Write a story about them.
Take whatever talents you have and create something tangible.
Other gestures, of course, are fine... planting a tree, donating to an animal cause in their name, but is it really coming from someplace inside you?
Make something from your heart.
It’s not about “closure” either because it is far from being closed, but it is cathartic. It starts the healing process that is long and difficult.
The pain and sadness never go away entirely but over time it does ease.
Remember what’s important -- that you gave an animal a lifetime of love and protection.
Remind yourself that they had a good and happy existence, and that was no small thing. In fact, it was everything.
Terri Pike is BlindSquirrel on Etsy, and EFA member and webmaster since 2009. The Rainbow Bridge movie can be found at www.indigo.org/rainbow