North Carolinians mourning the death of their pet are helped through this difficult period at the SPCA of Wake County in Raleigh where they find friendship, support and understanding from others going through the same experience. Approximately half a dozen people show up for the monthly meetings to share stories and read poems about their departed companions. "The tissue box gets passed around a lot," admits Rob Gierka, the pet loss support group's facilitator and one of only a handful of pet chaplains in the country. "Even I was crying at this last meeting." Originally trained to provide pastoral care at hospitals, Gierka, a Baptist chaplain, says he's careful not to impose any religious views on the people he helps console. Pet owners attend the two-hour sessions because family and friends often don't understand the deep sadness felt in losing a cherished dog or cat, he says. The group gives grieving owners a compassionate place to be heard, and not feel so alone. "It's all about listening," he says. "And it's all about encouraging them to talk to one another, and share their stories so they know that other people feel the way they do." Thanks to a generous grant from a local Presbyterian church, a memorial garden will soon be built next to the shelter to provide a quiet place for owners to spread their pet's ashes. For many people, honoring an animal's life by telling stories, reading poetry or holding a memorial service helps heal the gaping hole left in their hearts. But there are other ways too. Below are just a few of the memorial products and services found online and around the country. High-Tech Jewelry. A Russian company claims it can "grow" diamonds containing carbon extracted from dog hair in about 70 days. A high temperature machine creates the personalized gems up to two carats. Another company makes pendants containing your dog's DNA. The genetic material is extracted from blood or cheek cells, tinted with color, and then placed in the channels of a double helix. For more information visit, heart-in-diamond.com and perpetua.us. Beyond the Urn. Encase your dog's ashes in a garden stepping stone, crystal keepsake or glass memento. Only a few tablespoons of ashes are needed, allowing the remainder to be spread or buried in a special place. Several companies offer such items, including petstepstoheaven.com and soulbursts.com. Full-Fledged Funeral. Pet funeral homes are beginning to spring up around the country. One such place is Pet Angel Memorial Center in Carmel, Indiana, where more than a dozen funerals have been held since opening three years ago. Most clients, though, opt for visitations where last respects are paid in the cozy chapel or family room, says Center Director Coleen Ellis. During a visitation, an urn with the pet's ashes is displayed or the body is viewed before being sent to the crematory or cemetery. Online Farewell. Many websites offer grieving owners a place to post their heartfelt goodbyes but one stands out from the crowd. Petloss.com is a free service that also offers a worldwide candlelight ceremony on Monday nights (10 p.m. EST) to honor pets who've passed away. The 20 minute observance is held real time in the site's chat room where hundreds -- sometimes thousands -- of people virtually attend. Another way to celebrate your pet's life is by helping needy or homeless animals in your area. You can make a monetary contribution to a humane society, or establish a special fund at a veterinary hospital that provides financial assistance to people who can't afford medical care for their pets. No matter how you choose to commemorate your companion, the simple act serves as a permanent yet gentle reminder of all the years he or she filled your life with friendship and joy.