Contributed by Dr. Rebecca McComas, MNPets
I have an unusual job. I’m a veterinarian who travels to pets’ homes at the time of euthanasia. My work is sad, but incredibly rewarding. I spend time with amazing pet owners as they experience a profound moment in the time they have with their beloved companion. I’ve found that being at home changes everything… the pet is relaxed, the family is comfortable in their grief away from the eyes of strangers, and the mood is calm.
One of my favorite things at our appointments is reminiscing. We all love to talk about our pets! I hear stories about times the pet was naughty, about the day they first came home, about the everyday stuff that make up the most special moments we remember about our pet. I am shown pictures, sometimes beautifully framed, other times frayed and faded, of ordinary moments – captured forever on film. People tell me how special and important these photos are to them.
There’s a name for this kind of remembering – memorialization. Memorialization can take many forms. It’s an important way to help support ourselves as we move through the intense grief that can accompany a significant loss, such as that of a loved pet. It’s not uncommon for a family to set up an area where they keep memorial objects such as the pet’s collar, a clay print of their paw, and a favorite toy. Sometimes the pet’s ashes are a part of this collection. Whatever helps to keep a feeling of closeness to the pet and brings comfort are items that belong here.
Pictures are an important part of this collection for nearly everyone. Images of the pet throughout their many stages of life provide an important link to our memories. Pictures are what bring us back to a moment in time, allowing us to relive the feelings of joy and love. Looking at pictures can be a significant way to help in the process of healing from a loss.
If you are going through a loss, I encourage you to keep memorial objects, including pictures, within easy reach. Talk about your pet with supportive friends and family. Don’t hesitate to reach out for additional assistance from a support group in your area. And above all, be patient with yourself. Remembering can bring tears, but it is healthy and helps us to move through our grief.