Losing a pet, or making the decision to euthanize them, can be complex and emotional, especially since it’s often downplayed or goes unacknowledged in society.
This is known as disenfranchised grief, and the growing body of literature exploring pet loss suggests that many bereaved pet owners experience disenfranchised grief. Disenfranchised grief occurs when a loss is unacknowledged and the bereaved are unable to express their grief.
Pet loss can have a huge impact on your daily routines, including the friendships you’ve built up, the exercise you get, and the quiet companionship your pet offers.
We understand that there is no way to easily ‘get over’ the death of a pet and the pain can feel overwhelming. We also know that we all respond to loss differently. Your grief may come in stages, where you experience different emotions such as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and eventually acceptance; or your grief could be more cyclical, coming in waves of highs and lows. Grief can be messy and doesn’t always follow a linear path.
Many people look for ‘closure’ after a loss, yet that’s not always possible. David Kessler believes that finding meaning beyond the stages of grief can transform our grief into a more peaceful and hopeful experience. That’s where ceremony and ritual come into play.
We define a ritual as “an intentional action taken with the hope of creating meaning”. A healthy and sustainable way to attend to your grief, especially as it relates to the loss of a pet, is to weave their legacy into your daily life and find ways to create your own meaning through this experience.
What is a pet loss ceremony?
A pet loss ceremony gives you the opportunity to acknowledge your connection and relationship with your pet.
Ceremonies and rituals are designed to kickstart the invisible intent of healing and mourning. By creating intentional rituals leading up to, during, and in the moments following the death of a pet, you can create a safe container to feel your feelings and process this loss.
Our mission at Be Ceremonial is to empower you with the knowledge and tools to craft your own rituals and ceremonies to acknowledge grief in meaningful ways — whether it be the end of a relationship, a celebration of life, or the loss of a pet.
So, what does a pet loss ceremony look like?
Every pet loss ceremony is different because every pet is different. The purpose is to celebrate the joy that your pet brought into your life and hold space for your feelings as they arise.
After losing both of her cats just four months apart, our community member, Madeleine embarked on a journey to find peace, acceptance, and healing through ritual and ceremony. To remember the wonderful years they had, Madeleine put up photos of her cats, took paw prints and made memorial items with their fur. Find inspiration in Madeleine’s story.
Move slowly and ask for help
Remember: Your feelings are valid. You’re not alone and support is available, whether through the process of dying, death, or after-death support.
Psychologists have noted that pet loss can be just as devastating, and the process of grieving can be just as lengthy as the loss of a friend or relative.
End-of-life doulas aren’t just for people. Sometimes our pets need end-of-life support too. If you are looking for emotional and educational support through your beloved companion’s last phase of life, we recommend Sacred Journey Pathways by Holly Mitton, whose natural and holistic approach to death and dying closely align with our mission to destigmitize and break the silence on death and grieving.
For our friends based in the United States, we recommend Tending the Spirit founded by Nina Guertin, a trained death doula, grief support specialist, ritualist and celebrant, and beyond.
What can you do if someone you know loses a pet?
When a person passes, it is natural for the community to provide their grieving loved ones with understanding and comfort. Unfortunately, pet owners don’t always get the same level of understanding when a pet dies. The social stigma surrounding pet loss can hinder people from seeking help or confiding with people they trust, which is a crucial step in grieving.
Here are some simple yet powerful ways you can support someone who is grieving the loss of a pet:
- Share your favourite memory of their pet: Take part in memorializing the life of their pet with simple storytelling.
- Commission a portrait or a memory box, like this one from Zinnia Awakens
- Small acts of kindness: Offer help in this difficult time, like bringing them dinner or cleaning up around the house, to allow them space and time to grieve.
- Ritual walk: If they walked their pet or had a special place they visited with them, invite your friend to go for a walk to that place and spend some time together there.
- Gift a ceremony: Gift a ceremony on the Be Ceremonial app. You can guide them through the experience or let them choose their own rituals. You can even source some of the items they’ll need to add to the gift experience.
Create Your Own Ceremony
However you choose to acknowledge your loss, our app will guide you through the process of creating a ceremony from scratch. Simply follow our ritual framework to create a ceremony that’s unique and meaningful to you. Learn more about Be Ceremonial