The relationship between a family and their pet is strong and impenetrable. A pet for many of us is a family member. The grief of a loss of a pet can be similar to losing a family member or close friend and in some cases more.
We are taking a look at pet loss grief, ways to cope and how you’ve paid tribute to your pet.
Do you feel that pet loss grief is almost a ‘taboo’ subject and that people try to brush it under the carpet? Some employers now offer pet bereavement leave. One of FORTUNE’s ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ have named Kimpton Hotel & Restaurants in their list time and time again. They offer their employees a whole range of benefits including a 3 day pet bereavement leave.
Losing A Pet
We’ve been asking people how they have coped with the grief process not just for themselves but with other family members too.
Sian who works at Valley Mill lost her cross Pug/Jack Russell just over 18 months ago. “It was a huge loss to the family. Oscar was just weeks away from his 17th birthday when his time came and went to the big playground in the sky. Even to this day myself and my two boys still shed a tear. The way we pay tribute to him and to help us with the grief is by remembering him. We have his ashes in a box on our living room shelf with paintings of him and photos around it. I even have Oscar’s name tattooed on my back.”
“The boys and I talk about him and remember all of the funny and wonderful things we all did together. As time passes the tears become less and the laughs of all the amazing times become greater. We will always miss him but remembering him is our way of coping.”
How Have You Coped?
We wanted to know how you have managed to deal with the loss of a pet. You’ve been getting in touch with your stories.
Garath wrote to us and told us about their family dog. “We have Spike’s ashes in a beautiful box on a shelf surrounded by memories of him. Spike was big brother to our two girls. We adopted him when he was 3. He’d been beaten and trained to fight, but was a gentle soul who was just afraid of what humans had done to him. He would wet himself when you clenched your fist near him or raise your voice when we first had him. He was a 24kg Staffy.”
“Over the years we had some great times, from throwing a twig in Singleton Park and him bringing back half a bench, to him walking with half a breeze block in his mouth everywhere we went on foot (it seemed to make him feel safe). Then there was the time he peed on a woman’s leg outside Verdi’s. The best one was when we thought he’d been stolen when we tied him up outside the Woodman; only to discover that he’d actually dragged the table across the beer garden to say hello to a pretty lady poodle! Writing this has brought tears to my eyes. Tears of joy and of loss. The girls lost a brother who always looked out for them, and Em and I lost our first “child” and one of our best friends.”
Photograph Engraving Tribute
Chloe who works at Valley Mill shared with us her Welsh slate photograph engraved tributes to her family dogs. Above is Gus AKA Sir Buckingham.
Sadly last month Chloe and her family lost their beautiful Jazz. As you can see in both of these pictures both Gus and Jazz were not only loved, but clearly exuberated love to all around them.
Sarah shared with us a wonderful way of paying tribute to your pet. “I saw someone leave a bucket of tennis balls at the beach in memory of their lost pooch, asking dog owners to help themselves. I thought that was so lovely”.
Leanne got in touch and said “I still cry over mine now and I lost him 7 years ago. I have a tribute to him in the form of a tattoo and I have his ashes in my living room. They have pride of place with a glass picture of him too”.
“Sadly, the sadness never ever goes away but the memories I have of him will last forever. I also have a wall of fame where I put up all his pictures and a canvas my sister had made for me”.
“Having him all around me makes it feel like he is still here. I also kept his favourite teddy and toy his food bowl and his blanket with his name on. Some times I take them out & cuddle them, then have a good cry because he wasn’t just my dog he was my best friend”.
Elise Sewell said “My little Yorkie Brutus was obsessed with corks especially champagne corks so when he passed away we used to put all our corks around a tree in the garden as a reminder of him”.
Pet Bereavement & Dealing with Your Grief
There are many places that you can visit online that give you expert advice on how to deal with your grief and also family members too.
Blue Cross offer a Pet Bereavement Supprt Service (PBSS) which is contactable by phone, email or webchat. Their service is free and confidential.
You can call their fully trained specialist team on 0800 096 6606 between 8:30am – 8.30pm.
Coping & Remembering
Jules told us about her beautiful Marnie about how she ‘coped’ with her passing in March. “I don’t use the word cope if I’m honest, only because I don’t want to deal with the loss effectively or successfully, as the word ‘cope’ would suggest. I know it’s appropriate to feel such loss as she was a huge part of my life. The feelings are almost a given and why wouldn’t I feel such pain? It brings to the forefront everything she gave. Love on another level, a constant tap flowing with affection, loyalty, the softest touch, kindness, my secret keeper, my everything”.
Jules continued “In some ways embracing my grief rather than stifling it was testament to all the above. I see it as a huge mark of respect to her, if I didn’t feel it and just ignored it. It’s almost discounting all she gave. Feeling grief is what happens when you lose something or someone you love so much. I always thought Marnie was so co-dependent on me, and of course she was to a certain degree; what I didn’t know until faced with life without her was the co-dependency I had for her.”
“Marnie was a constant in my life, always there, ever knowing, my one true confidant. She was the reason I got up and got out in difficult times. She’d sense when my mood was low or upset and she’d just look at me. How she could tell me in a look all that I needed to know at that time was truly spiritual for want of a better word. Telling me … ‘I’ve got you‘ & ‘you’re so loved’.”
To show tribute Marnie, Jules explained what her family do. “We have her with us. She’s still in her corner where she’d lie in an engraved box with her name and the sentiment ‘Our gorgeous girl, forever in our hearts’. I talk to her; I have a picture in every room of her because wherever I’d go she’d be behind me. My grandson collects white Angel Dog Feathers that he believes to be Marnie watching over him; he has 28!”
So, should there be more understanding that pet bereavement should be talked about more and not pushed under the carpet?
Jules agrees and said that she tells her grandson that “it’s ok to cry. I talk to him about Marnie, reminding us all of what Marnie gave to us rather than focusing on the loss. Reminding myself she lived, not that she died. We are much richer because of her”.
Pet Loss Grief
It’s not just us who grieve for the loss of a pet. Your other pets will have lost a companion and their grief can manisfest in many ways. This could be through loss of appetite or over grooming.
There are many ways to say goodbye to your furry friends. Pet cemeteries across the UK offer a wide range of services from formal pet burial, green pet burials, cremation or ashes burials. To find one near you just Google ‘Pet Cemetery Near Me’.
“Can I Bury My Pet In The Garden”?
If you are considering a home burial for your pet then you must take your local laws in to consideration. In the UK, it isn’t legal to bury your pets in the garden of rented accommodation, a friend’s garden, public places. Basically anywhere you don’t own.
It IS legal to bury pets in a garden that you DO own.
However, please check with your vet that their remains aren’t hazardous to health and also choose a place well away from water sources.
You can read full details of home pet burials here.
Valley Mill Pet Memorial Plaques
Here at Valley Mill we have created a range of Welsh slate memorial plaques for pets. The team understand that paying tribute to your pet is not only important but individual to each person.
Here are a couple of examples. You can view the full range here.
How Long Will I Suffer Pet Loss Grief?
Honestly, this is a question we cannot answer. This is why we’ve asked people to share their stories with us in hope that their personal experiences will help you.
Nikki shared her story of her ‘fur baby’ Murphy. “I still have Murphy’s collar hanging on the cupboard door in my office….and it’s been 4 years. All his photos brighten up my office. My daughter Georgie and I talk about our chocolate bear all the time. We will never have another chocolate lab, and when I knew his days were coming to an end we brought in a puppy of a different breed, not to replace Murphy before he left us, but to ease the pain when he went over the rainbow bridge”.
“The evening after I had to put him to sleep I put on my wellies, took out my then 8month old pup and walked Murphy’s favourite walk, face up to the rain to help wash away my tears. I knew Murphy wouldn’t want me to be without a doggie best pal. And I still talk to him now. I tell him about all the naughty stuff this dog does which he would never have done. The pain eases, but the memory is there to treasure”.
Don’t Suffer Pet Loss Grief Alone
Don’t forget that Blue Cross offer a Pet Bereavement Supprt Service (PBSS) which is contactable by phone, email or webchat. Their service is free and confidential.
Barry Begley got in touch and told us about Willow. “My willow passed over the bridge aged 21 and half. Had her since she was 6 months old. Born on a farm but she was mistreated. She was rescued by a family but sadly the children didn’t bond with her. My sister bought her for a tenner and gave her to me. She was a true loyal friend and companion from that day. Saw through all good and bad times together. I still miss her like crazy, and cry everytime I think about her and sometimes out the corner of my eye feel her watching me. I know that when my day finally comes we’ll be reunited.”
More Pet Tributes – Working Through Pet Loss Grief
Maria shared with us her tattoo tribute to her dog Monty.
Sharon Latchford got in touch and told us “I found my darling Seraphina dead in her field 10 years ago last month, (crying as I type). A lot of people just don’t get how the loss of an animal can be so heartbreaking”.
Shannon sadly only had her cat Hazel for a short space of time. “My neighbour gifted me my beautiful Hazel for my birthday. She was incredible. Sadly 5 months in to our time together she was knocked down on the road and died. We have kept her close and buried her in our back garden”.
If you would like to share your stories of pet loss grief and the way you’ve paid tribute to your furry friends then please get in touch with Sian at Valley Mill.