How to Create Joy After the Loss of Your Pet

Golden Retriever chewing a stick

Why are you always taking pictures of me? Don’t you know I’ll always be here?

Grieving rituals are the first step in turning wrenching loss into acceptance, and ultimately, joyful memories.

Meaningful rituals range from the sublime to the ridiculous. And are as varied as the relationships we have with the animals we’re blessed to share our lives with.

The Memorial Garden

Our friends at 24 Paws of Love shared pictures of their memorial garden last week.

Each beloved pet’s gravesite is marked with a plant that blooms around the time of their death. The miniature gardens bring together a shared love of animals and plants. I was very touched reading this post.

Along with the sorrow that never disappears when we lose someone we love, I’m sure the sight of those blooms also brings joy and happy memories to the 24 Paws family.

He’ll Always Be With Us

When I was a child, a family friend had a pet raccoon. He lived in a hutch outdoors. But this born-wild raccoon was friendly enough to perch on Anna’s shoulder for snacks and lovies.

When Peppy died, George and Anna called the taxidermist. Their beloved friend kept watch over the living room from his post on the fireplace mantle.

Anna liked to stroke his fur. She found it comforting to know Peppy would be with her for years to come.

Crafting a Memory

If you search the craft website Etsy for pet memorials, you’ll hundreds of carvings, urns, and even jewelry.

For about $600, you can have some of your pet’s ashes enclosed in a turquoise and titanium ring.

Jewelry is probably the most intimate way to keep your pet close to you after their passing. I can imagine the comfort of twisting a ring or fiddling with a charm on a bracelet like a rosary that helps one meditate on happy times with a loved one.

Looking Into Your Eyes Once Again

Dog portraits

Portraits of Love

I’ve never lived where I could bury my pets in my yard.

I love the idea of a memorial garden. But plants call me the Black Thumb of Death and I’d just feel bad if I killed the plant meant to remind me of my beloved dog.

I’m not too excited about keeping any of my dogs stuffed by my side. For me, it’s their spirit and personality that I’ve lost. So I don’t personally find it comforting to keep their physical presence with me, even as ashes.

It’s become very important to me to have a lovely, framed portrait of my dogs. I like looking up and seeing their lovely faces and the light in their eyes.

A picture helps me feel closer to Agatha, Christie, and Shadow than any other memorial I could find.

Yes, I’m sad when I think of how much I miss them. But I’m filled with joy to have had each one in my life. And I’m touched to remain in the presence of their beauty.

A Lovely Portrait of Your Dog

SureFlap Microchip Pet Doors is naming their new puppy mascot. Suggest the name of a dog who has inspired you for a chance to win a custom painted pet portrait by John Payne.

Now wouldn’t that be a lovely way to remember your dog?

Enter the contest now. Or use the SureFlap link in the blog sidebar.

SureFlap Name the Dog Prizes

Just see what you can win!

Do you remember your past pets in a special way? How?

Disclaimer: SureFlap is compensating me for sharing their contest with you.

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  1. What a beautiful memorial garden 24 Paws has built. I LOVE the idea of the plants blooming around the time of the pet’s passing. I have a memorial garden for Beau and my Dad. Think I’ll have to go dig up some pictures of it for this week’s wordless Wednesday now and keep with theme. 😉

    I really love your idea of the framed photos. I have been meaning to finish ‘decorating’ my home office and this just might be the impetus I needed to get to it. Thanks for the idea.

  2. I also couldn’t do a memorial garden – I also have a black thumb and would likely kill the plant meant to memorialize my beloved girls. Not good… And I don’t like the ‘stuffed’ idea either. My girls were both so full of spunk, that to have their lifeless form there would be sad to me. I have their ashes, but can’t imagine having them put into some jewelry. (I also saw that you have a “painting” done with your dogs ashes…). I can understand why others want to do those things – but those ideas don’t work for me.

    But I do have photos, paintings (that I did and my sis did), and mini woolen versions of my girls. (My sis and I do needle felting.) I’m not one for scrapbooking, but my sis made me a fabulous scrap book when our 2 1/2 yr old pup, Abby, passed from bone cancer. She left me some blank pages to fill in myself. It’s a wonderful keep sake of our girl – although I kinda crammed the pics in – had so many “favorites” of her. My friend also made me a necklace with Abby’s picture in it and I wear it a lot to keep her with me.

    Everybody has to find the best way for them to express their grief. It’s so hard to lose a beloved pet!

  3. I have lost a lot of pets but never as an adult. When I was young and lost my first pet (hamster) Snow I carried her a little body around the neighborhood in a shoe box for about two days (imagine the other parents horror. Ha, ha). One day my step dad came home with a little wood coffin he made and convinced me to bury her in the yard. That is what we always did with our animals…..bury them.

    Now I live in the City where you can’t do that. Chester is getting older and I have to face the reality that someday he will go. I am not sure how I will handle that – both emotionally and physically. I suppose I could still bury him on my Dad’s country property but I will likely get him cremated and spread his ashes on the top of some mountain :)

  4. I’ve yet to lose a pet as an adult so I am not sure how I will handle the time afterward. It’s something I try not to think about as much as I know it’s a reality. I think having something to look at every once in a while would be helpful and I love the idea of jewelry or a painting. Perhaps I’ll save a favourite collar or leash, or maybe a toy, and keep it in a memory chest. There are lots of ways to honour lost family members. I kind of wish I had done more when my childhood dog died, though her photo still has a place of honour in my parents’ home.

  5. I run with a rather artsy crowd, so I’ve had various artist friends paint portraits of my critters – the picture of Dozer arrived just days after he died unexpectedly, and I was truly looking into his sad eyes again. I also have created several “bulletin boards” for friends who’ve crossed Rainbow Bridge, like this one for Justice, one of the coolest dogs I ever met:

  6. Wonderful ideas to memorialize your pets. I always hold onto my pet’s collars, and for our worst heartbreak, Harley, I have his collar hanging over a favorite photo of him, which I keep alongside his favorite toy, a stuffed duck that he used to carry around and suckle on. (Big brave dobes like to suckle on things) :-)

  7. I like to do things that will help me remember my pets before they are gone, so that I have the happy memory of doing it to hold on to. For example, I had SO MUCH FUN getting the dog’s paw prints in ink, which I then had tattoo’d on my feet. I have a pillow case where when my cat was sleeping, I traced his outline in puff paint and then later filled it in to look like he was still sleeping on my pillow. I have enough custom art of my pups that soon they’ll need their own room!

    The only actual “memorial” I had done is turning a small amount of my cat’s ashes into a piece of custom glasswork. I will definitely do that again. The piece isn’t an obvious memorial, so I don’t really get asked about it when people come to visit. It’s lind of like a secret my cat and I are keeping together.

  8. I love the memorial garden with seasonal blooms. The flowers make it so much more special. I’ve never buried a pet in my backyard. Just as well, since we’ve moved so many times. I can’t imagine how the new owners would feel finding little burial mounds with favourite toys and blankies underground while trying to plant some petunias. Besides, it’d be sad to leave them there when we move. Sometimes, when I think about leaving this little house, I wonder about the memories of Jordan and Rufus that we’ll leave behind. All their favourite corners…

    Like you, I’d be creeped out by taxidermied pets or, for that matter, rings and pendants. It’s the spirit that counts. All we have of Jordan and Rufus are 1 picture each on the kitchen wall, which is where they were never allowed to linger while they were alive (for fear of tripping the cook up and getting boiled or sliced) :) x

  9. I loved the post about the memorial garden, too! A fellow Greyhound blogger that I know who is also an artist painted a portrait of the Greyhound he lost and mixed some of the ashes into the paint when he finished the portrait. He also took the ashes and left a little of them in places that were special to him and the dog — some were at friends’ houses that they’d enjoyed, some were special places to them alone, and one was a place where they took a special trip together.

    One thing I always wanted was this,, but I’ve never had the extra money to have one done.

  10. I liked 24 Paws’ memorial garden idea. My beloved Tashi is buried in my yard, and I planted a peach tree over her. The past few days, I have been eating peaches that have a bit of Tashi in them. I know its a bit macabre, but it makes me feel close to her.
    I also saved some of her fur in a little box.

    My sister has her departed pets’ ashes in little urns on a shelf where she also has their pictures. My uncle Johnny likes it so much he’s asked to join them on the same shelf when he kicks off (his actual words).

  11. The memorial garden is such a lovely idea. (Sadly, however, I don’t have a green thumb either.)

    I’m such a photo fan… I often pull out old photo albums and revisit my childhood pets. The photos often bring a tear to my eye, but it comforts me to see their faces. I also sometimes keep framed photos of loved ones (both human and canine) nearby for the same reason.

  12. This is a timely, or untimely, post for me depending on how you want to look at it. I lost my cat Brandy this past May, and my dog Duke is not doing very well. He probably won’t be around much longer. I have my pets cremated, and when Brandy’s ashes were returned to me, they also gave me a paw print mold of her front paws. It’s in a nice bi-fold frame that has room to put a picture on the one side. It’s a nice little keepsake. The ashes themselves are in a wooden box that has a plaque on the top with her name engraved on it. I have it sitting on my bookshelf with a ceramic Angel sitting on top of it. Her sister Sunny’s ashes are right next to hers.

  13. Funny how so many of us aren’t really gardeners :) We have the ashes of two of our cats. We recently had a discussion about not wanting shelves full of boxes with our pets ashes in them. I love looking at their pictures, but the ashes make me sad. We have already decided that when Cali passes, we will spread her ashes along her favorite trail (oh, but just typing that makes me cry!). I think images of our animals are important and I love her memorial garden.

  14. I’ve tossed this idea around, what will I do? I considered having Sampson stuffed but thought when I die who will want a stuffed 90+ pound dog? Exactly.

    Our Roxanne is cremated and her ashes are on the mantle, I will probably do the same with Sampson and Delilah and have looked into necklaces where a small bit of ashes can be stored. When I pass I want them buried with me and if that is not possible then their ashes should be scattered over my grave.

    I also have a cement block in front of the yard with Sampson’s paw print in it, I call it….wait for it…..yes, a Sampson Stone. he he he

  15. I’m so touched that you mentioned our Memorial Garden. Thank you Pamela. We too will have photos as well. I’ve never like the idea of cremation, I feel a deeper sense of closure being able to bury them. Dust to dust, kind of thing. I really do treasure our little garden waiting for the blooms or leaves to open. It’s like my pets are saying hello to me and are never really gone.

  16. The memorial garden is a lovely idea. Sadly I’m not a good gardener, and all the pets I’ve had as an adult are buried with love on the farm where I lived for 24 years. They are in my heart and soul. I’ve got lots of videos from those days but while I can look at photos I can’t watch the videos. Just seeing them ‘alive’ is too hard. I’ve certainly got more photos of Frankie and Beryl than any other pets:) But hopefully it will be many years before either of them are memories!

  17. Very nice!