The Secret After Life of Pets

While the world spins in its chaotic dance, pets remain the steadfast stars in our earthly existence, teaching us the timeless art of unconditional love and unwavering companionship. Throughout history, animals have been indispensable companions in the human journey. They’ve stood by our side through hunting, farming, and even as trusted messengers to deliver information of great importance. Across cultures, they’ve been worshiped as symbols, enriching our lives with their presence and reminding us of the enduring emotional bond between humans and animals.

With all this said, why is it in a professional setting, at a time of loss when you are feeling vulnerable, helpless, and empty you are slid a sterile laminated piece of paper and rushed to choose a disposition option? You have option A: Direct cremation. B: Cremation with a paw print or C: The whole shebang at a price that seems to stretch the wallet more than the brain has the capacity to process and at the same time there is no price too high. 

According to the Grief Recovery Method Institute, grief is “the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.” This definition highlights the weight of grief we experience when we lose a pet. Our animals ARE our familiar pattern of behavior. Each day we know they will be our companions, we feed them in the same dish, we hear their little sounds, their comforting smells, and we receive their never-ending affection. Animals play on all of our senses.

We rely on their presence until one day they are gone and the dramatic loss of familiar behavior patterns heightens our grief. Our cultural norms are to replace the loss or “get over it”, as opposed to processing our pain. However, there are options to make their transition more holistic, ceremonial, and personal. 

In recent years, pet cremation has become an increasingly common and widely accepted practice among pet owners. As more people recognize the profound bond they share with their animal companions, the desire to memorialize and honor these beloved pets has grown.

Pet cremation offers a way to say farewell, allowing individuals to keep a tangible reminder of their furry, feathered, or scaled friends in the form of ashes or memorial items. Vets will now provide specialized services, including urn options, paw prints, and even online platforms for pet owners to share memories. However, other options are not as mainstream and just as meaningful. 

Pet cemeteries offer unique resting places that cater exclusively to our cherished companions, they reserve a dedicated space fostering a sense of communal empathy among those who share the grief of pet loss. Highlighting rows of gravestones and memorial markers, these serene sanctuaries provide a tangible space for pet owners to honor the enduring love and companionship their animals brought into their lives.

Quite often the landscape of the cemetery on a lovely weekend morning will be alive with flowers, balloons, picnics and photos in abundance. The grounds are personalized with decorations, sometimes surpassing those of human cemeteries. 

Most folks would assume those are the only two options in Tacoma. There is another option called Aquamation, also known as alkaline hydrolysis. This is an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional cremation for the disposition of human or pet remains. During the process, the body is placed in a chamber filled with a water-based solution of alkali, typically potassium hydroxide, then subjected to heat and pressure.

This process accelerates the natural decomposition of the body, breaking it down into its basic chemical components, leaving bone to be dried and cremulated into “ashes.” An amazing local company called Resting Waters, offers many packages that include more than just the Aquamation process. They provide transportation, memorials, hair clippings, and more. Their approach is a gentle, peaceful, and affordable alternative to cremation or burial.

Natural Organic Reduction, also known as Terramation, is an option that has just been made available to the public in Washington State and services the Pierce County area as of December 2023. TerraPets Terramation service gently and naturally transforms your pet into compost or soil which can then be used to nurture a beautiful tree or plant of your choosing. Their packages offer a variety of loving options such as; fur clippings, paw prints, transportation, participation in the laying-in process, and plant keepsakes. 

Although the heartbreak of pet loss is often unavoidable, knowing the available disposition methods can ease the stress of decision-making when the time comes for your fur baby to cross the rainbow bridge. Be informed, be empowered, and above all else, give yourself grace and permission to grieve.

Nicole Steinberg is your local Death Doula and grief specialist. Learn more at

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