Making Decisions Through Grief: What to Remember When Your Pet Passes Away
You’ve connected with your pet since they were a furry baby, or the second you saw them at the pound or in your neighbor’s yard. You’ve fed, groomed, snuggled, and loved them every step of the way. In return, they loved you back unconditionally. They watched out for you and the rest of the family, provided endless entertainment, exercise, and a sense of home. The years have gone by too quickly, and you may have learned they have a sickness from which they’ll never recover, or you recognize that their time is near its end. You decide to do them one last act of kindness and not let them suffer. Or perhaps they left on their own schedule. Now you have to decide how best to memorialize them while going through a specific kind grief.
The first thing to remember in this moment is that whatever you’re feeling is normal. Society as a whole doesn’t do well with grief. Add in the fact that some people don’t understand the deep sadness that can overtake a person who has lost a pet, and it can make the feelings that much harder to work through. Take your time saying goodbye, and be kind to yourself while doing so. Will the idea of burying them yourself seem too daunting a task to tackle? Are you unsure of the process of cremation and need to ask a few questions? Keep these points in mind during this important decision-making process.
The cremation options
Cremation has its roots in the early stone age and is still popular today because of its affordable pricing and relative ease. While human cremation has its own set of rules and regulations, pet cremation is a bit different. You’ll need to specify if you’re okay with your pet being cremated with others, as in a partitioned cremation where bodies are separated but go into the oven at the same time, or communal cremation where they’re mingled together. For an additional fee, you’ll also have the option of having a private cremation.
Once they’ve gone through the cremation process, you’ll receive their ashes and pulverized bone fragments back in a box, generally with a certificate from the company that provided this service. Some also offer paw prints in plaster or locks of their hair for you to keep.
Alternatives to traditional cremation
Alkaline hydrolysis is a newer process that uses water in place of fire during a “green cremation.” The body is put into a chamber that is to be filled with 300 degree water and a solution to break down tissue, hair, and other components. After a few hours, the fluid is drained from the steel chamber, leaving behind soft bone fragments. These are then pulverized and given back to you. Alkaline hydrolysis reduces harmful pollution that can be released into the air during traditional cremation, while still being as cost effective as traditional options. This is available through specialized companies like VIP Aquamation, so be sure to ask your vet for more information.
While burial used to be the most popular choice for pets, it’s come to be more cumbersome than other option. Pet cemeteries aren’t as common as they used to be, and as people move around more often for their careers or other reasons, it’s unappealing to think of burying a pet in the backyard and then leaving them behind. However, if you feel that you are in your forever home, burial can bring about a sense of closure. Make sure you check with your local authorities for what wiring and piping you may be digging into, and get the proper permits ahead of time. Then choose your marker and how you want to remember your beloved pet.
Regardless of what you choose for your furry loved one, know that you’re making the best decision you possibly could. Make sure to process your emotions — both the positive and negative — and cherish the memories you created with your pet.