How to Grieve the Loss of Your Pet

Choosing to adopt a pet is the easy part of bringing an animal into your home. Your heart is open and full of joy, even if deciding to adopt took some time and effort. Some people can make lighting fast decisions about whether or not to adopt an animal, while other people take more time. The only wrong way to adopt a pet is when you, and your family, aren’t ready or able to properly care for a pet. Otherwise, you go about deciding to adopt is the right way. This is the easy part, saying hello to your new pet.

However, part of saying hello to a new pet is agreeing to say goodbye. Most pets live far shorter lives than us humans do, meaning that saying goodbye to your beloved fur friend is inevitable. Dogs live a brief 10-13 years on average, while cats live about 16 years. Other animal friends, like horses, live to 25-30 years of age, while smaller pets like hamsters and some birds have much shorter lifespans. One notable exception is the parrot, which can live upwards of 60 years.

dog bowl without the dog

Preparing to Say Goodbye

Knowing that our animal friends have such short lives encourages us to love them fully, savoring each moment we have with them, or at least softening the annoyance that also inevitably comes from owning a pet. Your pet is your family and friend all rolled up in one adorable package. When it comes time to say goodbye, you’ll be faced with the choice between burial and cremation. Most people are cremating their pets these days, though either choice can be right for you. With cremation, there is more flexibility in how you say goodbye and how you remember your pet. You can scatter your beloved pet's ashes somewhere they loved, like your dog’s favorite park, or your cat's preferred hunting spot in your backyard. Or you can choose a place that’s meaningful to you, like a river or lake near your home. Ashes can also be buried, giving you the option of placing a gravestone and having a place to visit to be close to your beloved pet.

You can also choose to only scatter part of your pet’s ashes, leaving some to be kept in an urn in your home, giving you a visual reminder of your friend, and the comfort of having part of them close to you. There are a variety of urns to choose from, from classic styles to elegant ones with space to put a plant.

One way to make this season of loss easier, at least relatively, because losing a pet is never easy, is to plan ahead. Even if your pet is young and in good health, having a plan in place protects you, at least a little, if there is a tragic accident. When you’re in the immediate throes of grief, making logistical arrangements and plans might be either out of the question or at least very hard. Do you take your pet's body to the crematorium yourself, or have them pick it up? Which crematorium do you choose? Do you have the money set aside in case you need it? What kind of urn, or urns, do you need? These are only a few of the questions that will need to be answered when your pet passes and answering them now can spare you a lot of pain down the road. Of course, it won’t be easy, because you probably don’t want to think about your beloved companion moving on out of your life. But they would want you to be in as little pain as possible because they love you. And the loving thing to do for yourself may be to do what you can to prepare for the inevitable. Saying hello to a pet means agreeing to say goodbye to them when it’s time. 

Honor Your Pet with The Living Urn

The Living Urn, home to America’s leading bio urn and planting system for growing a memory tree, has a variety of ecologically produced urn options for remembering your beloved pet. They offer their classic, Living Urn, which allows you to plant a tree along with your beloved pet's remains. There’s also the Eco Water urn, which is a graceful way to scatter your pet's ashes out on the water. The ashes are placed inside the urn, which has a dissolvable bottom. There’s no guesswork about avoiding the wind—the urn does the work for you. They also offer an Eco Scattering urn, which allows you to scatter the ashes somewhere meaningful. If you choose to display some or all of the ashes in your home, they offer beautifully customized engravings on their gorgeous bamboo urns for dogs which include a picture of their breed, their name and dates of birth and death, and a sentimental message.

They also offer a living urn for cats and other pets. This beautiful ceramic container looks like an urn and a planter combined. There’s a separate space inside the urn for ashes and another separate space for a houseplant or bonsai tree. The plant will look like it’s growing up out of the urn, creating a beautiful memorial for your beloved pet.

When it comes to display urns, you can use any of the Living Urn’s beautiful urns as display pieces, allowing you to keep your pet with you in your home. The Living Urn also offers a beautiful plant urn, which is handcrafted to be both an urn and a planter. It’s sleek, and made from beautifully polished wood, and is sure to fit in with any home décor. The plant urn was designed by artist C. C. Boyce, and is truly a work of art and would be a fitting way to honor your special friend.

The Living Urn also offers a special scattering urn for pets. Their unique, patent-pending, locking mechanism keeps your pet's ashes secure while traveling to the location, or locations, where you plan on scattering their ashes. The lock is easy to use, making the scattering process simple. If you’re scattering at multiple locations, that’s fine—it’s easy to resecure the lid and protect your pet's ashes during transportation.

If you choose to bury some or all of your pet's ashes, the Living Urn offers a beautiful bamboo burial urn. This can also be a display urn if you’d prefer that. This burial urn is large and can hold the ashes of multiple pets, or 1-2 larger pets. Burying your pet can offer a sense of closure and create a space where you can feel connected to them after they’ve passed. You can choose to bury your pet in a garden, forest, pet cemetery, or anywhere really. You could even choose your backyard, and keep your pet close to home. Burying your pet offers the opportunity to use a burial stone, which you can have engraved to create a memorial honoring your pet. The Living Urn offers personalized memorial stones for pets, which can be used where you bury your pet. They can also be used to create a special place of remembrance, even if you don’t bury your pet where you place the stone, or at all.

How to Grieve Your Loss

Grief is different for everyone. Be patient with yourself and have as much self-compassion for yourself as you can muster. Not only can losing a pet be devastating, but it’s also often not seen as the devastating loss that it is by other people. Here are a few tips for getting through this difficult time.

  1. Allow yourself to take your time and grieve. Grief can be a slow process and it has its own timetable.
  2. Whatever you’re feeling is OK. Sadness, shock, anger, and loneliness are all normal reactions. Your grief is unique, and it will unfold the way it unfolds—there aren’t any wrong feelings to have while you’re grieving. Give yourself permission to feel exactly what you’re feeling. This is how you heal.
  3. Feel your feelings and express them. Feelings are energy and energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only change forms. If you ignore or suppress your emotions, they will still find a way out somehow, and often in a way that’s inconvenient and even more unpleasant. And, until you feel your feelings, you won’t be able to fully heal. Journaling your thoughts and feelings is a way to actively process your grief. So is speaking them out loud to a compassionate listener.
  4. Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel—including yourself. Do not tolerate judgment from others or yourself about how you are grieving and where you are in the process. This includes when you have moments of joy during your grief.
  5. Find support in community. Reach out to others who have lost pets, whether it’s a friend, or a group of people online. This is a great way to find understanding, especially if those close to you are not able to offer it.
  6. Use ritual to find healing. Holding a funeral or a memorial service for your pet can be a good way to say goodbye and find closure. This can be helpful to others in your life who were close to your pet, or it can just be about you.
  7. Practice good self-care. Do your best to eat, sleep and groom. Exercise, or simple movement like walking, can help move feelings through your body and release them. Grieving takes a lot of emotional and physical energy. Protect your physical health by attending to the basics as best you can.