The 7 Myths About Pet Loss Grief

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The final moments with your pet have come and gone and now grief sets in…

Even though grief is a universal reaction to any kind of loss it can be surrounded by misconceptions and myths. Here are seven of the most common myths about grief from the loss of a pet and explanations to help loosen the grip of grief and move into healing.

Myth #1 – I should have known something was wrong and acted sooner

Fact: Animals are biologically pre-programmed to hide pain, illness, or disease unless you are trained to identify the subtle signs. It is a survival instinct ingrained in their DNA. Your role is caretaker, not necessarily healer. Your task is to provide them with the best life you can and to love them fiercely. You cannot know what the end looks like for your pet any more than you can know what your own end of life looks like. Guilt can feel overwhelming and you may feel like you are drowning in pain. Do the best you can with the highest and best of intentions for your pet.

Myth #2 – I killed my pet. I am playing God and have no right to do so.

Fact: Your pets want a good quality of life, not a long life filled with pain and discomfort. They don’t deserve prolonged suffering and pain. Euthanasia can be a gift in which you can halt suffering. Facing the choice of euthanasia can be one of the worst and most difficult choices a pet parent may ever have to make, but at times it shows the immense love and compassion shared. It is a selfless act when you want to hold on but know that your pets deserve more, no matter how painful it is to let go.

Myth #3 – It is selfish to euthanize my pet

Fact: Euthanasia is a compassionate and humane way to end the intense suffering or declining quality of life of your companion animal. Viewed in this context, it would be selfish to unnecessarily prolong the suffering of a seriously ill or injured animal. When your pet cannot eat, drink, or manage themselves in their daily habits it is not fun for them to be in a body that is failing them. Ask yourself this: Whose needs and best interests are being served – you or your animal companion? It is selfish to keep them here just because you are not ready to say goodbye.

Myth #4 – Intense grief is a sign of weakness, poor character, and I shouldn’t be this upset it was just a pet

Fact:  Anyone who tells you that is being judgmental, extremely inconsiderate, and they are of poor character, not you. Experiencing powerful feelings of distress over the loss of a beloved animal companion is normal and healthy. People who have strong feelings about the loss of a pet have those deep feelings because they are capable of intimate attachments and deep emotional bonding. This is something to be proud of, not a sign of weakness or poor character.

Myth #5 – Pet loss is insignificant compared to the loss of human life

Fact: The loss of a beloved animal companion can be even more emotionally devastating than the loss of a human friend or relative. You spend more time with your pets than you do with most of the people in your life. Your pets are always happy to see you, excited to be with you, they don’t set out to hurt you, cheat on you, or betray you in any way. They are the purest and most loving relationship that many of us ever experience in our lives. Our relationships with other humans can be loving and passionate but also disjointed and unhealthy. Losing a pet is like losing your best friend. It is just as significant of a loss, if not more, than losing a human loved one.

Myth #6 – No one understands my pain or what I’m going through

Fact: While grief is a personal journey and no one can feel the pain and loss you feel for your pet there are many others who have had similar experiences with their pets. Holding on to your pain or trying to ignore it can lead to unsolved grief and create havoc in your life. Find healthy ways to express your feelings in a safe and supportive environment to move into a place of healing. Reach out to grief support groups or licensed grief support professionals to help you navigate through your feelings.

Myth #7 – I’m never getting another pet.

Fact: Yes, it is painful to lose a beloved companion there is no doubt about it. However, your departed pets want you to be happy and live a full life. Your happiness directly affects your departed pet as they are still with you and sharing your energy.

When you open your heart and home to a new companion, the love you show that new companion will have a positive effect on your departed pet. They will feel the love that you are sharing with your new companion. Don’t worry about them feeling jealous or that you are replacing them. Those are human concerns and I have never had a single pet tell me they were upset about a new addition to the family. Quite the contrary.

There is no set time to wait before bringing a new companion home – Depending on your housing situation, your current pets, your children, or your spouse, only you can decide when the time is right. Trust your instincts and when it feels good and you find yourself surfing the pet adoption pages, then that is a sign you are ready.

Consider everyone in the household before adopting. People and pets are journeying through grief too. Some grieve deeply after a loss. Others don’t seem affected. Knowing when it is the right time is a balancing act you’ll have to make.

Allow everyone plenty of time to experience all of the emotions from grief. There are no shortcuts through the pain. It is a reflection of deep, true love to mourn so deeply.

You will know you are on the road to healing when you think of your pet and happy memories come to mind.

When you no longer feel the sadness or the tears just the good times you shared.

Consider yourself fortunate to have shared your life with a companion pet who was so very hard to say goodbye to.

I believe we never get over the loss of a beloved pet but we somehow get through it. We learn how to live our lives without them by celebrating the memories and making their life more important than their death.

Remember, you are and always have been the most important person in the world to your pet and even after they leave their physical body behind, there is nowhere else they would rather be than with you.


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Karen is an award-winning animal communicator and best-selling author who specializes in pet loss and the afterlife. She has documented her journey with her heartwarming and inspirational books, The Pet I Can’t Forget, The Amazing Afterlife of Animals and Hear All Creatures.
She also offers a free app and animal communication coaching programs for all skill levels as well as loving support and guidance for those struggling with the loss of a beloved companion.
Karen is the CEO and founder of Painted Rain Ranch Animal Sanctuary a non-profit charity that serves as a final refuge for elderly, special needs, and abandoned companion animals. Karen saves the pets no one else wants on her 30-acre farm in the Inland Pacific Northwest. Proceeds from Karen’s books and coaching benefit the animals at the sanctuary.
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  1. Clydene Lloyd says:

    This was really great!!
    I have so many friends who say, “I will never have another pet/I can never go through that again. It was just too painful.”
    I always say and just what if you felt that way before you got this pet whom you have loved so much for 15 years.
    You would have missed that wonderful part of your life. But still, some have still said that they cannot put themselves through
    that again.
    They really do not know what they are missing.
    I so totally agree with all of the above.

    • Karen Anderson says:

      I couldn’t agree with you more! That statement is usually what I hear from someone who has recently lost a beloved animal companion. They are still working their way through the shock, anger, guilt, and grief of their loss and it is a form of protection. They want to shield their heart from being hurt again. It is too much to bear at that moment. Hopefully, over time, they will begin to see how rich their life has been because of their animal companion, and how much they would have missed out on had they not been in their life. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  2. Karen DeSimone says:

    Dear Karen,
    I cannot put into words sufficiently how validating this myth #5 is. I deal with my grief daily and missing my beloved 4 cats (furry children) in heaven never lessens nor does my love for them which is like no other I’ve ever experienced. I’ve always said it is by far the purest form of love and for me there is no love that could be stronger.
    Thank you for sharing this extremely comforting validation with your words in myth #5!
    I personally believe that the gift of genuine understanding is one of the greatest gifts that you can give to someone who is suffering in any way. With gratitude always for your most sincere understanding,
    Myth #5 – Pet loss is insignificant compared to the loss of human life
    Fact: The loss of a beloved animal companion can be even more emotionally devastating than the loss of a human friend or relative. You spend more time with your pets than you do with most of the people in your life. Your pets are always happy to see you, excited to be with you, they don’t set out to hurt you, cheat on you, or betray you in any way. They are the purest and most loving relationship that many of us ever experience in our lives. Our relationships with other humans can be loving and passionate but also disjointed and unhealthy. Losing a pet is like losing your best friend. It is just as significant of a loss, if not more, than losing a human loved one.

    • Karen Anderson says:

      I am so glad that #5 is so validating for you. It is something that I have experienced personally and have also felt a tremendous amount of guilt over in the past. But no longer! All loving connections can be celebrated and honored for what they represent to us. There is no comparison as in from apples to oranges. Thank you, Karen, for your heartfelt words.

  3. Penny Stefaniuk says:

    My great pyrenees, Tesla, was killed in a hit and run last fall. I was able to hug him one last time before he died. I grieved so hard for my boy. I knew you could ask the Universe for help, (but you need ask), and I did so one day. I was driving my truck for work, and spoke aloud. I asked for many things, and one was to get a sign that Tesla was ok. I added, “And, uh, I’m a little dense, so please make it very obvious! Thank you!” The very next morning, as I was driving my commute, I flipped the radio stations like I normally do. I then heard the DJ speak, “And now, ‘Signs’ by Tesla”. A huge smile came across my face, that was meant for me.
    I have faced that grief enough times, and it is always hard. It also makes me happy too that I give my babies a good life, and spoil them rotten! I will have a whole zoo to greet me when the day comes!
    Thank you Karen, for all your work and helping those that need that comfort and peace to get through the tough times.

    • Karen Anderson says:

      Penny, ask for a sign and see what happens! You sure got a sign! That is incredible! No coincidences, I always say! The more we acknowledge the signs from our beloved pets the more they will send. Thank you for sharing this very special moment with us.

  4. Victoria Headrick says:

    Today marks one year that I have lost my baby Rosa. For me, Rosa was the “ONE”. My connection to Rosa goes beyond space and time.
    Two days ago I helped my dad bury his sweet girl Lucy. I lived again all those raw emotions of the initial death as well as experiencing that extreme heartache with my dad. I know the millions of reminders that will come for him for I have lived it for the past year. I know the reaching for your baby before realizing she is not there and waking up each day and realizing your baby is not there. Your life changes because your baby was such a huge part of you.
    From the outside looking in (unless you really knew me), you would not think I would be devasted from such a lost. I am a 50 year old woman, middle school science teacher with 4 college degrees including a doctorate, and a karate instructor, and I am a leader at my work and in my community. Rosa’s death broke me. I am still healing.
    Rosa had been suffering with heart failure. Our wonderful vet had been working closely with us to tell me when it was time to let her go so that she would not suffer. One year ago today, our vet came to our house and gave her the shots while I held Rosa in my arms. It was the worst day of my life. However, I gave Rosa every part of my “being”, “all that I am”, to be able to end her suffering. It was the greatest gift I could give.
    Karen, I read all of your books within a few days. I was desperate for peace. I did find enough peace in your words to anchor myself a little each day. I pray every day for love, peace, and understanding and I talk to Rosa every day. Not only did your books start me on the road to healing, your words gave me insight and an awareness of the energy around me. I think I am recognizing signs from Rosa.
    I have had experiences related to Rosa. Here is just one: 2 weeks after her death I was looking at her picture on the mantle, I began to cry hot streams of tears that roll down your cheeks when….I heard in my left ear, “you’re still my mom”. These are not words I would have even thought of to hear. I would have thought, don’t worry, I am ok, or I am not in pain anymore. Instead, I heard, “you’re still my mom”. A phrase that is in the present tense. These words comfort me.
    Back to my dad and two days ago. My parents live on 32 acres on a mountain. His dog Lucy, had been walking and pacing in circles for a few days. He took her to the vet and she had a full workup (blood work, urine, x rays). The vet cleared her and gave her some anti-inflammatory medication. Her behavior was not right with her pacing and dad knew it. He let her out to go to the bathroom and she walked around the house and disappeared. He searched for hours and could not find her. My dad, a 74-year-old man, and mom a 76-year-old woman were searching on the side of the mountain for Lucy.
    I heard a high pitch sound in my left year. I believe this to be a sign when Rosa is around me. I had not heard this itch in a while. I thanked her for being around me. I was getting ready to go work out. I called my parents and found out that Lucy was missing. They told me not come but of course, left for their house.
    It was like everything was in slow motion and serial. I headed towards their house prepared to search the mountain. However, instead of being a panic, I was coached in my head in some indescribable way to relax and go with the flow. We stopped at a Family Dollar to pick up some crackers for a hike. I was annoyed by the stop thinking that this would delay the search. But again, I was coached to go with the flow. At the base of the mountain, I was coached to roll down my window and begin looking. My partner saw Lucy on a gravel road facing the main road looking at us. We picked her up and took her 2 miles up to the house. I can’t stress enough the odds of finding her on one of the two gravel roads on the mountain being unbelievable.
    Dad was so happy to see her. He feared that a coyote would get her or she would suffer. Lucy was confused and started pacing. She knew she was home but still confused. Dad acknowledged that something was very wrong and he would probably have to put her down. He fed her and she got in her bed. He was going to take her back to the vet the next day.
    I went home and mowed the yard in between rains. I took a shower and I heard the same high pitch ring in my left ear. I thanked Rosa and any spirit involved in the day’s events. We were able to bring Lucy home. I got dressed and then I got a phone call from dad that Lucy had died. I believe the second ringing in my ear was related to Lucy’s death. I went back to dad’s house and helped him and mom bury Lucy.
    I have come full circle with this story.
    Karen, I thank you for your words that have brought me peace. I will use what I have learned to comfort my dad. I will continue to heal. My goal is to get emotionally strong enough to have a reading with Rosa.
    Thank you, Karen,

    • Karen Anderson says:

      Vicky, what an amazing story! Thank you for all of your kind words and I am so happy to hear my books are helping you move through your grief into healing.
      The chances of you finding Lucy were so slim and yet you did! I don’t believe in coincidences rather that things happen for a specific reason. There is no doubt in my mind that Rosa led you to find Lucy.
      Thank you for sharing this incredible experience with us. I’m sure your Rosa is there with you every step of the way as there is nowhere else she would rather be!

  5. Danielle Turtainen says:

    Karen, you have a knack of addressing just the things I NEED to know. It is so easy to let the world make me doubt myself and my feelings while I grieve…comparing the death of my dad who died 4 months before my “son,” Argyle… and moving forward in each day and night talking to Argyle, thinking of him and our many ventures we shared… and learning to be guilt free in my feelings! I love your straight forward communicating in all things. You are a hand I am so thankful I have to grasp in my life.

    • Karen Anderson says:

      Thank you for your thoughts, Danielle! I’m so glad this post is helping you let go of your guilt. It is a different kind of connection we have with our beloved animal companions. While our family members and loved ones will always be important to us we hold a very special and sacred place in our hearts for our pets. It is an honor to be a part of your journey with Argyle.

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