Holding Farewell Rituals for Deceased Pets – Spirit and Love
The loss of a pet is a deep one. Burial rituals and finding personal ways to love, honour and remember can help with the grief.
I’ve dealt with a lot of grief in my life, but it is heart-wrenchingly painful to say goodbye to a beloved friend who’s relied on you so much for protection.
When I had no other choice than to say goodbye to my sweet little cat Peach after he got sick, I felt completely hopeless. I felt wracked with guilt for failing to protect him. I tried to assure myself that he knew how much I loved him and how heartbroken I was to lose him, but the negative thoughts in my mind wouldn’t be calmed.
In memory of Peach
On returning to my quiet apartment, I couldn’t bring myself to put his things away. Maybe keeping his bed, his food dishes, and his litter box out in the open made no pragmatic sense, because I wasn’t planning on replacing him anytime soon, but I couldn’t find the strength to hide his things from view. Nor was my inaction solely a question of strength, of energy. After burying him in my girlfriend’s backyard with flowers, I figured his spirit might still be running around at my heels, and would want to come back to his things where he’d left them. I left his things where he could find them. And, to me, that makes perfect sense.
People deal with grief and loss in a lot of different ways. I found that giving free reign to my personal sense of spirit really helped with the loss of Peach. I cried and mourned, yet felt able to maintain an emotional connection to my cat the entire time, which helped to soften the blow. As I’ve seen in my own life, the same applies to many different situations.
Burial Rituals and Saying Proper Goodbyes
Peach was a rescue from a shelter. I’d been told he’d lived in deplorable conditions as the victim of a hoarder. Because of this, I think living in my smaller apartment put his nerves on edge, as occasionally he would dart for the door without warning – only to faceplant into my leg as I reactively tried to stop him. As a compromise, I would leash him on the balcony, and sit with a book while he rolled around in the dirt on the ground.
For some, it might be an important part of saying goodbye to take great care over the choosing of a coffin, and considering what might be laid inside it to honour the pet with the love and respect they deserve.
When Peach passed away, the last thing I wanted to do was bury him in a coffin, another cage that’d confine him. Instead I opted for an open burial, where the earth alone would keep him protected. As the mother to a rescue, I felt like it was my obligation to ensure that, even after passing, he’d have an ideal spirit life — even if that ideal life meant eating all my girlfriend’s garden plants.
Feeling a Ritual’s Power and Receiving Signs
We buried Peach in the orchard of my girlfriend’s backyard. We chose a spot in the corner of the plot beneath a peach tree, with equally peach-coloured daisies and white peonies, where he could snooze in the shade or chase birds who’d come to eat blueberries off the nearby bushes. It rained the moment we patted down the last bit of earth. I saw it as a sign he was pretty satisfied with it all.
I think many people — witches, pagans, or otherwise — find ways seek out their own closure in similarly traumatic events. For me, burying my small furry son was the first step to finding that closure. To others, maybe it’s cremation. Maybe it’s never seeing the deceased at all, and instead focusing on appeasing their spirit rather than their body.
When it comes to grief, and dealing with grief, I wholeheartedly believe that rituals and objects receive the power you give them. There’s no singular “perfect” way you’re supposed to wish farewell, or to honour and remain in contact.
Appeasing the Spirit
Upon returning home, I found myself still calling out hello to Peaches every day after work. Walking inside, I’d expect to hear the bell of his collar jingling as he rocketed off the bed and pancaked into my shins in excitement. I wish I could’ve spent more time alone with him, but I did whatever I could to make up for it the second I got home. Whether it was the toys spread out across the living room floor, our controlled excursions onto the balcony, or the bag of treats he chirped at the sound of, I always fought to make sure he was safe and healthy in my little living space.
Charms and Personal Items
After saying goodbye – and before finding the courage to put his things away – I made sure that, should he ever follow me back home again, his spirit would be welcome and safe. I already had a number of homemade protective charms in my apartment, ranging from pentagram wreaths to a hand-painted Sator Square by the front door and a welcome array of incense ranging from gardenia to rose. Of all the negative spirits that reside in an apartment complex, I sure as hell wasn’t about to let any of them get in the way of my cat’s spirit coming back home for a visit and a snooze in his bed.
On top of creating a safe spiritual environment for him to return to (as well as any other lost spirits who might need a pit stop), I found comfort in seeing reminders of him around my place. I kept his toys out, as well as everything else I’d done around my place to make sure he was content while I was away. The thought of hiding all his things away only filled me with more guilt, and I was afraid he might think I was getting over his loss too soon if he returned to find all his things gone.
Pet Shrines and Altars
I built an altar to perpetually honour Peaches and his presence. There may be others who feel the same way as I do – that a perpetual shrine or altar is a meaningful way to mourn a loss but also honour a life.
Using a small glass bowl, I first poured in a number of obsidian Apache Tears, known for their ability to absorb grief and reverberate healing.
With the obsidian in the bowl, my next step was grounded in my own personal beliefs, rather than standard guidance — I filled the bowl with water. I didn’t do this only to keep the obsidian safe from negative energies. I’m a big believer in water having a magnifying effect on energies and I needed the obsidian’s vibrations to travel all the way to my girlfriend’s orchard where Peach was resting. After filling the bowl with the water, I wrapped Peaches’ old collar around the upper lip of the bowl, and there it was. His own altar.
While I’ll have to change the water regularly to make sure no negative energies cling to it like moss, just seeing the small bowl of water and obsidian helped immensely in healing my grief, and allowed me the means of offering the same to my dear Peach.
Pet burial rituals, saying your farewells and maintaining a spiritual connection are deeply personal ways to honour a cherished life.
Grief is an incredibly personal thing. There are useful steps that can be taken, rituals to be performed, and altars to be built to help ease the pain of the loss. Overall, however, a person’s healing process relies on their own personal practices and beliefs.
For me, it was keeping reminders of my pet around for as long as I needed, until I felt both his spirit, and my grief, put to rest. I still keep his altar in view, but I no longer need his bed and food dish around my place now that I’m comfortable knowing he’s happy where he is.
For others, perhaps removing all visual reminders may be the safest and healthiest way to deal with their emotions. As it is with religious worship, private rituals and ceremonies should be the same — private.
No matter what other sources say, if they claim keeping obsidian in water is harmful, if someone tells you that removing all reminders of your loss is disrespectful — it is not their business. They are not the ones dealing with grief in ways they feel are most effective.
You know yourself, your lost love one, and your own personal connections to the earth and the spirit realm better than anyone else. Because of that, it’s so important that you do what you need to do, rather than only what you’re told is “correct.”
Leave food out for a lost pet. Create an altar for a lost relationship. Construct something that’ll give you positive vibrations as you chase your dreams. One of the biggest things about witchcraft, paganism, the occult, holistic medicine, whatever you choose to follow, is that objects receive the power you give them. After all, that’s the point behind personal spiritualism, isn’t it? Using your own energy to make a way in the world?
Sure, some methods might be more “proper” than others, but the most important thing to remember in constructing your own connection to the world is that it’s about doing what you need and what you view as appropriate.
Tagged in: bereavement