In our western culture, ceremonies and rituals that memorialize those who have died are a way for us to process the loss of those we love. The same can be true for a memorial service for your treasured animal friends. If you’re a Christian, there may be many within your faith community who do not see the sense in having a funeral for a pet - including the spiritual leaders within your church. If you find yourself in such a situation, you may feel lost in how to properly say goodby to your pet.
We’ll help you formalize your pet’s final resting place in ways that reflect your values – whether you’ll be burying your bird in the backyard or cremating your rabbit and holding the ashes. This DIY guide to pet funeral planning will provide the outline you need to write your own memorial service plan.
Include These Pet Funeral Elements Based on Christian Values
Planning a meaningful Christian memorial service for your pet will likely involve thinking through many of the same elements that are used for a human funeral. That said, there are several special considerations given who will be memorialized. The following are some things to consider as you develop your service plan:
No Christian funeral service is complete without some Bible verses. But which ones do you choose? This can be confusing - especially if you don't have a degree in theology and aren't sure which passages are appropriate. That's why I recommend that you select favourite Scripture readings that do one of the following:
- Bring comfort to you and others who are mourning
- Remind you of God’s love and His care for all creatures on earth - including animals
- Paint a picture of hope for eternity
You can do a quick search online to quickly find verses that fit these criteria and then from there put together your funeral plan with appropriate choices.
Offering prayers of comfort for the mourners and blessings on the deceased are used as part of funerals as ways to express feelings of grief and need for support. Normally these are given by the pastor or priest who has experience in officiating funerals. But since most pet memorials are not presided over by a spiritual guide, this will most likely be left to you - your pet’s human companion. To further complicate matters, the special nature of pet memorials may make it difficult for you to know how to pray - what words to use.
So what you need to decide first is whether prayers will be given spontaneously, as is the custom in many protestant and evangelical traditions, or scripted ahead of time, as is common in more orthodox traditionals. If you are comfortable with the less formal style of prayer, than very little planning will be necessary. Perhaps you could jot down some bullet points of what you may wish to cover in your prayer - otherwise you can leave yourself open to be guided by the Spirit as you pray.
But for a variety of reasons, you may not be comfortable ad-libbing prayers, especially if you are the one mourning or if you don't have experience in conducting memorials. In this case, it will likely be prudent to gather some pre-set prayers to aid in guiding you through the process. Do a search online to see what's available for pets or pre-write your prayers to ensure you touch on all of the most important aspects of your supplecation.
Tell Stories of Your Pet
Telling the story of your dog’s life or relaying some of your favourite memories of time with your cat can be incredibly therapeutic. However, those in the midst of pet loss and grief may find few audiences with whom to share their sadness and fewer who have the time to listen to stories. Your pet’s memorial service may be your best chance for doing so. Take advantage of the opportunity to share with those who support and love you. Take the time to talk about the impact your beloved animal companion had on your life and how you will remember him or her. Even better, ask those who attend your pet funeral to prepare some memories or remarks of their own. This will add additional memories to your bank of mental treasures and will help you feel supported by those who share the event with you.
Share Photos and Videos
As with storytelling, your pet’s funeral is a perfect time to use visuals like photos and videos to revisit some of the best times you had with your animal friend. Whether you’ve prepared a memorial pet video, created a photo album of your animal companion, or just have some printed pictures you can pass around, having images can make it easier to talk about what you loved most about your fur baby. Again, ask your friends and family to submit some of their own to add to your collection and aid in memory sharing.
Candles and Incense
Adding candles to your pet funeral can be a nice way to set the tone and indicate a spiritual approach to your memorial activities. If your religious tradition makes use of incense during ceremonies like funerals, feel free to incorporate this element into your service as well.
A Closing Goodbye
Close your pet memorial with words of goodbye for your beloved animal friend. This may take the form of a eulogy or some simple words of letting go. Allow this to be a time to say the things you long for your pet to know now that he or she is absent for your life.
No matter which elements you choose to include in your memorial service, remember that this is primarily for you and those who loved your animal companion the most. Make it as personalized to your emotional and spiritual needs as you wish. I recommend planning your pet funeral ahead of time in order to be as intentional and prepared as possible (and perhaps save a bit of money if that's a concern).
If DIYing our way through a pet memorial service isn't something you're comfortable with, I've put together a downloadable pet funeral service plan you can use. It will simplify the process, which may be especially useful if you just don't have the emotional energy to do the work yourself.
Regardless of how you choose to memorialize your pet, I wish blessings upon you as you lay him or her to rest.