While many people think of the pet funeral as a modern custom, people have memorialized their pets since ancient times. And while holding a pet funeral may not be for everyone, many experts believe that holding some type of ceremony or ritual can help us cope with the loss of a treasured animal friend.
Whether you choose burial or cremation for your pet’s final disposition, your approach to memorialization can be true to your religious views or environmental concerns. Your ceremony can be as simple a saying a few words or as elaborate as a human funeral. What’s right for you will depend on personal preference.
You may even consider preplanning your pet’s funeral, just as many people do for themselves. This saves precious energy and time just when you feel the most grief. Preplanning can also offer financial advantages. Preplanning funeral arrangements are easier to accomplish before a loved one passes, the same is true for preplanning a service for a cherished pet.
Planning a Pet Funeral
You have many options when it comes to planning a pet funeral. Depending on the regulations in your area you can hold a simple backyard ceremony or you can engage the services of a pet funeral home and a pet cemetery. Funeral homes and cemeteries are staffed by people who understand that pet loss can be just as painful as losing a human family member. They offer burial and cremation services, and for a fee, provide caskets, urns and grave markers designed especially for pets. If you don’t have a pet funeral home or cemetery located near you, contact a traditional funeral home. Many accommodate requests for pet services. Our Preferred Provider Directory includes pet cemeteries and cremation facilities and can be a good place to start.
To plan the most meaningful event, consider the people who were significant in your pet’s life and invite them to participate. To choose the perfect location, think about your pet’s favorite places. Was the backyard or window seat the spot where you were most likely to find him or her? The beach or the park, perhaps? Hold the event in that spot.
–Candle Lighting Ceremonies
–Prayers and Blessings
–Poems, Readings, and Songs
–Sharing of Memories
–Memorial Photographs and Videos
The Pet Funeral Ceremony
Planning the funeral can be cathartic for all those who are grieving the loss of a pet. The process of creating a memorial service can be particularly helpful for some children. Consider having your entire family involved in making the arrangments.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to designing a pet’s funeral or memorial service. There are common elements that many people include. These customs are similar to those you see at human funerals but are typically much simpler. Of course, it is up to you how elaborate you would like your ceremony to be. In general, we find that pet funerals are shorter and more casual than human funerals.
Candle Lighting Ceremonies
Candles are also the perfect way to set the mood for the service and allow a time for quiet reflection. A simple candle lighting ceremony is a beautiful and appropriate way to symbolize the spiritual nature of the event. As an alternative to a formal ceremony, you may want to have an area set aside where guest can light a candle in memory of your pet.
- You do not need to use special candles for your ceremony. Many people like to use tapers or order special pet memory candles, but you can use votives or pillar candles as well.
- A common way to incorporate a candle lighting is to have guests share a memory of your pet while lighting the candle.
- To personalize your candles you can purchase special pet memorial versions or decorate some. For example, if you are mourning a black and white dog, set out and arrangement of candles alternating black and white. If the pet was a calico cat, set out black, orange, and white candles.
A popular prayer to recite during a candle lighting ceremony is:
We honor the memory of our precious pet with the warm light of this candle, sending to all our beloved pets a message of peace and love. We, as pet caregivers, bring our loss and sorrow to this place and together we ask that day by day our grief will be lessened. Each day let us continue to see how the relationship we had with our beloved pet still impacts our lives today. Amen
Safety tip: Do not leave burning candles unattended. Be sure that children are not left to light candles on their own. If the candle lighting area is accessible to children, have an adult in charge to help them.
Prayers and Blessings
Depending on your religious beliefs, an appropriate prayer of blessing may be included. There are many prayers that bring to mind the memories of animals. One prayer that is often used to memorialize a pet is:
Prayer For Animals
God Our Heavenly Father, You created the world to serve humanity’s needs and to lead them to You. By our own fault, we have lost the beautiful relationship which we once had with all your creation. Help us to see that by restoring our relationship with You we will also restore it with all Your creation. Give us the grace to see all animals as gifts from You and to treat them with respect for they are Your creation. We pray for all animals who are suffering as a result of our neglect. May the order You originally established be once again restored to the whole world through the intercession of the Glorious Virgin Mary, the prayers of St. Francis and the merits of Your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ Who lives and reigns with You now and forever. Amen.
~ St. Francis of Assisi
Poems, Readings, and Songs
There are many touching poems and readings available that can be used to express your feelings about the loss of your pet and characterize the nature of the pet’s life. Songs are also a popular way to celebrate.
Telling a story about your pet and its relationship to your family can help you and those hearing it. It will also give you the chance to share your feelings and can introduce some humor into the ceremony. Consider asking others to also share their memories. You may also like to provide a guest book or memory cards to allow the guests a way to pass along their memories if they aren’t willing to share them aloud.
Memorial Photographs and Videos
People often display photos of their pet which represent the spirit of the animal. If the location of the ceremony will allow and you have video footage of your pet interacting with family members, this can be a wonderful way to remember your pet. You may also want to include special memorabilia such as toys, leashes, and other items that will bring your pet to mind.
A popular way to end the ceremony is by giving a final farewell to your pet. If you would like to add something besides verbally saying goodbye, you may want to design a group event such as a lantern release, a butterfly release, or some other activity that will allow all those attending a way to say farewell.
Holding a funeral or memorial service for your pet is a wonderful way to honor your furry (or feathered or scaled) companion. The problem with a funeral, however, is that it is transitory. In addition to holding a service, you may want to create a memorial to your pet that is more long-lasting. There are many ways to do this. For some ideas on ways to memorialize your pet, visit our “Memorializing Your Pet” page.