How do you cope when your pet’s ashes have been lost? This is a question I have seen here and there since starting my blog. I personally haven’t had it happen to me, however felt it important to address because quite frankly, it happens. As a grieving pet owner with compassion and a heart, it’s something I wanted to address, especially since reading and listening to testimonies of other grieving pet parents. How do you deal with losing that sense of closure? What I can say is that my heart really goes out to those who have lost a pet and also having to deal with ashes going missing on top of everything else. So with this question in mind, “How do you cope when your pet’s ashes have been lost?”
After doing some research online and listening to other pet parents, here are a few suggestions that may help provide some ideas and support for those parents dealing with this awful predicament.
Dealing with the Negative Realities
- There will now be closure in a different way than you pictured in your mind.
The horrible reality about this situation is that you will never get that form of closure that you envisioned in your head. I can’t even imagine what I’d do. One thing is for sure, you could have everything planned out and yet life will still throw you a curveball. It’s heart-wrenching, shocking and enraging to think that the vet or crematorium could lose the remains of someone so precious to us. This leads me to my next point.
- Humans are imperfect and make mistakes.
There is not much else I can say except the fact of the matter is humans are flawed. I’d like to think our furballs are God’s angels on Earth with fur and are pretty perfect in my opinion. Humans…not so much. I have a running joke that I prefer animals over people. Seriously, I have shirts made too!
But I digress, the reality is that for whatever reason, there may be that rare occasion where someone messed up and either mixed ashes when they were not supposed to or misplaced and lost them.
What do Impurrfectlife readers and pet parents have to say?
I posed this very question in a Facebook post a while back and here are some of the responses from fellow pet owners and including comments from staff from a licensed crematorium. Take a look at the screen shots below.
Responses a few pet owners…
***You can view the original post thread from my public Facebook page below.***
So if this happens to you, what next?
Get down to business
- Talk to your vet or crematorium and get your money back.
Honestly, it’s the very least they should do in addition to apologize for their error. Is this really debatable? If a company promised to deliver a specific service you paid for and does not deliver, the least they can do is refund your money.
- Secondly, a nice added touch of professionalism would be for the vet or crematorium to offer to pay for a custom memorial piece.
This is not to say they will do such a thing, however, in my opinion going out of their way to make an effort to make good on their error would mean more to me in the long run.
- Don’t hesitate to ask them to keep looking for the ashes.
There are times when as luck would have it the ashes are not lost, just moved or misplaced and this was not communicated to the appropriate staff on duty. You don’t know how the staff is in the office and who is working in the back or how organized they are. So, you lose nothing by requesting they keep looking for your pets’ ashes anyway.
- Remember there are two types of cremation- Individual and group cremation.
I for one opted to have both my cats, Precious and Dusty cremated individually. Some people want their own pet’s ashes separate and other don’t mind having their pets remains cremated with a group of other deceased pets.
I wanted to point this out because in the event you are a pet parent that opted to have your pet’s remains cremated separately but discover the crematorium or vet mistakenly had your pet’s remains cremated in a group, you technically still have a portion of their remains. However, the difference is that those remains of your beloved are mixed with others. Some bereaved pet parents may actually opt to still take some small part of their loved ones than nothing at all.
When you finally leave the crematorium or the veterinarian’s office, there is the task of learning to live life in a brand new way and deal with the grief.
Learning to grieve differently
What do I mean? It’s one thing to grieve a death and another to grieve the loss without having closure. What would I do? What should I expect?
Understand you will experience all the stages of grief, especially anger. You can check out my prior blog post about the 5 Stages of grief here.
I’d also get online and visit pet parent forums with others that have been where you are. You can check out this Reddit post to see other thoughts from bereaved pet parents that have experienced this situation.
Get the proper support from friends, family and a professional therapist if needed. Here are 8 Resources for healing after pet loss you may want to explore.
Remember, you are allowed to get angry and find healthy ways to vent and let out your energy. Some ideas you may want to consider is kickboxing class, hiking, journaling or whatever helps you release the pent up energy in a constructive way.
When enough time has passed…
After some time has passed, you want to be able to have some sense of closure, so it’ll be up to you to create that for yourself in a brand new way.
Alternative ways to memorialize your pet
- Instead of ashes, consider your pet’s hair to keep.
(Think pet hair on your furniture anyone?) You know how some parents keep a loc of hair from their first born child in a baby book? Well who is to say you cannot keep some pet hair for yourself. There are companies out there that also make memorial jewelry which includes pet hair as part of the process. You carry a piece of them with you always.
- Plant a tree in their memory.
A second option to memorialize your pet is to plant a living tree in your yard. It’s a thoughtful way to not only help the environment but also a living representation of the fact that the love built over time is like roots of a tree. The bond runs deep and will keep growing, even after they are gone. Looking at the tree will be a nice reminder memorial planted in your pet’s honor.
- Thirdly, have a memorial service.
You don’t have to have the ashes or body remains present to hold a memorial service for your pet. Dedicate the service to remembering and honor your pet with an enlarged favorite photo and a keepsake box of their favorite items, such as their collar, toys and favorite blanket.
- For even more ways to memorialize your pet, check my previous blog posts below
Those are my tips on how to deal when you find your vet has lost your pet’s ashes. Again, I can’t say from experience but I can definitely empathize. I hope reading this post and also reading the comments from other pet parents helps validates your feelings and gives you ideas on how to honor your pet in a different way, despite not having their ashes.
Remember, our pet’s everlasting memory lies not in the ashes or the body but in the love, the memories shared and in our hearts. Although they aren’t with us in the physical, they are here in spirit, with their angel wings, always by our side. I think that’s why our hearts often feel so heavy…because the love for our furry family member never died it just grew deeper the day we said goodbye.
Have you ever had your pet’s ashes gone missing? What happened? How did you handle the situation? What other suggestions would you add? Share your thoughts below.