The loss of a pet is one of the most difficult things imaginable to me. It’s losing a family member, with the same profound effects and maybe more. Studies have shown that losing a pet is often harder on people than the loss of a human in their lives – but really, I don’t think we need a study to tell us that.
As pet parents, we understand that the greatest gift we can give our animals in their final days is to know when it is time to say goodbye and not let them suffer. We live our lives with our pets knowing that we will almost always outlive them. Our pets leave behind a legacy of memories and emotions that become an indelible part of our lives. That’s the positive in this – that our pets stay with us in a deeply personal way.
While it’s never easy to start the conversation about grieving and loss and carrying on, I’m going to take the brave step here to talk about how we can remember and memorialize our pets and also how we can comfort our human friends who are going through the loss of a furry companion.
If you’re getting a gift for someone else, remember that we all have different sensitivities. One person might wallpaper their house with photos of their recently-departed pet and another person might not want to see pictures of their dog ever again. This is the nature of grief – it’s highly personal and there’s no right or wrong way to go about it. Loss is loss and you feel what you feel.
I mention this because you should probably be sensitive to how your friend is feeling before you send them a pillow or painting with their pet’s face screened on it. You don’t want to send your friend into yet another cascade of tears.
Fortunately, there are lots of interesting options for commemorating a pet. I know, we don’t think about these very often (if at all) so when the time comes, we’re usually scrambling for the right thing to do that sends the right message to our grieving friend.
Plant a tree in a US National Forest. This is one of my go-to gifts for someone who’s lost a pet. The Trees Remember is a service that arranges for a tree to be planted in a US National Forest (you can choose the location) in the pet’s memory. The trees are planted by the Forest Service as part of their sustainability programs so you are helping the nation’s forests and the environment as well.
Plant your own tree. This works as a gift as well as for yourself. Bios Urns and The Living Urn let you plant ashes in their biodegradable urns that aid the growth of a plant or tree in your own yard. For apartment dwellers, there’s an indoor plant version of this as well.
Stepping stones. You can order a custom stepping stone in memory of your pet. You can engrave their name on it, of course, but you could also include favorite places or special dates or anything that calls up the best memories of your time together. Some services will incorporate your pet’s ashes into the stones. As for location, why not put these in your pet’s favorite spot in your yard?
Paperweights. Maybe this sounds ordinary at first but this way, you could keep your pet with you at work or take it with you easily if you live a more nomadic life. There are some truly beautiful options like these glass orbs with swirls of color available from Spirit pieces. You could set it where it catches the sun and let the colors light up the room.
Ashes-infused tattoo. Over the years, I’ve noticed that many people choose to memorialize their animals in tattoos from paw prints, nose prints to names and favorite quotes. Believe or not, you can put ashes in the tattoo ink and not just keep your pet close to your body but keep them on your body. Ash-infused tattoos don’t look any different than regular tattoos so no one will really know your secret unless you tell them. If you’re going to go this route, you should probably look for a tattoo artist who has experience working with ashes.
Jewelry that holds ashes. This is a very popular option and there are lots of designs out there. I recommend looking on etsy, Pinterest and Amazon to find designs that suit you.
Ashes-infused glass. I mentioned paperweights above but if you like glass art, you’ll find lots of companies and artists offering glasswork with ashes infused into the glass. The end result doesn’t look like ashes-in-glass, it looks like glass art, usually with color features. Also, if you can make it with glass, you can infuse ashes into it so you can do this in a wide range of objects – plates, rings, plaques, window art, etc – and, if you choose to work with an artist on a custom design, create a unique piece to seal your memories.
Diamond grown from ashes. Did you know you can grow a real diamond from your pet’s ashes? Eterneva does just that. What I love about this is the legacy effect – you can pass this on in the family and in that way, your pet will become part of your family’s history. It’s also a diamond with a history of love, positivity and sustainability, untainted by the myriad negative associations of the mined diamond industry. Let’s face it, diamonds are beautiful, so why can’t our diamonds be beautiful and 100% positive? Diamonds take time to grow but you’ll get updates and you can even choose what music you want playing as your diamond forms.
Dog tag Christmas ornaments. This is a DIY idea but it’s a really cool one. You put your dog’s license tags on hooks and hang them on the tree every holiday season. If you’re at all crafty, you can probably come up with all kinds of great expressions of this.
I hope this post turned a gloomy topic into something brighter. It’s so important to reach out to people and offer support when they lose a pet but it’s also hard to know exactly what to do. Maybe this list can provide inspiration and options for the next time you find yourself or your friends facing a difficult loss.