Handling the Loss of a Pet

They’ve given us their unconditional love and loyalty, smothered us with kisses, comforted us, kept watch over our homes, made us laugh, motivated us to stay active and brought out our playful side. They are our pets and members of our families. We love them and after they’re gone, we love them still.

The professionals at Stuhr Funeral Home understand that losing a pet delivers some of life’s hardest moments and creates a final separation that few people are prepared for. “Whether the death is sudden, expected over a period of time or by the kindness of euthanasia, the sorrow is urgent and deep,” says Brian Calhoun, funeral director with Stuhr Funeral Home. “Passing through the stages of grief, similar to those expected with a human loss, is painful for everyone involved, even for other pets in the household.”

Stuhr Funeral Home partners with Pet Rest Cemetery and Cremation Services of Charleston to work with pet owners who have lost a pet. “Pets don’t live as long as we would like them to; likely not more than fifteen years or so,” says Diane Rozier, owner of Pet Rest. “Most pet owners will have to go through the loss of a pet.”

Upon the death of a pet, decisions and adjustments must be made but it is extremely important for the pet owner to allow themselves to grieve. “Sometimes people have a hard time figuring out how to let go of what they’re missing from that pet’s love and companionship,” says Elizabeth Driesen, a licensed counselor who leads a free pet loss support group which meets monthly at the Pet Rest offices on Red Bank Road. “They often don’t have a good outlet for all that extra love they put into that pet.”

Driesen’s message to them: it’s okay to mourn and to mourn at their own pace. Friends and family sometimes want to hurry the process along but the time needed is a very individual matter and no one should feel guilty if they are still mourning. “On the other side, there needs to be balance and if a pet owner feels that it is taking too long, they should look for help so the mourning won’t lead to significant depression.” Driesen encourages pet owners to reach out to a support group, a counselor, their church or connect to grief helplines that can be found online. Talking with other people who have gone through this kind of loss can be healing.

Many pet owners want to honor the life and times of their pet and find comfort in acknowledgements, services or displays of memorabilia such as photographs. Donating to shelters in memoriam is another way to focus on the joy associated with a pet’s past life. For younger family members, making or drawing something with the pet in mind or reading children’s books on the subject can be helpful.

When a pet dies, pet owners have the options of burial, cremation, and saving or scattering the ashes. Given our mobile society, fewer people are opting for burial. Stuhr Funeral Home can assist those wishing to have their pet buried in finding the best options for laying their pet to rest. Both caskets and urns can be buried. A call to Stuhr Funeral Home can direct pet owners to a pet cemetery that is respectfully maintained and allows for visitation. Cremation has become increasingly common and many people choose to save their pet’s remains. Urns, appropriate boxes, some types of jewelry and key chains can all hold ashes. This option allows the pet owner to keep the pet’s remains with them even as they move to another location. Often pet owners will want to scatter a pet’s ashes in a place that was special to their relationship. The beach, mountains, rivers or anyplace where time was spent and enjoyed make desirable spots.

Another pet may or may not be in a person’s future. There is no right or wrong answer to this question but perspectives may change with time. A stray at the door or a day volunteering at a shelter could likely be the beginning of a new relationship for an animal lover.

Pet owners in need of a consult, information and services related to the loss of a pet can learn more by visiting: https://jhenrystuhr.com/pet-rest-cremation/.

Stuhr Funeral Home, a trusted name in funeral service for more than 150 years, cares for families of those whose lives have ended. Their team is committed to providing quality arrangements to honor loved ones and family traditions, whether it’s at one of their five locations or another Charleston spot. For more information about available funeral services, visit JHenryStuhr.com or call (843) 723-2524.