If you’ve ever loved an animal, and perhaps more importantly, if you’ve ever suffered the devastation of losing one, this book could be the first step in your healing process. Just as the author points out in the book, some people will get this, and some will not. For some, losing that dog or cat or any other creature is something you “get over quickly” – it was “just an animal.” Author Reagan Pasternak is not addressing those people here. And rightly so. They aren’t the ones needing help.
But for the rest of us, and there are many, who feel our beloved companion animal is actually a member of the family – perhaps our best friend or our saving grace in life – the grief process is real. And painful.
The book is a guide to dealing with the loss, accepting it and feeling free to not only grieve, but mourn. This means being able to openly express your sadness with a chosen few people who won’t judge you, who won’t expect you to “recover” at warp speed.
Griffin was the author’s cat, who in 7 short years found a way into her life. The heart in the title takes on a double meaning – Griffin suffered from a heart condition, but also gave and received enormous love during those years.
What makes this book special is its interactive nature. The author relays her heartfelt feelings during her own process, but then incorporates them into exercises designed to help readers heal, whether through journaling, attaching photos of a beloved “Being”, as she refers to a pet, answering questions, going through meditation, and other very gentle but hands-on techniques. The book itself becomes a memorial of sorts for the Being who has passed. Each topic and section is short, so you can move at your own pace, not feeling overwhelmed by the contents. Do a little, do a lot, it’s about the journey. Essays from others as well as quotes about grief, life and loss from famous persons help to offer comfort and inspiration, as well.
She covers topics about disenfranchised grief, guilt, seeing our pets as babies who never grow up, even as their bodies betray them, and how they are to many of us a guardian angel. I speak from experience about this, having lost several feline and canine companions over the years. And I feel that my current dog Wally, as I often tell friends, literally saved my life. My life partner Kenny passed away and I’m not sure how I’d have gotten by without the gentle kisses and warm fur that Wally provides. I know he was sent by my partner, three weeks after his passing, as a way to slowly heal me.
How I wish I’d had this book during past times of loss. But I have it now, and dread the day when I might need it again, though I also treasure it. There couldn’t be a more perfect book, either for a friend or family member who is going through pain, or for yourself as you struggle to deal with the very real mourning process.
My heart goes out to Reagan Pasternak for writing this book, and to little Griffin, who inspired it.