How words can help you in your grief for your beloved pet

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How words can help you in your grief for your beloved pet

The moment of saying goodbye to a pet is difficult, especially at this time when our animals have become full members of the family. For example, by using rituals, taking good care of yourself, and properly guiding your children, you do not make it easier, but it does make it more bearable. Gary Kowalski offers heartwarming and healing tips for dealing with bereavement for your best friend in Farewell to Your Pet. In this article, you can read more about how words can help you in your grief for your beloved pet.

The power of words

In the years that I have been a minister, I have spoken many eulogies at commemorations. One of the hardest and one of the most healing was for my own grandfather. Because we were so close, I was overwhelmed with emotions. I had to pause a few times during his memorial service before I could continue speaking. But as I was about to cry, I also felt something curiously like euphoria. I experienced an intense sense of gratitude and joy for the bond we had. That event made me realize how transformative the spoken word can be. By giving the love within you a voice, you bring it to life and give it strength: a force that is even stronger than death.

How words can help you in your grief for your beloved pet

Write a good word for your loved one

Usually, I advise grieving people to use the power of words to write a eulogy for their loved ones. The word ‘eulogy’ means ‘good word’: you cite in it the good qualities that have made the other person memorable, and worth loving. For example, in the case of an animal, a eulogy could be a letter, a poem, a memoir that elaborates on the qualities that made it so endearing, or such a special personality.

Of course, words are never enough, to sum up, another’s life. A three-dimensional being can never be reduced to the two-dimensional surface of a written page. But by trying to put into words what made an animal so lovable and unique, you can discover subtle details that you previously didn’t talk about or appreciate so much. I have written dozens of eulogies and it is always a difficult task. But when I manage to capture the essence of someone who has died, it’s one of the most satisfying things I do as a pastor: it’s hard work, but it’s satisfying. I know my words have made a difference.

The benefits of writing

There are many benefits to entrusting words to paper. While writing, many memories come to mind. At the same time, you create a lasting memento for the future that, together with photos, paw prints, and other souvenirs, will only increase in value over the years. Reading words aloud also serves a purpose. It magnifies its impact and by appealing to the senses (forming the syllables with your tongue and hearing the timbre of your own voice in your own ear) its meaning is inscribed in your consciousness.

Every eulogy has a beginning, middle, and end and in that respect, it resembles life itself. The writing process forces you to focus on the main points and look for important details. What were the highlights of your life you remember? What difference has this animal made in your life? Transforming an experience into a story is one of the ways we can understand our lives and give meaning to existence. If you bring your stories to a good end, you can also close when you are confronted with death. The living manuscript that was once a work-in-progress is now finally finished. Not only is life over: a story is completed.

Famous Pet Praises

How words can help you in your grief for your beloved pet

Many famous writers have written songs of praise for their pets, such as DH Lawrence (Rex), James Thurber (Snapshot of a dog), May Sarton (The Fur Person), and EB White (whose obituary for his dog Daisy concludes with “She died while sniffed life, and enjoyed it”). Playwright Eugene O’Neill, in his “Last Will and Testament of an Extremely Distinguished Dog,” imagined a final resting place for his Dalmatian Solverdene:

Where every blissful hour is a meal, where on long
evenings there are a million hearths where logs
burn eternally and where you can snuggle in front of
, stare into the flames, doze off and
dream, and remember those good old days
on earth, and to the love of your mommy and daddy.

Poets have also made songs of praise for their pets. Lord Byron’s tribute to his Newfoundlander, Boatswain, is inscribed on a monument in Newstead Abby, England:

Near this place
were brought the remains
of one who was beautiful but not vain,
strong but not brutal,
brave but not wild,
possessed all the virtues of man but not the bad
qualities…
To remember a friend this stone remains here
I only knew one, and it lies here.

The memory of a brown and white guinea pig

But you don’t have to be a bestselling author or a master stylist to create a meaningful memorial. My fellow pastor, the Rev. Elizabeth Tarbox, wrote the following thoughtful eulogy expressing both the sadness and need for reflection one can feel when a close friend dies. I’ve admired her work for years, so I cut this piece from her church’s newsletter. It shows how much you can evoke with a few well-chosen words.

How words can help you in your grief for your beloved pet

Natalie was a brown and white guinea pig with a nice face and an oversized stomach. She shared her life with us, accepted our love and care, gracefully nibbled on spinach and dandelions, and salivated as soon as she smelled strawberries. Natalie cherished her boyfriend Frank, and we got to pet her babies. She forgave us when we gave it away.
When Natalie got sick, we took her to the vet.

 She said she wouldn’t get any better, so we made the choice that we human animals can afford and asked the doctor to put her to sleep. But Natalie wasn’t sleeping. She lay in my lap and shivered and sighed, and the life she had so generously shared with us slipped from her small, round body. She was dead.
And I thought how strange it is that this little animal could move me so much and that this little life, which had lasted no more than five years, could make me wrestle with my conscience about the right of people to make decisions about animals. How strange that this lifeless, hairy creature, whose body was now silent, could move me to tears.


I had a guinea pig personified. I had given her a place and dignity in my home. My love had somehow elevated her to something more than a rodent. In turn, she had given me dignity by accepting my care. She had brought beauty into our home and stirred in me emotions that I love: love and the desire to nurture. She had trusted me and had thus made me trustworthy.

It is remarkable that such a small creature can conjure up something so big in our minds. Perhaps the smaller or more dependent another being is, the greater our associated responsibilities become. Being ignorant, animals can help us become wiser. Where they are carefree, they can make us more caring.

Does caring for an animal make you more humane?

How words can help you in your grief for your beloved pet

As a parent, I know that having children is one of the things that has helped me mature. As a pet owner, I think taking care of an animal is one of the things that has made me more human. Reverend Tarbox concludes her tribute to Natalie with the following prayer, which can be applied to any living being:

Great God, make us friends of the animals. Make us responsible fellow inhabitants of this fertile planet. Let us be generous in our dealings with animals, let us use our power with compassion and avoid rudeness, let us never humiliate the animals, let us never waste their flesh or skin to look more beautiful ourselves, and let us respect their right to a good life in their own habitat. In all dealings with animals, let us remember that all life is mysterious, precious, and God-given and that we may know ourselves honored and blessed by their presence among us.

Doesn’t that deserve an ‘Amen’? With words like these, we affirm the sanctity of life, even in the presence of death. We express our gratitude for the gift that is our time on Earth. As the mystical writer Master Eckhart informed us that if the only prayer we would ever say was “Thank you,” this would be enough.

Words are creative. They can motivate, chastise, canonize and reconcile. They not only describe reality but can also change it. We all know that words can hurt someone. Why shouldn’t they also have the capacity to heal and transform our world? Speaking honestly, words bring us closer to a place where wholeness and peace reign.

 

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