Tia and Spartacus were both aging. We'd been to dozens of vet appointments to address their physical needs, but they were slowing down and we knew it wouldn't be long until we lost them. I could see the pain and sadness coming and I wanted to be prepared. And so I collected some fur from each of them, safeguarded a bunch that I could cuddle and feel later with this touchable memorial keepsake, and then permanently preserved some of their fur in more durable pet keepsakes like this hidden treasures design. I knew that the moment each of them passed away, I would want something to hold on to - an anchor that I could reach for whenever I felt shaky or overcome by sadness.
If you've faced the same kind of terror thinking about how you're going to make it through the most difficult days following your pet's passing, then a transitional or comfort object may be just the thing you're looking for. I'm going to walk you through why these types of items are important for healing from pet grief, but also give you loads of ideas you can use to create pet loss mementos you, too, can grab when you're missing them the most.
Why are comfort objects useful for coping with pet grief?
First, let's talk about why it's a good idea to incorporate a transitional object into your pet grief self-care plan. Here are the most important:
- Give you an anchor to hold on to: While you're grieving, it can often feel like the world is a terrifying and hostile place that doesn't understand you. At best it may be indifferent to your pain; at worst it may be filled with people who don't understand pet loss and say the most unkind things. Having something physical on hand that reminds you of your sweet kitty or your so-loyal pup gives you an anchor in the storm and may help feel more steady during some of the worst torrents that come.
- Build a bridge from the past to the present: I know that when I was facing the imminent deaths of Tia and Spartacus, I wanted to find any way to connect the time when they were living to the time that followed. The continuity and connection that thread provided between one phase of my life to the present has been so meaningful for me. My transitional objects have given me a sense that, just by looking at them or touching them, I am not really separated from my beloved cats, not really.
- Validate the importance of your pet parenthood: Your relationship with your pet was real and important to you - no matter what others say, your pet loss is a real thing that likely will have a big impact on your life. Having a transitional object following the loss of an animal companion can be one way that you legitimize the importance of the role you played in his or her life. In fact, studies have shown that transitional objects used to help parents who grieve following a miscarriage have been enormously useful. So don't be afraid to carry or wear your objects proudly. They're a badge of honour and a validation of your pet relationship.
These are just some of the most important roles transition objects play in the grieving process. They may be even more necessary for seniors and children who deal with their pet grief in special and profound ways. Psychologists call attachment to familiar or special objects "transitional relationships" and encourage them, especially in children who are coping with pet loss.
Regardless of your age, a transitional object may be just the temporary thing you need to have around while you process your pain. Once you're feeling like you've weathered the worst of the storm and life has returned to a new normal, these transitional objects can be put away in a safe place. They are, after all, transitional.
How to select the right pet loss transition object for you
The type of comfort object you select will depend on what your days generally bring to you. Are you out and about and need something you can carry? Do you work from home where a stationary transitional object would work well? Do you want something you can have on your person at all times or just when you feel you need it most? Regardless of your personal preferences, I hope this list of inspirational comfort object ideas will help you find something just right for you.
- A beautifully framed pet portrait
- A photo storybook of your pet's life
- A list (digital or hard copy) of all of your favourite memories (free printable!)
- A pet memorial video that you use as a screensaver on your computer
- A necklace or keychain that that preserves a portrait or your pet's fur
- A piece of your pet's favourite blanket tucked into a locket
- A favourite toy that's small enough to carry in your purse or briefcase
- A playlist of the songs that remind you of your pet
- An impression of your pet's paw prints
- A vial, ring, or locket filled with some of your pet's cremains
- An engraved keychain or pendant with your pet's name and important dates
I know for me, having comfort objects - many of them in my case - has been central to me not losing my mind during my pet loss journey. May these ideas - and the transition objects you create with them - bring you peace, too. I'd love to hear what you take with you. Send along your ideas so I can share them with others.