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Grief for a Life Well Lived - Can it Merge with Joy? By Ann Hoff

Lori Davidson | 28 February, 2023

            Grief for a Life Well Lived - Can it Merge with Joy? By Ann Hoff

As a child, I remember my cousin’s great-grandmother dying at the age of 102. My family was Lutheran and Presbyterian: in farm country there was not a ton of diversity in religion. However, unbeknownst to me, my cousin’s great-grandmother was Irish Catholic. They had a funeral for her unlike one I have ever seen before. There had alcohol and music, and people were dancing. In one corner of the room there were people talking about the deceased and the wonderful times that they had with her, along with all the things she had accomplished in her life. It was the first time I was ever at a funeral where people were HAPPY. (Side note: as the youngest child with two siblings a decade older than me, my parents never got me a babysitter. They went to funeral homes often, and always drug me along, calling me their “caboose.” I have memories of playing with complementary rain hats in the corners of the rooms while my parents attended “viewings”. These events were morbidly solemn.)

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I bring up my cousin’s great-grandmother because that is the way funerals could be. They could be uplifting and joyous. Yes, we have lost a loved one, but that loved one lived a great life, was loved, found joy, made the world a better place and kicked butt. A funeral can be a celebration of life. A venue where people share their stories of the magnificent times with their loved one, the unique quirks that only they had, the things that they loved. I can tell you when I talk to people on the other side, they come through with their stories of interacting with the people they love. They will bring up memories, recipes that they handed down, traditions they hoped to be continued. They are happy and want their loved ones to be happy. If they had a tragic ending, they don’t want to focus on it, they want their loved ones to remember what their best qualities were, not how horrible their death was. 


When pets come through from heaven, they want their owners to know that they are out of pain. They want them to know that they are happy, that they are healthy again, and perhaps with people you loved that are also in heaven. They sometimes have plans to come back to their humans. They don’t want you to be upset about the way they left this world, but to just remember what happened when they were in it. 


I know when a death happens, the grief is heavy at times, like a velvet drape that is smothering and all encompassing. But when you have a pet that has led a fantastically long life, don’t they deserve recognition of that life? Might you celebrate the fact that they were in your life? Remember that between hello and goodbye there were a ton of fantastic times and much love. Love, unlike a mortal body, doesn’t die. Love enriches you, bolsters your soul, and makes you better than before. 


Trust me, I fully understand and empathize with you, that you cannot escape grief. It will come to you late at night, or during a commercial that has a dog that looks like your beloved dog, or when you realize you won’t be buying food for them anymore when you are at the grocery store. You will grieve. But you don’t have to grieve all the time. Allow yourself to let the sunshine in, knowing the rain will inevitably come again. But for a life well lived, doesn’t your pet deserve a celebration? Even if it is simply you, and maybe a few friends commiserating over the good times that happened? Do like they did at my cousin’s great-grandma’s funeral – celebrate with a raised glass to all the good times and make a toast to a life that was extraordinary and exceptional. Or celebrate a life that had been ordinary, yet supportive and filled with incredible love. Celebrating your pet’s life honors them, and gives their more meaning, helping you see the impact they made in your life. 


Pets are family. Losing a pet is heartbreaking. Your grief is real.


Pet Perennials understands that all too often the grief of losing a furry family member feels disenfranchised, dismissed by those around you. They may not understand the depth of the grief you’re feeling, or how much you miss your pet’s companionship. We do. Your loss, and your grief are real.


If you or someone you know is dealing with the loss of a pet, reach out and let them know you care and that you’re there for them. Send them a note, or remembrance in memory of their pet. Not sure what to do? Pet Perennials can help make reaching out easier.

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