Funereal Practices in the US

This one’s for John.

On NPR the other morning, I caught the last piece of this report and it got me thinking. I’ve always said that “funerals are for the living” and so I really don’t find the practice of having funerals for pets all that weird. As one of the interviewees said,

Their grief is genuine and so we’ve got to treat them in a genuine manner.

Which is, I think, all that really needs to be said. However, I’m surprised that there’s no controversy over this (perhaps there is, in which case, I’m surprised NPR didn’t report on it).

John can provide more insight into this, but funerals were invented long ago to make us feel better about our own mortality. In religious terms, blessings are made and sent toward the soul of the dead person; or the soul of the dead person is petitioned for help here on earth. Most religious funerals assume a soul; most religious funerals would be offended by the fiction of a pet-funeral that requires equation of a pet’s soul with that of a human. As another interviewee says,

One never, in honoring the loss of a pet, one never wants to trivialize the funeral of a human being.

He goes on to explain that he means one should never stumble across a pet funeral when looking for a human funeral, but isn’t an assumption of an animal soul a “trivialization” of a human funeral? I don’t think I’d have a public funeral for my cats, although I certainly think of them as part of my family. I may have a service with myself and my husband (perhaps my roommate): those whose lives were touched by the cats and who would grieve for them. I don’t think I’d sent out death announcements or put it in the paper (although now that I’ve said that, I think it would be entertaining to write an obit for xFreya or xMercutio and put it in the local town paper). But that doesn’t mean I would not acknowledge their passing or my grief at their passing.

One Comment

  1. John

    I caught the same story earlier today (via podcast). I’m not sure I have a strong opinion on pet funerals. Many people certainly have as strong a relationship (if not stronger) with their animal friends than with the people in their lives, and certainly some kind of rite on the passing of that creature helps them to deal with the grief of loss. I’ve participated in a few backyard burials.

    The valuation of human v. animal life–well, that’s an entirely different issue.

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