Rituals & Storytelling
We have to believe that even the briefest of human connections can heal.
Otherwise, life is unbearable.
~ Agate Nesaule
One of the most profound and historical ways we've dealt with loss as a society is through our rituals of parting. Whatever those might be; they vary by culture and belief. Unfortunately, this does not generally apply to pet loss. I often remind my clients of this fact and what funerals in particular do for us. Memorials and funerals allow for our grief and sorrow to be observed, recognized, supported, and validated. When we have a funeral for a loved one, all our friends and family, and the community of people who knew the individual gather together to show respect, tell stories, express their grief, and honor their lives and the loss that life represents to the surviving bereaved family members.
However, not everyone has the opportunity to do this. This isn't just limited to pet loss as the book points out. They give a very profound example of a ritual called "Common Burials" where those who have had a premature or prenatal baby die can come together to honor and recognize their grief (1, 229). They go on to describe how each of these provides a measure of release: Social release happens during visitation and storytelling where we share memories and experiences, spiritual release happens during the official service with messages according to one's faith and beliefs, and finally the physical release happens when the body is buried, cremated, or given back to nature or God.
These rituals are a form of group therapy. Of course I also provide many forms of rituals for my pet loss clients, most notably a quarterly Online Memorial Ceremony to honor those pets that we've lost (4). During my last ceremony I had 20 families attending, all with their own memories, pictures, videos, testimonials, and funny stories to share. I had so many of them respond back to me in the following days and weeks after the event to express how much it meant to them.
I have to point out that regardless of the type of loss or how it happened, the pets being mourned are of infinite value to their family; validating that love is important.