26 Apr 2018
Why You Should Cherish (and Record!) Every Tiny Pet Memory

Why You Should Cherish (and Record!) Every Tiny Pet Memory

Memories of your lost pet can be like broken glass. On the one hand, they offer beautiful thoughts of the one you loved, though perhaps fuzzy and sometimes incomplete, yet on the other hand, they can also cut and injure. The memories cut both ways and as a result, we often try to stuff them down or run away from them. But let me caution you - by avoiding your pet memories, you may actually be missing out on all the benefits of remembering.

There are numerous parables that speak of the mourner looking for relief from painful memories - think Ebenezer Scrooge and his memories or the past or Snow White and her memories of Prince Charming. The main character begs of a ghost or a fairy to take them away and make her mind blank. But she is cautioned that if the hard and difficult memories are removed, so too will the good ones be. What awaits after such a transformation is an emotionless, indifferent existence. Sure, it may be pain-free, but it's also devoid of all the things that bring - or brought - us happiness, compassion, and love.

I don't know about you, but that's not a way I want to live. So while I know all too well how difficult it can be to look into the face of grief, I choose to do so because I believe it also means I get to remember the brilliance and playfulness and silliness and sweetness of my beloved Spart and Tia. It pains me to see their pictures and contemplate the sadness it causes me to be without them, but it also reminds me of how much wonder and overwhelming joy they brought me. I never want to give those memories up.

What's great about taking the time to think about these memories is that, like that broken glass, as we dwell on them, we wear them smooth, and over time, they become less startingly jagged. They prick less. The slowly by slowly, they shift from sharp to comforting - like cherished family heirloom diamonds we would never let go.

And so, if you can, I encourage you to treat memories - both good and bad - as treasured pieces of glass that you want to preserve and protect. 

One of the most healing exercises I did following the deaths of my kitties was to write down 100 memories of each of them. It took time - I recorded only a few every day - but I found that each time I sat down to the task, I uncovered new treasures I'd hadn't thought of for years. It was like opening gifts I'd hidden away in the closet and forgotten all about. And now, when I'm worried I might forget, I can review my list and be delighted and comforted all over again. 

While it's also useful to create things like a memorial pet photobook or a slideshow of your pet's life, taking the time to record your top memories may be THE exercise you find most healing. I dunno. Try it out for yourself and let me know.

I leave you with one of the meditative phrases I've been using to think about my grief:

I hold on to the love and let go of the grief.

May it be a reminder to you, too, that remembering is one way for you to set in stone memories that honour your lost friend. Think of them as a permanent diamond pet memorial in your heart.