Love never ends. Those are the words etched on a locket given to me by my wife the year our Cocker Spaniel died. And for as long as I have a dog in my life, I will grieve time and time and time again. It is especially hard when certain times the year roll around. Thanksgiving is upon us and I know that deep angst that hides in the recesses of my heart will rear itself once more. The pain never goes away, it has become a fiber of who I am: A large fiber.
Surviving the holiday season after pet loss is indescribable.
“Are you still going to call yourself a dog mom?”
I will never forget those words uttered to me by someone whose name escapes but but whose words cut deep, even today as I type them. Of course, I will remain a dog mom. If you have loved and lost a pet, just like if you have loved and lost a human being, your role in their life on earth does not change. Some words cut so very deep, and so I choose to honor my belated dog and not let naysayers get to me. If you are trying to get through the holidays and whether you just lost your pet or your pet died many years ago, there are things you can do to honor their memory. For me, allowing love to fill my heart and not anger because she is gone is key. There are others who feel this way, and I met Lisa Brambilla at a pet industry conference this summer.
Lisa is lovely, humorous, smart, and witty: Qualities which lend themselves well considering that she founded a company that deals with loss. Lisa, a pet lover and cancer survivor herself, noticed that her mantle of urns containing belated pets and relatives was growing. When her father-in-law passed in 2013, he wished for his remains to be divided into 8 small handmade boxes, each for a family member. Lisa treasured this wish but also realized others must be facing a similar situation. If you are a pet lover and your pet is cremated, those remains generally stay with you.
A defining moment came over Lisa, and she created a product called BioUrn® as a green solution for a generation of earth conscious consumers who are looking for a way to pay tribute to their loved ones while being kind to our planet.
If you have followed this blog for any period of time, you know that my heart beats dog® so much that I trademarked it. My previous Cocker Spaniel, Brandy Noel, taught me so much about living and yet I was completely unprepared for the devastation her loss would bring to my life. The anatomy of a grieving dog mom is not a pretty picture. I wish I knew Lisa back then because she is incredibly comforting and totally “gets it:” That takes-your-breath-away and curse the daylight feeling that swallows whole the soul of a grieving pet mom or dad.
If you are grieving a pet, there are things you can do during this holiday season (and year round) to bring a sense of peace to your life. We never ever get over it, and if anyone says you get “over” the loss of someone or that “time heals all wounds,” they are full of crap. Time simple etches the reality of loss even harder into those left behind. We learn to deal with it, carry the grief with us, hold onto it, and it becomes a part of who we are. In that way, love never ends. Want proof? Here I am over 7 years since the passing of my previous Cocker Spaniel and I am writing about her and you are learning about her. She isn’t gone, she’s just moved to another location. And in my belief system, I’ll be reunited with her again.
Until that time, here are ways to survive the holidays and honor your belated pet(s):
(1) Plant a Tree from BioUrn
BioUrn is a handmade, biodegradable cremation urn that holds a pet’s ashes along with soil and a tree seed which, when planted, grows a memorial tree. I am not in the habit of promoting products that deal with pet loss unless I truly would use the product and feel it honors a pet’s life and legacy. BioUrn4Pets offers a “circle of life” lesson, while creating a memorial tree to pay tribute to a beloved family member, who has crossed to the Rainbow Bridge. Each BioUrn kit comes with everything needed to honor your pet: The handmade BioUrn, a cotton drawstring bag for the pet’s ashes, special nutrient enriched planting soil, a “seedbead”, a stainless steel marker and step by step planting instructions. Each BioUrn kit comes standard with 3 different tree seeds, covered in a nutrient based clay material, which they call a “seedbead®” The seedbeads that they enclose in the kit are: Evergreen (like Blue Spruce); Flowering tree: (like Crape Myrtle); Flowering shrub (like: Azalea/Butterfly Bush/Hydrangea). Each BioUrn kit also comes with a “seedbead” certificate which allows a pet parent to visit online and choose their own tree from the wide variety offered in our tree gallery.
We are so very moved by this product that we are giving one pet parent the opportunity to plant a tree in their pet’s memory later in this article.
(2) Give to a Rescue Group in Your Pet’s Name
The reason I founded Wigglebutt Warriors®, the fundraising arm of this blog, is because of my Brandy Noel. She was a puppy mill rescue dog. Whether you grieve a cat, a dog from the show ring, a pup rescued from a shelter, or a ferret who needed a new home: Giving to a pet who is amongst the living allows your pet’s legacy to live on through them. I love to see my dog’s name online or in a newsletter stating “Donation in memory of Brandy Noel.” Somewhere, someone typed her name and then others will read it. In this way, her love and her life never truly ends.
(3) Find Ways to Include The Loved One You Lost
The first Christmas without our dog, we did not put up a tree. I am born on Christmas Day and I gave my dog my middle name, Noel. How in the hell was I supposed to embrace this holiday of joy when my entire insides felt pulverized? Well-intending friends sent us a real tree, and it sat there, not getting watered and just wilting. We had a new puppy in our lives, and we embraced him so very much. I used to think I could never love again in the way I loved Brandy Noel. I realized with her death that I could never not love this way again. Being a dog mom is as much a part of my DNA as breathing. I inhale oxygen, I inhale a love of dogs.
Reshape traditions. Did you have a special spot that you and your belated pets would visit for the holidays? If it is too painful, don’t go. I would walk the path at the cemetery where my wife’s parents are buried every Christmas Eve. I cannot begin to tell you how many tears fell the first Christmas Eve I did that with my Cocker, Dexter. My wife got me through and each little pawprint in the snow on Christmas Eve of my new puppy pushed me further. It felt like hell, seriously, but I have now walked that path hundreds of times with my family, dog included. And I would not trade it for the world. I owe it to my present dog to be present and loving. And I love him as much as I love my previous dog. There is no shame in that. Each pet is different. A pet lover’s heart, I have grown to learn, is so very very large.
Do things that include the ones you have lost like keeping their stocking up: I still do that. I have a friend who, the first year her dog died, signed it “Angel Fido.” (Fido not her real dog’s name). Whatever makes you happy to get through it and keeping the love alive: Do more of that. And if celebrating isn’t your thing, then don’t. There is no written rule that you must behave as all other human beings do.
(4) Create Traditions That Blend the Past with the Present
Did your pet like to open presents? Don’t deny your new pet the same pleasure if he or she likes to do that. Put your tree up in a different room. If it is too painful to be home on Christmas Day, go somewhere. Many movies debut on Christmas Day: Go to something to take your mind off of the grief, even if for 2 hours. Did your dog love to raid the kitchen table and turkey was her favorite? Skip the turkey.
Hang an ornament on the tree celebrating your pet’s life. It took me several years to do this, but it’s there now. And it will always be there. If you love the holidays but loss has completely removed the joy of them, allow yourself the grief. Don’t deny yourself the happiness, too: Your pet lived in the moment. Dogs never worry about what just happened or what tomorrow brings. Had you told me that 7 years ago, I’d likely whollop you with a bag of coal. In this moment, and carrying my grief with me, I know that my deceased dog would want me to live happy. All the anger, sorrow, and grief will not bring her back. Celebrating her and carrying her life in me and with me keeps her in the present.
(5) Know If and When It’s Time for Another Pet
Everyone walks their own path of grief. If you are never going to get a pet again, then that is your decision and yours alone. I never ever thought I could have a pet get so close to me. I was angry: How dare she capture my heart and then leave me with it in a zillion pieces all over the floor? You never replace a pet, just as you never replace a human being.
Often times, a pet will find you: I know this to be true from personal experience. “They pick you, Carol, you don’t pick them,” a wise soul once told me. Sometimes getting a pet too soon can backfire and cause you upset or anger.
(6) Gift Yourself
The holidays are temporary and fleeting, but that’s the way of life in general. Gift yourself something: Extra sleep; a spa day; a new book; a weekend out of the area to visit a friend. Let yourself grieve no matter how long your pet has been gone. Share your feelings with someone you understand who comprehends the pain of loss.
If you do consider planting a tree from BioUrn in your pet’s memory, the holidays are a beautiful time to do so. You can make it an intimate experience or gather your loved ones around and do so with those who loved your pet as much as you do. Click here to purchase a BioUrn and enter below for an opportunity to gift one to yourself or a loved one.
The giveaway is over and the winner is Kimberly Dickerson. Thanks to all who entered.
Note: We were not compensated for this; Fidose of Reality believes in sharing products and tips to pet parents that ourselves use/believe in.