Honor Your Grief for a Departed Pet

Vern checking backyard scenery, Spring 2015
Vern checking backyard scenery, Spring 2015

How do we come to terms with losing a beloved pet?  The heartbreak is visceral, and the process of grieving takes time. Thankfully, there are some lovely, meaningful ways to memorialize our pets.

On my show The Bond I interviewed Julie Delsoldato, the creator of The Golden Bead in Vermont, about how having a keepsake with a memento of their pet helps many people grieve. Delsoldato uses artisanal lampwork techniques to create glass beads out of the cremated ashes or fur of a pet.

For me, she made a “sun catcher” with my old girl Jazzy’s fur, to hang in my window so that I can have some of her light with me forever.


One of my listeners, Becky, shared with me that she recently lost her 15-year-old lab mix, Vern. She’d adopted him when the dog was almost 10 years old, so she knew that their time was limited. Still she describes Vern as “a perfect match” for her family.  It is a testament to the glory of adopting a senior animal.  “When my husband, Ron, and I talked to him, he’d look us in the eyes,” she said. “He was so special.”

The effects of grief after the death of a pet cannot be underestimated, which is why I found myself writing about Jazzy.  Becky said, “Vern’s leaving us has been the hardest thing I’ve had to go through in a long, long time. I know you certainly understand. I may begin writing about him, and maybe that will help. Knowing that you understand and care…is helping me a lot, too.”

After Jazzy and Scooby Doo died, I got a beautiful stone grave marker from Orvis. Another suggestion is to make a donation in the pet’s name to your favorite shelter or other animal charity.  My own vets make such a donation in the name of the patients they help go peacefully over the Rainbow Bridge.  Above all, honor your bond and find a way to pay it forward.

—Tracie Hotchner
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grave marker (Scooby Doo & Jazzy, Together Again)