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Grief Support

Water Cremation: The Wave of the Future for Eco-Friendly Pet Parents

March 4th, 2024 by Ima Admin

Saying goodbye to a beloved companion animal is one of the hardest things a pet parent faces. Whether the goodbye is a natural occurrence or a peaceful euthanasia, pet parents historically have only had the options of burial or flame cremation.

For pet parents who say their goodbyes at a veterinarian practice, the veterinarian often doubles as undertaker, sending the pet’s body to a crematorium. Flame-based pet cremation has the unfortunate impact of a sizable carbon footprint due to the carbon dioxide the flaming chambers release. For example, a traditional human cremation chamber releases over 535 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in a three hour period.

Burial carries its own set of issues from an environmental standpoint, ranging from land use, to water and chemical contamination management.

Water cremation – also known as Aquamation – offers pet owners a futuristic, planet-friendly alternative. Grand Rapids is home to one of approximately 400 worldwide pet aquamation facilities, and that number is on the rise as environmental awareness increases.

“While one pet may not seem to make a difference environmentally, collectively speaking, water cremation can have an enormous impact of reducing emissions in the pet sector. Aquamation is compact, efficient and generates no direct emissions – making it the greenest technology available,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice and its sister company, Heaven at Home Water Cremation & Memorials.

Water cremation uses alkaline hydrolysis to mirror nature’s process of decomposition through the combination of gentle water flow, temperature and alkalinity. Just like flame creation, pet parents can choose private water cremation or communal water cremation. Beloved companions are placed in a pod and then encircled in a gentle bath of 95% warm water and a 5% alkaline solution. The alkalized water decomposes all of the body’s proteins and fats, resulting in clean remains. The leftover water, called effluent, is a sterile, nutrient rich, DNA & disease-free water solution that can be returned to the earth.

This service is available directly or through a request to a pet parent’s vet clinic.

After water cremation, the cremains are then returned to the pet parents with their choice of options to memorialize the life of their companion. Options may include paw prints, nose print art, urns, scatter tubes, and/or cremain-infused glass sculptures, touchstones, or jewelry.

“Pet loss grief is very real, and saying goodbye to a beloved companion is difficult,” Dr. Brush said.”Memorializing that bond helps the healing begin.”

Gifts of Remembrance

November 1st, 2022 by Ima Admin

Pet Loss grief can be as difficult as traditional grief – if not more so – for two reasons: It’s not universally acknowledged, and at the same time, our loyal companions are an unparalleled source of unconditional love and acceptance.

“We opened our Aftercare Center to help our home euthanasia clients honor their bond and memorialize their companion animals. We realized through our work with the West Michigan Pet Loss Grief Support Group that healthy healing is promoted through memorialization,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice and Aftercare Center.

While the primary service available at the new Aftercare Center is water-based cremation (Aquamation) – an environmentally-friendly alternative to flame-based cremation – resources for grief support and memorialization are also available for pet families. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Help The Pet Left Behind

January 3rd, 2022 by Ima Admin

Pet parents who’ve had to make the difficult decision to euthanize a beloved animal companion are especially vulnerable to grief during the darker days of winter. What may complicate the situation further is witnessing the grief of companion animals left behind.

“Research suggests dogs and cats do experience behavior changes after the death of a fellow companion animal,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice and Aftercare Center.

“A great advantage of home euthanasia is that it gives companion animals left behind a chance to process and understand what’s happened.”

In dogs, which are highly social animals, studies have shown that grief can last two to six months if they were closely bonded with their fellow pup. While less social generally, some cats do also grieve – and vocalize loudly – typically if they’ve lost a relative in particular. Read the rest of this entry »

Coping With Pet Loss Grief During the Holidays

December 1st, 2021 by Ima Admin

The holiday season can be bittersweet for people who’ve lost – or are getting ready to say goodbye – to a loyal companion animal. Coping with pet loss grief during a season that’s purportedly “jolly” can be especially challenging.

“Pet loss grief is especially difficult during the holidays because it’s “disenfranchised grief” – grief that cannot be easily publicly mourned – and households generally become busier with holiday prep stress and guests. At the same time, people often face making the difficult euthanasia decision during the holidays because they’re home to see the decline in their pet’s quality of life,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice.

If you have a pet with a life-limiting disease or who is in rapid decline, there are things you can do in preparation for euthanasia to promote healthy grief and healing. Read the rest of this entry »

Meet Me on the Rainbow Bridge: Coping with Pet Loss

January 26th, 2020 by Laurie Brush

Like their human counterparts, companion animals share an increased death rate during the holidays. Many pet parents face the winter months in mourning.

Pet loss grief can be complicated by a lack of social support, misplaced guilt, and degrees of bonding that might surpass many of our human-to-human relationships. Yet pet loss grief is often “disenfranchised grief” – grief that cannot be easily publicly mourned. Read the rest of this entry »

Books for Adults on Grieving Pet Loss

December 18th, 2018 by Laurie Brush

Whether you recently experienced the passing of a pet or are having trouble letting go after some time has passed, The Heaven at Home team has resources that may help you through this difficult time. Books can be an invaluable part of your support system, and we’ve curated a few below that we feel will really help a pet parent navigate the loss. Read the rest of this entry »

Books for Children on Grieving Pet Loss

December 7th, 2018 by Laurie Brush

The Heaven at Home team knows that grieving the passing of your fur-baby is difficult and requires all the support you can get. On top of dealing with your own loss, if you have children, you also have to help them navigate what might be their first experience of losing a loved one. Books can play a helpful role in helping your child through the process.

The following are a few of the “gold standard” books written for children that are designed to help grieve a pet who has passed. Read the rest of this entry »

Ways to Observe National Pet Memorial Day

September 7th, 2018 by Laurie Brush


Heaven at Home Pet Hospice treasures the memory of the pets our vets have helped pass peacefully. On Sunday, September 9th, we’ll join you in spirit remembering your fur-baby. Please feel free to observe National Pet Memorial Day on Sunday by sharing the story of the pet you’d like to remember on our blog’s In Memoriam section, or on our Facebook page, using the hashtag #NationalPetMemorialDay. Read the rest of this entry »

Ginny Mikita on Grieving Pet Loss – West Michigan Pet Loss Support Group

May 7th, 2018 by Laurie Brush

Meeting of a Grand Rapids, MI pet loss support group at Heaven at Home Pet Hospice and led by Ginny MikitaThe first rule of grieving is that there are no rules.

Companion-animal-loving Pastor and Animal Advocate Ginny Mikita makes this clear to the people who gather each month at the West Michigan Pet Loss Support Group hosted at Heaven at Home’s cozy quarters on Monroe Avenue.

“It’s important to experience grief in whatever fashion it manifests. We need to set aside the idea there is one right way to grieve or certain feelings that are correct and instead give ourselves the grace to feel what we’re feeling without judgment,” said Mikita. Read the rest of this entry »

Children In Grief Over Loss of Pets

January 9th, 2018 by Laurie Brush

children grieving over loss of pet illustrated by girl with dogHeaven at Home’s Dr. Laura Tay compiled the following tips to help children deal with grief over the loss of their pets after participating in a seminar by Kathryn Jennings, Executive Director of the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (IAAHPC).

We at Heaven at Home thought this might be helpful for your family as you work through this difficult time. Read the rest of this entry »