The Seven Myths About Pet Loss Grief by Karen Anderson was first published June 6, 2019. Karen understands why we often, after the loss of a beloved pet, feel as though we can never get another pet. It is usually what she hears 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. We hope the following is helpful to someone dealing with the heartache of pet loss.
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. This was just too painful.
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 and complete 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, in fact.
Grief is a natural response to the loss of a companion animal. It is part of the experience you and your pet were meant to share together. Your grief is uniquely your own and while no one can feel what you are feeling there are many of us who have also experienced a painful loss.
Allow yourself 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 truly 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.
Karen Anderson is an award-winning Afterlife Expert and personal coach with over 22 years of experience helping clients just like you surpass their goals. She is also an award-winning and #1 bestselling author of ‘The Amazing Afterlife of Animals’ and ‘Hear All Creatures’.