Sunday was National Pet Memorial Day. I’m sure many of you reading this have special cats who are no longer with us. How would you choose to memorialize your cat? A memorial doesn’t have to be formal or take a lot of work or time. It just takes awareness. The special relationship you had with your cat can shape what a memorial ends up looking like or being.
Your talents or predispositions can shape a memorial, too. I’ll give you some ideas about how to think outside of the box regarding memorials for your cat. You may even come up with some really cool ideas of your own.
We live in a world that wants to rush things, and that includes the grieving process. Creating a memorial to your cat, even if simple, can honor her memory and her life. And a memorial can help us with our healing.
According to Karen Warren-Severson, a mental health counselor, life coach, and author who is particularly interested in grief support, the loss of a pet and the subsequent grief is not always appreciated in our society. We live in a “hurry-up society which only allows us three bereavement days for human loss,” she says. “We can feel the impatience of others and this can complicate our grief process.”
I think it takes a strong person to honor our own grieving process, no matter the time or the shape it takes. Consciously honoring your cat with a memorial can help with the healing process and help us move through grief.
Here are some ways you might memorialize your cat:
If words move you, write your cat a love letter. I did this for my sweet Kali, a tender and fierce little three-legged cat who I was honored to have in my life for 15 years. To my amazement, many Catster commenters responded with love letters of their own, honoring their own cats. I think it is an effective process for a lot of people.
This is quite powerful as well, and you can do it alone, or in front of others, depending on your comfort level. This is probably similar to the memorial speeches people give at funerals, but it can take whatever shape serves you. There is some real power in speaking your words, honor, and love for a cat out loud. I did this, with no planning, for a wonderful cat of mine who I was grieving. I spoke the story of his life out loud, and told him how much I loved him and appreciated him. I was alone, and have no idea how long I talked for. But it was healing, and it was something I needed to do.
Did your cat move in a certain way that was unique to him? Did he have certain mannerisms? Some of us are really body people, and moving like your cat might really be a way to honor him and help you feel that you’ve connected with his memory in a strong way.
I came upon this very effective experience accidentally. I had just lost Target, a beautiful black cat, and was grieving. I happened to be describing to a massage therapist the particular way that Target would lay on my husband’s chest — paws and legs straight forward, head up and proud, as if he owned my husband and was so happy to be there. “You can do that,” said the massage therapist. “Move like your cat.” And I did, and it felt so good. I was there with Target again, even though he was gone. Embodying something really works well for some of us.
Plant a tree, a flower, or something beautiful that reminds you of your cat. If your cat loved butterflies, or reminded you of a delicate butterfly, create or hang something that reminds you of that. If your cat liked a particular place in a garden, plant something that reminds of you of that nice memory.
I love to do this, and I continue to remember and memorialize my cats this way. I don’t take photos of much else, but I have scads of photos of all my cats. Sometimes I will pull out my fat photo album, and page through slowly, letting the happy memories come back to me and thanking these cats for their time with me.
If you like ritual, you can design something as simple as lighting a candle in memory of your cat, or reading a poem, or some sort of actions that comprises a ceremony that honors your cat. It can be simple or complex, changing or unchanging, and repeated or one time.
This is one of the best ways to honor the memory of your cat. Simply take time to remember. If there’s an object that helps you do this, use the object. It doesn’t matter if the association doesn’t make any sense — it does to you. Every time I see the saying “it’s all good” or “life is good,” for some reason it reminds me of a special orange tom in my past. That’s enough for me.
These ideas may or may not create closure, but I don’t think that’s always the aim of this. We all move through the grieving process differently. Some get to closure a lot faster than others, and closure looks different for many of us. I think a memorial is about honoring your cat, wherever you are in the grieving process.
I think there are probably hundreds of ways to memorialize your cat that I’ve not even touched upon. This is a huge topic with lots of potential for creativity. So tell us: How have you memorialize your cat? Did you find these memorials effective or moving? Tell us your experiences in the comments.
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About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of The Great Purr (cat fantasy novel out June 1), the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.