Each summer, my husband, Bill, and I host our grandchildren four and older to a week of fun and time together. We call it Kamp Kindness. We go special fun places and have camp-like activities – fires, crafts, swimming. And, we focus on being kind to each other.
This year, Bill made up a special “Kindness Wave.” A secret hand signal that let us appreciate each other’s kind acts. The kids had fun catching each other, and us, doing a kind thing and blessing us with the special signal.
Another element of the week this year was honoring the pets that our family had lost in the last year. Our daughter’s family lost their small dog, Samson, aka Bubba, who she’s had 15 years. Our son’s family lost both their beloved pets, their giant schnauzer, Stella and their little schnauzer, Lady.
As we said prayers each night of Kamp Kindness, the kids prayed that their dogs were having fun playing with each other in heaven. One night that touched me deeply, our young granddaughter prayed that the dogs were enjoying playing in heaven with our neighbor, Dorothy, who also recently died.
On the 4th day of Kamp Kindness, we had a pet cemetery ceremony. Grandpa built crosses with the names of the pets, and the kids each signed their name to the cross. Then, we carried them to the back of our yard, where two of the dogs are buried, and hammered the crosses to mark the graves. We each said something we liked about the pet, and the ceremony was over.
It felt good to have closure, to have a “proper” grave marker for their beloved pets. Grandpa Bill got a big Kindness Wave for his efforts.
People all over the world have pets. Sometimes the pet is their only companion in the home. Often, a pet is as much family as the people in the family. So, it is natural to grieve the loss of our pets, too, like our little ones did last week. Having ceremonies, making memorials, saying prayers, remembering them, these things help us to recover from the loss of a beloved pet. Just like they help us recover from the loss of a family member or friend.
Losing their pets was the first experience most of our grandchildren had with death. I was proud of our children for not hiding the facts about the dog’s death. They let the children be sad and engaged with them in a lot of conversation about dying and grieving.
In the week ahead, please be kind to those grieving a loss, whether it is a person or a pet.
Heartlinks Grief Center doesn’t have a pet grief support group yet, but it does provide grief support to all ages, regardless of ability to pay. If you are grieving or know someone who could use assistance on their grief journey, please contact Heartlinks Grief Center at 618-277-1800 or email email@example.com.
Proceeds from the sale of my books are donated to help support Heartlinks Grief Center, a program of Family Hospice of Belleville, IL.
Heartlinks Grief Center volunteer and Family Hospice board member
“We Grow Stronger Together”