We live in a culture that doesn’t like to discuss death, let alone look at it, yet pet guardians who ask former zookeeper and Portland-based photographer Kristin Zabawa to take pictures of their dying pets say the photos are critical in helping them process their grief.
For the past five years, Zabawa has been quietly capturing the final moments between guardians and their pets during what she calls “SoulSessions.” “People invite me into their homes during a time of both celebration of a loving soul, and expressions of grief. It’s humbling. For me, it’s almost like a meditative practice,” says Zabawa. “I just open myself up to the moment and respectfully accept what’s presented. My intention is to serve those who want beautiful images of their beloved animal family.”
She doesn’t charge for the sessions, although she does accept donations.
Kristin is hoping to establish a nonprofit for SoulSessions, to enable her to do the photographs full-time. She currently has a SoulSessions project on IndieGoGo to create funds to do just that. To learn more about Kristin and SoulSessions, please visit http://igg.me/at/soulsessions2015.
Goober was a very important part of the family for many years. Beth and Goober shared a very strong bond, and she loved Goober’s dainty little paws. Goober liked to squeeze her finger with her paw while Beth held her. Beth and her sister grew up with Goober, and this was the first time that they had to say good-bye to one of their well-loved pets. “I could feel the love surrounding Goober as I photographed their SoulSession,” said Kristin. Goober left them that evening.
For Southeast Portland resident DeeDee Remington, the photographs from a September 2013 SoulSession with her and her beloved cat Mickey Grrrl helped her cope.” Oddly enough, [the photos] really allowed me to cry, which is a critical part of processing a loss,” she says. “Mickey and I, through our 16 years together, never had photos taken,” she notes.
She decided it truly was then or never. “It was one of the best things I ever did,” Remington says. She uses one of the pictures as her computer screen-saver, allowing her to remember Mickey Grrrl every day. The photos are “so intimate and close that I almost feel like I can reach out and touch her, which is one of the things I miss most about her passing,” she says. “That is a huge gift.”
I have personally experienced the healing power photos of your last few moments with a beloved cat can have as you move through the grieving process. I had friends take photos of me with both Buckley and Amber on their respective last days. The photos are treasures I hold close to my heart. They are a tangible reminder of the love I shared with both of my special girls, as well as the pain I felt when I had to find the courage to let them go.
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