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The Journals are the premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and advertising in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Sep 19, 2019

Animals in Our World, Animals in Our Yard: Remembering Our Best Friends

By Diane L. Grigg

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Mourning the death of an animal is different for everyone. We feel the loss deeply. Pets become best friends, and their physical absence finds us wanting to keep them close in our hearts, attempting to fill the physical and emotional void they leave behind. We mourn our pets as we do our humans, sometimes even more deeply. The connection we forge with them is rooted in the spiritual as well as the physical. They share our joys, they comfort us, protect us, laugh with us and show us the purest unconditional love there is. They live in the moment and encourage us to do the same.

In the desire to keep our departed best friends close to us, the second Sunday of September as well as the entire month has been designated National and World Animal Remembrance Day/Month. This is a time set aside for all of us to honor and celebrate how animals enrich our lives not only in our homes but as part of the global community. It is a time to acknowledge our emptiness through the grieving process and also celebrate what it means to have had these creatures in our lives. Grieving can take months, even years. Finding a meaningful way to honor your friend is an important part of healing. When we engage in the process of remembering, we give ourselves a chance to reminisce, relive and look back on just how amazing and cherished animals are. Remembering is part of grieving, a need to try to find closure, coming to terms with the feelings of vacancy.

Some people remember by designating a special spot in the home to display pictures, tokens, even cremains. Making memorial paw prints or stepping stones are extremely popular. Perhaps simply just a decorative hook, with your companion’s collar or leash hung affectionately, can remind you daily of the good times you had. The ideas are endless. Wearable jewelry can be made from collars, tags and cremains, in addition to lockets with a photo or a piece of fur.  Many animals are remembered by planting a tree, shrub or garden. There are companies that allow you to incorporate a portion of your pet’s cremains in with product to be planted.

In this age of social media, the network of like-minded people can reach out to offer sympathy and support. Some people use journaling to express their feelings about their loss. Others make videos, chronicling a life well-lived. Write your dearly departed friend a heartfelt letter, saying how much they meant to you and why you will miss them. Put it with your other reminders. Perhaps in the future someone will read it, evoking their fond memories of a friend now gone. The simplest to do is remember. At any moment one can imagine an animal friend with a smile.

World Animal Remembrance Day takes us globally. The idea is to consider all the animals that share this planet with us and how vital they are in the delicate balance of life. We are all dependent on each other in some way. Well-run zoos do their best in caring for and increasing the survival of all species of animals, reminding us that we are not alone. This time period also allows us to recognize all animal advocates, including veterinarians, support staff, rescuers and fosters who many times take anyone in, no questions asked; the trainers who work with so many species to become service animals; and the families who go to the animal shelter looking for someone to take home.

In helping to ease the pain of animal loss, the idea of the “Rainbow Bridge,” a place where our deceased animals go, free from pain and suffering, came from several works of poetry written in the 1980s and 1990s. They speak of another place where pets go upon death, eventually to be reunited with their human companions. Memories can be healing. Look through pictures, talk about your best friends, volunteer at or visit an animal shelter. Perhaps when the time is right, another creature will creep into your heart and make its way home with you.

With animals, our lives are enriched, never to be the same. We are enlightened, gifted and grateful for the compassion and the companionship they give us freely. There is never a dull moment but always a pure moment. Living day by day, breath by breath. When we are ultimately separated from them, we pine, yearning for more time. Our hearts ache. We feel empty. We grieve. We remember, and our hearts start to heal. We reach out and begin again. Ready to love. Ready to remember.