“When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.” Taken from the Rainbow Bridge Poem
Our pets become part of the family during their short lives, and their loss can leave a significant hole in our hearts and home. Honoring our pets, and acknowledging our grief over their passing is an important part in healing.
For children, the loss of a pet could be their first experience with grief. And for adults, the loss of a significant companion can be devastating. Funerals are one way that we can perform rituals that help guide us through the stages of grief that help us get to a place of peace and acceptance.
There are formal pet cremation, pet cemeteries and pet funeral services, or they can be informal and done at home. There is no one set way to honor your deceased pet, so be creative and honor your pet in the way you and your family feel best.
A Pet Funeral to Honor a Family Pet
- Choose a coffin for your pet. This coffin can be any type of wrapping or box that makes sense for the fit and style. It can be a wooden or cardboard box, a bag or even a blanket or linen wrapping.
- Consider where the final resting place may be. Our pets deserve more than ending up in a landfill. A home burial may be impractical, and your vet likely has options for cremation or burial elsewhere. If your home is where you prefer, be sure to have the area marked with a stone, plaque or other distinguishable item. This is helpful in the grieving process, but can also help to prevent the accidental unearthing of the remains.
- Offer a eulogy, prayer or special words. This can be reciting a poem, recounting favorite stories or offering prayers for the pet. Allowing your children to prepare these is a good idea to help them process their emotions, and they will make it as elaborate or as simple as they need it to be.
- Stay positive. It is important to acknowledge the requests of the mourners and to not mock the requests. It also means keeping the reverence and safety in the process. If, for example, the child requests you wear a tie, do. Or, if an older sibling finds the funeral as something to mock, excuse them from the service. It needs to be a supportive environment for the grievers. Depending on your spiritual beliefs, you can tell your child that the pet is in a better place (use Rainbow Bridge Poem if desired).
Special touches for a pet funeral
Consider placing special items into the pet’s coffin. A favorite toy, a treat or even a charm, can be ways to deepen the connection with the deceased pet.
Some families have an altar or special memorial area for the pet. This can be a collection of items from the pet, the pet’s ashes, photo, collar, favorite toy and more.
Take time to mourn before replacing the pet. Sometimes we think we won’t hurt as much if we can fill the hole left. Be sure to take time to grieve and prepare before introducing a new pet into the family.
Create a memorial keepsake. There are many options to memorialize your pet, such as plaques, tags, art and more. A funeral director can help with this type of product if that is a good fit for your family.