10 Ways to Help You Grieve the Loss of Your Pet

Many, many years ago, when I adopted my first dog as an adult, the day I brought him home, I cried. I knew I would get to experience his life, but also his loss. It is the one common grief we, as pet owners will share. Their time of earth is so much shorter than ours. And it just doesn’t seem fair. Sadly, knowing we have this loss ahead of us doesn’t make it any easier. The loss of your pet is never easy. They are your soul mate, confidante, bringer of laughter and comfort. There is no ‘easy’ button to push to make our feelings of grief and loss go away, but maybe some of the thoughts below can help support you in this difficult time.

Your Grief is OK
However you grieve is ok.
  1. There is NO WRONG WAY to grieve. I want to start with this, as, above all, it is so very important to remember. In my 20 years of making pet cremation urns I have spoken to hundreds of people who have lost a pet. One time the phone rang, and when I answered it there was no sound from the other end. All of a sudden I found myself crying. It turns out that there actually was a person on the other end of the line. But she was crying so she couldn’t speak. We sat in silence until she was ready. Another time I answered the phone and the first thing out of the customer’s mouth was a joke. And we laughed together. It is so, so very important to remember that grief passes through us all so very differently. Different timeline, different needs. All of it is ok, and none of it is wrong. When my Marie died, I didn’t cry, I didn’t mourn. But I didn’t judge myself for that. I didn’t force my experience. It was about 6 months later when it all came out. And that was ok. Grief does not walk a straight line.
Strength
You have the strength you need.

2. Strength. In times of challenges, we always feel we need to tap into our strengths. That we ‘should’ be strong right now. But it is simply not true. We don’t always need to hold it all together. It is important to honor this time and to be ok with feeling the loss. Mourning is not a lack of strength, rather it is acknowledging our heart. When we try to be strong, we may be covering up some of the process of grief that we need to release.

Community
Lean on your friends and family.

3. Community. Here is where you can tap into the strength of others to help you grieve. We all take turns being supportive or supporting others. No one person has to ever be strong in all things. Now is the time to ask for support. Talk to people who have gone through this. Share your loss and you will find people to hold you up. This could be emotionally, by having them be a sympathetic ear, or physically, by letting them drive you to the vet. I do wish to note that is is absolutely OK to be selective here. People that you know are going to say something like, “buck up, it is only a dog (or cat)!” are not going to be the people that will give you what you need. You have my permission to avoid their input.

Acceptance
Accept the present moment.

4. Accept change. Along with grieving the loss of your friend, one thing to remember that it will also be a change in the household, your routine, your shopping, even the amount of exercise you get. To counter the unexpected shock this can bring (say you are at the grocery store and automatically head towards the pet food aisle), it is a good idea to have a plan. Be ready with that shopping list and plan ahead as to what aisles you will need to go down. And if you can’t even make it to the grocery store, it is ok to order a week of pizza.

Self forgiveness
Don’t beat yourself up.

5. This is an important one: YOU DID NOTHING WRONG! Was it time? Did I make the choice too early? Could I have done anything differently? I was frustrated with her once and reacted badly. I could have done more. I should have fed her something different. And on, and on. You did the best you could with the information and circumstances you had. Life is hard. We all have so much to handle. Nothing is going to be perfect. And dogs and cats do great with “good enough.” Really. Please make sure you are not holding back on self-forgiveness.

Memorial
Create a memorial.

6. Create a memorial altar. There are so many ways to have a visual reminder of your angel nearby. You can create a simple altar with their photo, a candle, and you can hang their collar on the frame. You can order a custom pet urn to put their ashes in, so they are physically close to you. There are also many jewelry options that can hold a small amount of their ashes, which would allow you to keep their memory closest to your heart.

Writing can be healing.

7. Write a closure letter. We are always told to journal. And for good reason. Getting our thoughts and feelings on paper helps loosen up our mind and help start the healing process. Writing a letter is a great way to get your grief out. You can write about wonderful memories, the feelings of loss you are experiencing, or just let whatever words want to come out, come out. This is actually a really wonderful way to have children express themselves as well. Ask them to write their happiest memory with your pet, or make a drawing of how they remember them.

Service
Create your own personal service.

8. Have a memorial service. It is a way to let everyone participate and share their feelings. This can also be wonderful for kids. They can feel so helpless during this time especially if this is their first experience with death and loss. Letting them help plan, set up, or get up and say a few words can help empower them and keep a sense of control. This is a great time to scatter ashes, if that is what you choose to do, or read the letters your family has written. If you don’t have or don’t want to scatter the ashes, it is absolutely not needed. Just your presence and a moment of silence can be enough.

Self Care
Do not neglect yourself right now.

9. Self care. So often, in challenging times, we put ourselves last. My heart breaks for that. Now is the most important time to care for yourself. Take it easy, allow for some time off (and, again, ignore those people who say “it’s just a dog, it’s just a cat.”) Take the time you need. We all grieve differently, and at different rates. The loss of a pet can be traumatic, and it is ok to take care of your own needs at this time. It is essential to help you heal.

Time heals
You may not believe it right now, but time will heal.

10. You WILL get through this. Time does soften all wounds. It is a cliche, but there is solid truth to it. To get through your toughest times in life, think of the next day. Tomorrow it will soften. Tomorrow it will lose intensity. Tomorrow you will remember something your cat or dog did and it will make you laugh instead of cry. Have faith in tomorrow.

While this time in our lives can be so very hard, the loss so very painful, I want to conclude with a thought that, really, once we think about it, is what everything else revolves around: Gratitude. How lucky were we to have our pet give us such tremendous love? How lucky were we to be the guardians of such amazing and special creatures? How lucky were we that they allowed us to love them with such depth and passion? Through all the sadness, grief, loss, my wish to you is that you can really tap into being grateful that you got to spend a length of time, long or short, in the presence of such amazing, unconditional love. 

With so much love,

Alex

Pet Urns: My Creation Process

Angel Wing Pet Urn

I am writing this post in an attempt to show you what all goes into the process of creating your custom pet urn. There are many steps in the process, so I may be accidentally leaving a few out. Forgive me.

Pet Urn Custom Sketch

The first step is starting a conversation. If you know what urn design and size you want to purchase, this step just requires letting me know what text you would like. If you want me to create a custom urn for you, then I will ask you some questions, or you can send me an email with some ideas, and we can take it from there. It is up to you if you would like me to send you a sketch, or let me just create with the elements you ask for. Once this step is done, I can get started creating something special for you.

Sculpting Fur

I use a combined process of sculpting clay, fabrication, and electroforming. The very fist step is to pull all the elements together. I start by sculpting in the feet, tail, ears, wings, and/or any other elements we have decided on. Because of drying times, I usually sculpt each element at a time, and then give it 24 hours to dry, so this takes from a few days to a week. After everything has hardened, I can go back in and carve out more details, or smooth out whatever needs smoothing out.

Clay Work On Urn

Once I am happy with how everything looks, I can start prepping your urn for the ‘bath’. I start by sealing everything that I want to protect. For example if you are adding in crystals or stones, I seal them with up to 4 layers to protect them from the copper. If I am adding some organic elements such as branches or flowers, I have to make sure everything is perfectly sealed, as any exposed opening can destroy the piece.

Urn Prepped for Bath

Next comes the conductive paint! This part is fun, as it starts to give me an idea of what the final urn will really look like. I cover everything that I want to be copper in this paint, so when I put it in the bath, the copper “knows” where to go. I usually give it three coats to make sure I get a good connection.

After I fill the urn with water (so it doesn’t float!), plug the opening, repaint where needed, and let it all dry, your pet urn will be ready to go into the bath!

It is an electric process that allows me to ‘grow’ the copper over the urn form. Once it is in the bath, I check on it and make amperage adjustments every 4-6 hours. Sometimes I have to recoat areas if they are not forming, or sand down areas that are over forming. Depending on the size of the urn, it can be in the bath with me checking on it every few hours for 4-7 days(!). This is the most important part of the creation process for reasons that are too numerous and boring to list for you.

Post Bath Pet Urn

Done! From the bath at least. Once the urn is ready to come out, I neutralize it, and let it soak for a day or two in clear water. Then it is ready for the patina.

First Patina on Urn

The patina-ing is a part that always makes me nervous, as if you leave it in too long, it can go black. Wonderful if I am creating an urn for a black pet, but its still a bit nerve wracking. Again, after I get the patina to how I want it, I neutralize and put it in clear water for a day or so.

Polishing Urn Highlights

Finally, I get to go back in and hand polish areas to bring out the copper highlights. I love doing this part, as I love seeing the copper color coming back out. I have an endless amount of sanding items that I use to get the results I want.

Twin Cat Urns

What is next? Well, I am almost done! I go back in and do some final lowlights and highlights, take a photo and send it to you for confirmation. Once I receive your confirmation, I give the urn 3 clear coats, and let it fully cure. It is now ready to go home to you!

The final step is packaging it up safely, saying goodby, and taking it to the post office to send it on its way. Its actually always (even after 20 years) emotional for me. One, I am nervous, two, I am excited for you to get it, and 3, I take the time to remember how honored I am to be creating this and the loss that led to it having to be created in the first place.

I hope this gives you at least some idea of what it takes to create your urn. If you purchased a painted or bling urn, there are quite a few more steps, and this is just the starting point. Each urn is hand crafted from start to finish by me. Its a long process, 12-20 hours for each urn, but I love the results.

Be well and wonderful,

🌿❤️🌿 Alex

Pet Loss: 10 Ways to Survive Christmas and the Holidays without your pet.

Pet Loss and the Holidays

Christmas carols, laughter, wrapping presents, gatherings of friends and family, sneaking extra treats (healthy!) for your dog or cat. Pulling out their Christmas stockings and hanging them with the rests of the family’s. All this what makes Christmas wonderful. If you are right there with them. But, if you have lost your pet recently (or a while ago, its ok, healing can take some time) you might feel like an outsider. A smile may be on your face, but there may be a sadness in your heart at the same time. A sort of duality where you are happy and grieving simultaneously. And it can feel weird, off, uncomfortable. That is ok. It is ok to feel both joy and sadness at the same time. Our pets are generally our constant companions, and we want them to be part of the celebration of the season.

But sometimes we don’t get too. Sometimes grief is going to have to replace that joy. We don’t get to choose when, how and why. And that can be devastating. Right when everyone is joyfully getting excited about gathering and celebrations. How awful. But it is the way things happen sometimes. I’m here to tell you that you can do this! You can survive the holiday season with that hole in your heart, I promise. Here is a list of 10 things which will help you get through this season, even joyfully.Be Honest. First and foremost, please don’t swallow your grief. Its ok to let people that you are in mourning. They will understand, they have all been there. Grief doesn’t work on a perfect timeline and we all know this. You don’t need to push it away for nowFind a Support Person. Or two. Or three. Find those people who understand what it is like to lose your dog or cat and allow them to give you that safe space when you need it.

1. Be Honest. First and foremost, please don’t swallow your grief. Its ok to let people that you are in mourning. They will understand, they have all been there. Grief doesn’t work on a perfect timeline and we all know this. You don’t need to push it away for now.

2. Find a Support Person. Or two. Or three. Find those people who understand what it is like to lose your dog or cat and allow them to give you that safe space when you need it.

3. Don’t belittle your loss. “Its just a dog, I should buck up!” “Its just a cat, I shouldn’t be so weak!” Not true! If you stop to think about it, a pet is sometimes with us even more than a spouse or child. When you are home, they were always somewhere in your peripheral vision. That is more of a constant than a family member if you think about it.

4. Create a holiday pet memorial. Don’t feel you can’t have the heart and spirit of your pet with you during the holidays. You can create a simple holiday memorial with a photo, candle, and some holiday ornaments. Place it above the stockings on the mantle. You will be able to see them and feel they are part of the celebration in spirit. Seeing a photo may very well bring up loss and sadness, but there will be moments where, as the night goes by, you will glance over at the photo and you will feel that love. And that will be a special moment you feel deep in your heart.

5. Take time for yourself! Oh, this is important! The constant music, conversation, joy will be too much at times. Plan some quiet time for yourself. Even if you need to just leave the dinner table and sit quietly in a back room, away from company and family.

6. Be gentle with yourself. Loss is hard. We tend to overdo during the holidays. All that rushing, so many presents to wrap, it can overwhelm. You just lost a beloved member of your family, it’s ok if you can’t do and be everything for everyone. Again, be ok with asking for help, spreading the responsibilites so that you have some time to regroup and get your balance back. The holidays are for you to enjoy as well, not just to make sure other people are happy.

7. Ask your children for input. They can be brilliant and insightful in times like these. They are mourning as well, and coming together to talk about what happened can be very helpful. Maybe have them paint an ornament with your dog or cat’s image or name. You can all hang it on the tree together.

8. Pay it forward. I have to mute the television whenever that heartbreaking commercial comes on, the one with the dogs out in the cold. I cry even as I write this. But its true. And how heartwarming and healing would it be to help? If you are not ready to donate your pet’s items, maybe just donate some money in your cat or dog’s name? Maybe take the family to give some love to the pets in the pound? Helping an animal in need can give your heart a place to go. It is very healing.

9. Write. And keep writing. A journal is a great place to let it all out. Just let it pour. If you don’t have a journal, it doesn’t matter. Any piece of paper will do. It is all about getting it all out. All your thoughts, grief, sadness. You can even write a thank you letter to your pet. How to write a poem for your pet.

10. Just say no. Boundaries are out friend. If you are overwhelmed, don’t feel up to it, or just don’t want to do something. It. Is. Ok. “No” is one of the healthiest gifts you can give yourself. You have my permission to use it freely.

We all grieve in our own way. There is no right or wrong. The loss of a pet is actually a big deal. If you have recent loss, I am so very sorry. Each and every pet is the most wonderful and best boy or girl. They bring us humor, company, love, protection. Just because it is the holidays, we still need to grieve our loss. However you need to mourn the loss of your cat, dog, horse, bird, goldfish is the right way.

Again, I am so very sorry you are going through this. I wish you strength, love, and hopefully some moments of joy this holiday season,

Alex ❤️

It’s Been Awhile…The Return of Custom Pet Urns

Painted Puppy Pet Urn

Wow. It has been a while since I’ve blogged here. As many of you know, I retired from creating pet urns about a year and a half ago. And about a half a year ago I could no longer not create urns for you. I had so many requests, and I felt such guilt over not being able to create them. How could I create a beautiful urn for Spot, and then not create another for Ginger once the time came? And I missed it. Animals are my world, and I know they are for so many of you as well.

So here I am, creating urns and memorials once again. And I am so excited to be here. How did this happen? Well, honestly, I stopped creating urns because the process was starting to affect me physically. Welding uses so many toxic elements. And the day after I would find breathing difficult. And yet, there was someone waiting on an urn, and I couldn’t disappoint them. So I powered through it. Finally, I had to make my health a priority. So I let it go. I transitioned into creating jewelry . I started to fall in love with a copper process called electroforming. One day I am driving to my shop and the thought just pops into my head: why don’t I make copper urns using the magical process that I was using for my jewelry? So I experimented with creating small, keepsake pet urns. Both for dogs and cats. And they were darling. And I fell in love. And all the wonderful feelings about creating urns came back. I could create a memorial urn without the health dangers. How fabulous. It just feels magical!

So here I am, back with you. I am here to support you in your grief and loss. I am honored to be in this place again. And there is a shift. There is a newfound peace and focus to the urns I’m making now. It is so much more hands on. I really feel as if I am handcrafting them, as I no longer have to touch the urns through thick, heavy gloves. Rather, my hands are right in the clay, sculpting with love and honor.

I am blessed and humbled, actually.

With love,

Alex