Memorial Walk to Honor Your Pet’s Memory

A few months ago, during the coldest, gloomiest days of winter, someone had mentioned to me the idea of taking a memorial walk to remember and celebrate the life of a pet you’ve said goodbye to. The idea has been in the back of my mind for months, and now that the sun is out in full force and the flowers are blossoming, I thought it would be a good time to explore this idea.

One of the deeply heartbreaking aspects of pet loss is that there are very few outlets for us to express our grief and mourn our loss. There are no funerals, no public obituaries, rarely a grave to visit, and many people don’t have friends and family bringing casseroles over and helping with household chores. These activities and rituals typically exist when a human family member dies, but I don’t think we realize how helpful it all is until we experience a loss that lacks the same recognition. For many of us, the death of a pet is not a lesser heartbreak. There is that emptiness and loneliness that can only feel lighter with the help of time and shoulders to cry on, just like any other profound loss.

Because there aren’t the same types of traditions and rituals after pet loss, it can be helpful to come up with our own ways to memorialize and mourn. One idea to do this is to take a memorial walk – something that can include the whole family and can be especially meaningful for children.

So, what exactly is a memorial walk?

A memorial walk is a planned, intentional walk that you take to remember the life and memories of a pet who has passed away. You may want to choose a walking path that you took with your pet if you shared walks together, or you could plan to travel a path that is beautiful to you such as through a field, park or forest. Some things you could consider incorporating into your walk:

– Writing a letter to your pet and burying it somewhere along your walk

– Leaving small amounts of ashes at different points

– Bringing your family and taking turns reading a poem or memory each person wrote

– Leaving behind small objects that remind you of your pet, such as a treat, a well-worn toy, or a bell (remember to be mindful of the environment and your surroundings)

– Bringing a small bouquet of flowers and leaving a flower in different places throughout the walk

– Incorporating a meditative focus by paying special attention to how your body feels, what thoughts flow through your mind, and paying attention to your breathing pattern

The beauty of this ritual is that is can be whatever you’d like it to be. It can be public or private, individual or with the whole family, symbolic or meditative. In fact, sometimes the simple act of mindfully walking outdoors on a beautiful day can help you feel restored and more focused, which is important while you are healing after a loss. Even if your loss wasn’t recent, this may be a meaningful annual activity to honor your pet’s memory and the legacy they left in your heart.

Benefits of a memorial walk

There are many different ways people could benefit from a memorial walk, and each person will experience it differently. The act of intentionally setting aside time to reflect on your pet’s memory and the loss that you feel can be a powerful way to process your grief. So often, we feel pressured to “move on” or distract ourselves from the pain we’re feeling, but in reality, the best thing we can do for ourselves is lean into the pain and reflect on our experiences. A memorial walk can be a powerful way to bring awareness to our emotions, create a space for reflection and explore the benefits of a ritual.

If you have children or other family members, taking a memorial walk together is a wonderful way to set aside time for conversation. Allow your children to ask questions and recall memories. If your children were young when you got your pet, tell them the story of how they joined the family. Help them pick out objects or pictures to take on the walk. For kids, these tangible activities are a helpful way for them to process and express feelings that may be completely new and difficult to understand.

If you have another pet or a new pet, you may want to consider whether you’d like to include them on your walk, and if so, think about what meaningful ways you might do that. For some people, a memorial walk or other memorial rituals serve as a bridge that links the past and the present, the “what was” with the “what is”. If you have a new pet, you may have some feelings of guilt. Bringing them with you on your memorial walk might be a good place to start to explore those feelings and to remind yourself that you can love your new pet while continuing to cherish your relationship with your pet that you have said goodbye to.

Give it a try

I encourage you to consider trying a memorial walk; don’t be afraid to let your creativity come through and make it into whatever it is that you feel is most meaningful for you. There is never a one-size-fits-all way to remember a pet, but what is important is that you are able to create a space in your heart and in your life for your love and memories to live. No one’s grief has ever been healed by being pent up, ignored or forgotten. Sometimes I think we can be surprised by how freeing it feels to give our grief space to be acknowledged and felt, and finding a way to mourn our loss is a very important gift that we can give to ourselves.

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4 Responses to Memorial Walk to Honor Your Pet’s Memory

  1. Pingback: 9 Ways to Memorialize a Pet | MN Pets

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