Writing A Pet Memorial Service

 Rainbow Bridge (Sajiv Vijay  Creative Commons)
Rainbow Bridge (Sajiv Vijay Creative Commons)

Why Do We Need Pet Memorials?

Anyone who's lived with a pet has probably come to feel that it's a part of the family. Pets have become increasingly important in our lives, whether because more people are living alone due to divorce or death, or having chosen to remain single, or because families are much smaller than they used to be and pets have scampered in to fill the gaps. Whatever the reason, we feel as if our hearts are entangled with our pets, and when they die, we grieve almost as much as--sometimes more than--when a human family member dies.

It's important to recognize that a living, breathing being whom we loved has left the earth and our lives. We need to acknowledge the reality of the death and to have others acknowledge it and respect the depth of our grief. When we hold a memorial for a beloved pet, we give ourselves and others the opportunity to mourn the loss.

Planning a Pet Memorial

Your memorial might take the form of a graveside service, a ceremony for scattering your pet's ashes, or a gathering to remember him after the burial or cremation has already taken place.

It's important that you tell people how you felt about your pet, and how you're feeling now. You might want to speak the words yourself or have a friend, family member, civil officiant or even a clergyperson perfom the ceremony.

Allow yourself to give this sad occasion the weight it deserves. Invite the people whom you know will understand your grief and will be able to comfort you. If you feel that some people might be unwilling to attend a service for a pet,  extend the invitation and let them decide. The most important thing is that you'll be there.

Creating the Ceremony

The Opening

Begin your memorial ceremony by welcoming your guests and thanking them for their presence. Follow it with a reflection about the importance of pets in our lives. You might say something like this:

Pets bring us so much joy, laughter, companionship and comfort that they truly become a part of our families. We live with them, if we're lucky, for many years. We come to know them as individual beings--their habits and quirks, their endearing little ways--and get so accustomed to having them around that it's hard to picture a time when they won't be there.

Your Pet's Story

Then move on to talking specifically about your pet:

Ginger was six weeks old when I brought her home from the shelter. She was so timid she ran under the dresser and wouldn't come out until I played "walking fingers" for her and she was just too curious to resist. She was a sweet-tempered cat, and the funniest thing about her was that she loved my singing! I can't say that about everybody. But if I ever started singing, Ginger would come running and purr like crazy. That's probably what I'm going to miss the most, her quirky personality and her constant presence.

Poem, Reading or Song

Add a poem or a reading that you like. It doesn't necessarily have to be about animals, but you'll find many animal-themed sentiments if you search online, such as those at Pet Loss. For a musical cat like Ginger, you could ask the other mourners to sing a song with you.

Ritual

No doubt your pet had a favorite toy or activity, and probably more than one. Choose something that really speaks to your heart and commemorate your pet by using it in the ceremony.For instance, if your dog just loved to chase tennis balls, give some to your guests and ask them to bounce them, play catch with them or just toss them into the air a few times. You'll probably get some smiles, and that's a good thing.

Closing

Say a few words about your thoughts regarding your pet right now, such as::

I don't know if animals have spirits that survive death, or whether they go to heaven, but I feel that Ginger had a spirit of love and devotion, and I hope that's what lives on, in my heart as well as anywhere else it might still exist.

Then thank the mourners for attending the memorial.

Thank you so much, all of you, for being here today to honor Ginger and to help me through this sad time. I'll always remember your kindness.

If you're burying your pet or scattering ashes, it will follow your closing remarks. Say prayers or recite another poem as the pet's casket is put into the grave or as you scatter the ashes. Sprinkle dog cookies, cat treats, Frisbees, fabric mice or anything that your pet loved on top of the casket or beside the grave or urn.

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Comments 1 comment

Hallie 5 years ago

I love this - when our dog died, we buried him with a cashmere blanket so he would always be warm, his collar, and a steak so he would never be hungry. Was important to the whole family to be a part of it.

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