From the Kaddish to the shiva, Jewish tradition provides us with plenty of rituals to grieve for loved ones who have died. But what about pets? When a furry family member passes away, why doesn’t Jewish law offer us a meaningful way honor its death?
We recently received a moving letter on this very topic from a Kveller reader:
Shayna, my kitty, passed away yesterday and I have been looking to find strength somewhere. She’d been sick for a while, but I was not prepared when it actually happened. I’m devastated, but still trying to stay strong for my family. She was my kitty from when she was 6 weeks old, way longer than I’ve known my husband and children. She’s been my partner in life and now she’s not here…I feel very empty.
I am wondering why is there not anything in the Jewish religion to give you strength during the time of grieving for a furry family member. Or is there??
Incidentally, Karen is not alone in her wish for a mourning ritual to help her cope with a pet’s passing. Here, Jordana Horn writes for Kveller about her desire to honor the yahrzeit of her family dog. Meanwhile, in this piece, Alina Adams relates how she comforted her son by reciting the Kaddish for his fish’s passing.
Of course Jews have debated the ethical treatment of animals and pets since the beginning of time. Our sister site MyJewishLearning.com has several informational articles on Judaism’s treatment of animals–in life and in death. Check out this article about the long-running theological debate over whether animals go to heaven–though there is little consensus. Here’s another about the Jewish idea of compassion for all living creatures.
So, dear readers, this time we turn the question to you. What’s an appropriate way to mourn a pet? Would you say Kaddish? Sit shiva? Have a burial ceremony? How do you discuss the loss of a pet with children?