It certainly goes without saying that losing a pet can be one of the most heart breaking events for us to endure, especially if 'us' includes children. Children can become especially close with their animal companion, especially in cases where the two grew up together, so to speak. Moreover, younger children may not be able to grasp the idea that their friend will no longer be around to play with them, or that they will not be returning. In days of old, it was not uncommon for individuals to simply dispose of the deceased pet, and tell their children that the lost companion 'went for a vacation', or 'is sleeping'. Experts now say that this false impression can do more harm than good to a child, especially if they don't fully understand the concept and permanence of death.
In an internet discussion, a woman said her 18-year old cat had died peacefully behind the couch the night before, and now she wondered if it would be wise to ask her 6 year old daughter to attend a small funeral for the pet, or simply "bury him before she gets home from school". Nearly 100 answers came in, and all but one indicated that a funeral would probably be a good experience for the child. Some added that the girl should be given the choice of whether to attend the pet’s funeral, and others even recommended that the girl herself be allowed to design and conduct the service.
The one individual blatantly dismissed the idea of a pet funeral, (stating “If you want your daughter to deal with a pet's death with grace, then no funeral. If you want your daughter to be someone who attends pet funerals, then, yes, give the cat a funeral.”) and it was interesting to note that she, herself, was quickly dismissed by the other contributors to the discussion. The consensus - among nearly everyone who provided their opinion - was that the individual's point of view was somewhat callous, and that pet funerals are a healthy experience, especially for young children. The loss of a pet can be an introduction to the concept that death is permanent, for younger individuals who have not yet had to suffer grief, or experienced the process of mourning. Acknowledging the loss of a pet can even be helpful further down the road, when the child must face the loss of a person. It can also help them properly grieve the loss of the companion. Additionally, conducting a pet funeral can help enforce a sense of empathy for all living creatures, especially in young children, which is a trait that, unfortunately, seems to be lacking in our modern society. In our day and age, many are instilled with the idea that everything is replaceable; from appliances, to gadgets, to friends and, yes, even (if not especially) pets. The latter is very disturbing, given the fact that a pet is not just a toy or trinket, but a living, breathing creature that has as much right to life as any human. With that said, a pet funeral can help celebrate the life of a treasured companion, as well as help the child realize that life is not replaceable, so it should be cherished, and respected, to the fullest extent - both our own, as well as those of the loyal friends that we bring into our homes.
When someone hears 'pet funeral', they apply the concepts of a human funeral, such as a lavish ceremony, with pallbearers, ministers or priests, flowers - basically, the whole nine yards. This is the common misconception that drives individuals to frown upon the idea of a funeral for a cherished companion. In reality, a pet funeral is usually no more than a few friends gathered to say a few kinds words, with the pet in either an open or covered pet casket at the burial site. Some even inter the pet cremation urn, if they opt for cremation as the form of disposition for the companion animal. This simple gathering can help show a grieving pet parent (whether young or old), that they have a network of emotional support, as well as help bring closure to the loss, which will help take a step down the road towards healing. Here are a few tips that various experts on the internet have given for staging a meaningful pet funeral that will help your son or daughter (or even yourself) come to terms with the difficult emotions that surround the loss of a beloved pet.
First, as the contributors to the above mentioned discussion said, it’s important that pet funerals be held only if the child likes the idea. (You do not necessarily have to wait for the child to mention it, just be sure that the child is comfortable with the idea before proceeding.) All experts say that forcing a child to attend a pet funeral is never a good thing.
Next, it can be beneficial to plan the funeral 'service' with the child, rather than simply let them attend it. This suggestion, of course, varies according to the age of the children, but, in general, it’s important for adults to resist the urge to plan things entirely on their own. While this is valid, it is also important to not have too much 'fun' when creating the arrangements - in other words, to not make it too much of a good experience. An urban legend has circulated for years saying that a young girl was so mesmerized by her experience of creating a funeral for her family’s pet that she requested to 'put down' the remaining pets, in order to relive the experience again. When this may be nothing more than a myth, it is important to remember that a funeral, regardless of who it is for, is a somber event that should be looked at with dignity and respect. Inviting friends and neighbors is a good idea, but care should be exercised in this regard. It’s important to invite only those people who can be counted upon to exercise the proper respect for the service and who will not be tempted to belittle the experience in any way. (For example, if a neighbor is likely to question the need of the funeral to others, then he or she is not likely a good person to invite.) Older siblings of a child may sometimes show a negative demeanor toward something like a pet funeral, and if that is the case, it is better to not force that child to attend pet's funeral. In fact, sometimes their presence can only cause problems.
Once the pet is interred, one could even consider marking the final area of rest with a small pet remembrance. Creating a permanent tribute can be a great comfort in knowing that the pet will never be forgotten. The remembrance can also provide a place for the surviving family to visit, either to reminisce over memories shared with the pet, or simply pay their respects. While a permanent tribute offers great comfort, there is now a way to create a 'portable' tribute, to offer solace at all times. Pet Urn Necklaces can hold a small remembrance - such as cremation ashes, a small piece of fur, or even earth from a special placed enjoyed with the companion. Being able to keep a small memento near the heart at all times can offer a great tool both during, and after, the grieving period.
We have spoken a lot about how a pet funeral can affect a child, but it is not uncommon for even adults to hold a small ceremony in honor of a lost companion. While some may look down upon grieving the loss of a pet, it is very important to recognize that the grief felt is our body's and mind's response to the change in our lives. The loss of a pet is certainly no less valid than that of person, especially because most pets are a comforting and even uplifting part of our lives. A pet funeral can honor the life of a treasured companion, and can bring closure to a grieving pet parent who is dealing with the many emotions that accompany grief.
Rainbow Bridge for Pets and Animals
The legend of the Rainbow Bridge is, perhaps, the most intriguing story ever told regarding the passing of animal companions. In a nutshell, the legend states that when pet dies, its soul departs our world, over an amazing rainbow bridge to a meadow paradise. In this wonderful new land filled with happy prairies, the animal lives for the remainder of his owners life, where he can frolic and play with other angel pets. While the pet is in a beautiful place, however, they never forget, or stop missing, their human, and once the owner passes away, his or her first stop on the way to heaven is across that same rainbow bridge, where owner and animal are reunited forever.
One problem that experts have in determining whether the Rainbow Bridge story is intended to be read literally is that it’s origin is as mysterious as the tale itself. It is thought that this particular version of a 'pet heaven' was created in, roughly, the 1980s, but no one has yet been able to attribute the story to any one original source. Perhaps it was a grieving individual that was hoping to memorialize a pet - in which we would say they certainly achieved their goal, given the popularity of this poem today. While the poem may be relatively new, experts say the general context of the tale dates back, in general, to the days of Norse Mythology, which relied on a Rainbow Bridge for a number of other uses. Likewise, it’s hard to determine whether the Rainbow Bridge story is in any way an inspiration behind the names of several modern bridges dubbed 'Rainbow Bridge'. There are Rainbow Bridges in Utah, Texas, Tokyo, and even Niagara Falls, but none are specially said to be named for the bridge of the famous story of animal afterlife. While it is not certain if this wonderful poem inspired those who created these bridges, it can also not be entirely dismissed that these larger-than-life creations were in any was influenced by the pet Rainbow Bridge.
Regardless of its origins, the Rainbow Bridge legend is very special because it signifies the belief in souls of animals, something that is still very much debated by theologians and philosophers alike. While many of these individuals may argue this fact (or myth), any pet owner who has loved and lost a treasured companion can attest to this fact: if we have souls, then our beloved friends certainly do as well. As James Harriot, famous veterinarian and writer, once said, "If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are a lot better off than a lot of humans." This can ring very true, as when we share our homes, and our hearts, with a pet, we learn and gain so much from them, that it really becomes impossible to think that their lives mean any less than ours. Simply put, our lives are truly enriched by presence, and a companion animal can fill a void that we may not have even been aware of before. It is possible that the Rainbow Bridge story is simply meant to be understood figuratively, as a way to comfort people grieving over the loss of a pet. But still, it is truly comforting to think that our beloved friend is in such a place, enjoying their time while they wait for us. Moreover, to think that they get to be with other animals, rather than alone, is all the more heartwarming, especially for pets that loved to be social. Even if one is not overtly religious, they can still find comfort in believing that their lost companion is in a better place, where they can be happy and free from pain or loneliness.
Whether it is taken figuratively or literally, there is no doubt that the Legend of Rainbow Bridge remains a popular tale today, and it is particularly valuable for grieving children who are having trouble coping with the loss of their fur-ever friend. It can certainly be very comforting to think that our pet lived a beautiful life, and their are rewarded with release to a place where they will always be happy and surrounded by friends. This touching tale is also very helpful in the grieving process, and the thought that our pet is happy can bring us a small measure of peace, which is certainly helpful both during, and after, the mourning process. So, whether it’s a valid religious idea or not, the legend of the Rainbow Bridge is helpful to many people, both young and old. We all want to keep our pets memories alive forever, and our pets certainly deserve such a fate. This is what has turned Rainbow Bridge into a legend.
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable. All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster. You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....