The loss of a beloved pet can be the deepest heartbreak of our lives. With each article, we will address and answer a key topic with Certified Pet Grief Counselor, Pina De Rosa (APLB / AAVSB).
If you wish to send in questions for Pina, please submit them to Pina De Rosa through www.PetBereavementCounseling.com
In our last topic on Pet Grief Counseling, we looked at “My pet died, what do I do?”
With this topic, we get to look at how to “welcome the ashes” home.
The return of the ashes home is something that does not need to be rushed. As Scott Summerville (the wonderfully kind mortician who handled the after care for my dogs) best put it: “During your pets final days, just dedicate your time and energy to giving your beautiful dog all the love you can. After your pet passes, celebrate their life. Light some candles and incense...play spiritual music...invite loved ones over (and have them bring your favorite pizza and some ice cream) to say their “goodbyes” and grieve with you. There is no reason to rush through this deeply emotional process. If your dog passes away at home, don’t worry...Nothing is going to happen to your pet overnight. Just wrap them in an old sheet and get some rest. Call or text me in the morning. Keep peace and love in your heart.”
All this is until the moment your pet takes his/her last breath. In last month’s column, we addressed more of what are the next steps, what to expect, as well as options such as the goodbye letter. If you choose to have your pet cremated, “welcoming the ashes” home may sound a bit “California woo-woo” but what I am about to share was actually taught to me by an elder, a dear friend from another culture. The ashes being returned home is likely to be quite a surreal experience, so please be sure to not be alone when that deeply emotional moment happens. When you hold the urn for the first time, and even for a few weeks after, you will likely vacillate between the feeling this is my pet..this is not my pet..yes this is my pet (those are his/her earthly remains), no this is not my pet (he/she is not physically there)… As this back-and-forth will feel like a most surreal experience, I definitely recommend you be home with one close friend for the moment that the ashes are returned to you. It would be best to arrange the ashes be returned personally by someone from the mortuary (vs. being returned to you by mail, as certain businesses provide, or even vs. going alone to pick them up at the vet’s as the drive home could be most distressing, especially if you are driving).
When you are home with your close friend (who arrived at least an hour before the ashes are delivered), hold the urn with both your hands when you receive the ashes – perhaps even hold the urn close to your chest. Fill yourself with love. Imagine connecting your heart with your pet’s heart as a way to give and receive love from both hearts. Stay in love, not fear as you get to celebrate the undying love in welcoming them home. Slowly, and together with your friend, walk through every room of the house, the garden, every place the pet visited at home. It may seem strange to read this, but it will feel very profound to actually go through the experience of welcoming your pet back home this way. If you have a garden, do the same by walking for a few minutes holding your pet’s ashes along his/her favorite path in the garden. And then ultimately gently lay the urn to rest in your pet’s favorite spot in the house, or even in your pet’s favorite bed.
At least for now, it can be a temporary resting spot for the ashes, then later on you can decide if you want to move them to a different spot. The ashes can find a final resting place in the house later on; that does not need to happen on the first day. It’ll feel extremely surreal for you because those earthly remains are your beloved pet, but at the same time it will feel like your companion is not there as they are physically absent. Your friend’s presence is very important as it will help ground you in this most surreal experience. Preparing for this moment, and welcoming the ashes home with such a grounding and respectful ritual helps deepen the reverence even more. In doing so your heart can begin its healing journey.
A blog for conscious pet parents: