Grief is a funny thing.

For me, it comes in waves. Right now, I’m kind of like the weather: One minute, I’m fine, and five minutes later, I’m a complete in mess.

My mom died on January 28, and I’m struggling to deal with all the emotions that comes from missing someone with whom I wasn’t all that close when she was alive. It’s a weird place to be in.

I’m no stranger to loss. My dad died 26 years ago and my beloved Shep left my world on August 20, 2014.

Which brings me to why end of life pet photography is so important.

The humans who have loved Dexter (pictured above), Molly and Henrietta know why. And I will say over and over and over again that I wish I’d known someone like me when Shep was alive.

great pyrenees that has crossed the rainbow bridge
Henrietta and Hilary

The loss

Not more than two weeks before my mom died, I had a long Zoom chat with a grief counselor. My plan was to write a series about coping with grief that comes before a death … like when you learn your dog has a terminal illness.

It can be a lot to manage, a different world to navigate.

Katie Curran, a mental health counselor and owner of Creative Awakening Counseling Services, and I spoke at length about grief and comfort. The ultimate goal isn’t just to blog about it but to also provide a better service with end of life pet photography.

To be a better comfort to pet parents facing their dog’s last days.

Then grief came for me again.

mom and her dogs enhanced copy 2
Mom and her Yorkies, Pooh Bear and Missy Bear

My mom was the person responsible for making me see the importance of taking pictures. That was a lesson underscored by my final days in our family home in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. As we were trying to sort through important items the day after Mom’s funeral, my brothers and I smiled and laughed at the photos she had taken with her Brownie Auto 27.

Five bins sat on the floor of the living room, one for each kid and one with communally important stuff we’ll “fight” over in May. My bin holds the Brownie camera and the Brownie 8mm movie camera.

Because family photos were important to her and she passed that passion on to me, putting a camera in my hands for the first time when I was a pre-teen.

Back to end of life pet photography

Among the first family photos I took were of our collie puppy, Princess, and more as she grew up into a beautiful dog who knew how to pose.

Really, it was like she knew I was coming around the corner with my camera.

And of course, when I became an adult and had my first big girl dog, Shep, he landed in front of my lens many times. That story is told often in the pages of this website.

before i knew end of life pet photography was a thing
Shep and me – circa 2005

But I didn’t know someone like me when Shep was alive, someone who dedicates her skills to memorializing the love I shared with my bubba. I would love to have beautiful portraits of the two of us together.

So when dog lovers come to me for end of life pet photography, they get all of me. If their pet has only hours or days left and they want these small reminders of their bond together, I will make it happen.

Because I know those small moments can help us manage our grief, those photos can bring smiles and laughter to faces flooded by tears and sadness.

They are tangible items to touch and hold when all you want is one last chance to stroke your boy’s fur or hug your mom. And tell them you love them.

All around the circle

Take photos. Lots of photos. Of your dog. Of your mom. Of everyone.

Have photos taken. With your dog. With your mom.

Print them. Don’t just leave behind a legacy of digital dust, easily deleted cloud-storage accounts and rewritable drives.

Have a shoebox full of 4×6 photos that someone has to go through one day, photo by photo, and laugh and smile and remember you.

I promise you those photos will help that someone work through their sadness.

Katie and I spoke at length about how end of life pet photography can be part of the healing process for pet parents and I hope to write all that out for you soon.

In the meantime, making those photos helps me. To give someone the legacy of their memories with their pet eases my heart and shines light into the darkness.

And for now, let’s turn to happier thoughts with the worldwide pet photographers blog circle. Start with Atlanta Pet Photographer Courtney Bryson, announcing the Embark Challenge Sessions, 12 new ways to work with her coming soon.

When you get to the bottom of Courtney’s post, click the next link in the circle and then keep going to magical places like Canberra, Australia, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, until you find yourself back here to end of life pet photography and managing grief.

That’s when you know you’re home. 

Right where you belong.   

And if you’re here because you need end of life pet photography, don’t hesitate to text or call me at (509) 720-8784.

nv-author-image

Dogs. Adventure. Outdoors. These words set Angela's heart afire. Angela Schneider, an award-winning writer and dog photographer, documents the story of you and your dog and the adventures you take together. Your portraits will be a statement piece in your home, art that will make your friends and family beg to hear its story.

14 thoughts on “End of life pet photography and managing grief”

  1. avatar of elaine

    Such a great and true message here. Past photos of our pets, and family members who are no longer with us, have been a godsend for me, personally.

  2. avatar of nicole

    This is such a difficult topic. As I read your post, it hit me that I am not so good at dealing with or processing grief. I guess none of us are. But your post has me thinking…

  3. avatar of darlene

    Thinking of you, Angela. Yes, to this: “Have a shoebox full of 4×6 photos that someone has to go through one day and laugh and smile and remember you”. Brings tears to my eyes, but can only help when grieving, as there is nothing easy about losing someone that you love.

    1. avatar of angela

      I don’t want to leave this world without a legacy and I think I want that legacy to be having given others their legacy to leave behind. That’s a lot of legacy. 🙂

  4. avatar of ina

    What a beautifully written post Angela. I’m so sorry for your loss – It’s such a difficult topic but what you say about taking lots of photos and print them – it’s definitely something people should do as it reminds us of the good times with them too. Sending lots of love.

    1. avatar of angela

      Thanks, my friend. I’ve been going through old photos, not just of my mom but also of Shep. This process is finally giving me the gumption to write his book.

  5. avatar of jessica

    You speak the truth to the importance of honoring grief and our loved ones through photography, pet or human. Beautifully bittersweet to read, but this is what we must remember and place at the heart of our end-of-life sessions.

    1. avatar of angela

      I’m confident that for all of us, every pet we photograph takes a little piece of our hearts home with them after our sessions. When a session is for end of life, though, it’s so much more important to give that piece away and ensure the humans enjoy the experience and leave with beautiful memories and photographs.

  6. avatar of tracy allard

    What a gift. Photographs. Tangible things that you can hold in your hand, talk and laugh about with those that share your grief. What we do is important. Really important. I’m so sorry for your loss, let that big white dog give you comfort.

  7. avatar of carol

    Thanks for being vulnerable and sharing your experience in processing grief. It’s something we all will have to go through in our lives, with people or pets, yet it’s not always talked about. I wish I knew someone like you to do pro portraits of us with our old boy, Paunch, before he passed in 2015. But I did use a Groupon for a mall photoshoot with him and as amateur as those photos are, I’m glad I have a family shot of us and will love it forever.

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