“Her death was as important to me as the death of anyone I have ever loved.
It was the death of a great soul.”
– Phillip Schreibman, My Cat Saved My Life
When the world doesn’t seem to understand what you’re going through, you may question if it’s normal to feel devastated over the loss of your feline companion. I assure you that it is, and you’ll find plenty of validation in this book.
“One of the worst [things people said] was the comment, ‘It’s always hard when a pet passes away.’ I was enraged by the reference to my cats as mere ‘pets.’ They were part of my family, and I did not lose ‘pets,’ I lost FAMILY.” – Sharon K, cat guardian
A 2011 Harris poll found that at least 91% of cat households think of their cat as a member of the family. The same applies to dogs. And, as we’ll discuss, often the bond is so deep that people find themselves confessing that the loss of their animal companion has hit them at least as hard as any loss they’ve had before.
That means this kind of grief is serious. It means your grief process deserves far more care and respect than the world may be giving it.
Even if you’ve experienced a difficult loss before, grief can be inexplicably unique each time. If losing your beloved cat companion has hit you particularly hard, the good news is that there are many people who have experienced what you are going through and were able to get through it with their hearts intact—even if they doubted they could. I know, I’m one of those people who doubted I could.
Everything in this book is here to ease the suffering of this loss you may feel so alone in—whether your cat has died or has gone missing for so long that you’ve had to give up hope. You can get through this and you can live whole-heartedly after this loss. Your feline friend would want nothing less for you.
The Story Behind This Book: A Cat Named Bastet
The best birthday gift I ever received was a little black kitten named Bastet. I named her after the Egyptian cat goddess. With this name, I imagined she’d be incredibly poised and majestic, gracing our home with her knowing calm.
Well, she was more spunky-wild than poised-calm. As a kitten, her tiny claws made a Velcro sound as she ran across the couch, which she did constantly. And she’d flash into the sideways crab jump when she was surprised. As an adult, her tail would puff out like a squirrel when she was particularly happy about a toy or seeing you after a long time apart.
She’d tire people out playing fetch with hair ties and spongy balls. She usually greeted me at the door when I got home, often say- ing hello in the window as we walked up (even when there was already food in her dish).
She was so attached to being a part of my morning journaling routine that she’d race me to the couch as I approached it with my tea and journal in hand. She usually assumed her spot one second before I did.
This ritual with Bastet was meaningful because it was the most peaceful and spiritual time of my day. It was when I would drop into a meditative space and the best answers to my life’s questions would come to me. I often felt that Bastet’s presence was an influence on this special state of mind.
To this day, I still imagine—or suspect—her presence is there when I journal in the morning.
When Bastet was barely twelve, she was diagnosed with high- grade intestinal lymphoma—the kind of cancer for which all vets give a short-term death prognosis.
No, no, no, no! This could not happen to her.
But it did. And so one of the hardest times in my life began: me determined to save her in spite of the prognosis, me feeling responsible for the cancer, and then …
… me not saving her and feeling like all the sunlight had been packed up and removed from the world.
Yet people were still driving to work, chatting about TV shows, and ordering cheesecake for dessert. Didn’t these people realize the sun had disappeared? I could no longer comprehend the day- to-day world.
You might think that with the meditation and spiritual study I’d undertaken, a background in the health and wellness field, and forty years of life lessons and other losses behind me, I would not have been brought to my knees by the death of my cat companion. But I was.
I discovered that when we are reeling from the loss of an intimate, loving, loyal friend, we can be too shocked by the concept of death itself, too depleted by sorrow, and too muddled in our thinking to have the energy and clarity to raise our own spirits and revive our own soul.
And so began my journey into what to do about all that. When I went looking for help with my suffering, resources I found on animal companion loss were helpful at times, but tended to feel dog oriented.
Grief and loss may be the hardest thing we face in this life, and they are particularly excruciating when we feel others do not understand.
When the grief was very fresh, nearly anything anyone said to make me feel better only made me feel worse. I needed support, but it wasn’t worth risking the pain of someone trivializing the loss of my cat friend.
When I finally got to the other side of the agony of loss, having learned a great deal, I found that I longed to somehow help other cat lovers on this lonely path of the soul. A few years later, I began writing this book.
Taking on the Big Mystery: Finding Comfort in Wonder
The fear that death is an empty ending is often at the core of our deepest pain. When we have a special companion die, we long to know whether their spirit lives on and if there is any possibility we can still be connected or meet again.
I discovered that when a death hits you very hard, the big questions about death itself sometimes make it twice as hard to recover from grief.
In fact, some people say you need to work through your feelings about the mystery of death before you can fully recover from grief. That was my experience. This is why I wanted to write about the most soulful of the soul comforts: the possibility of the continuation of your loved one’s spirit—and your connection to that spirit—after death.
So I tackle this subject in Part 2. I explore it spiritually and open-mindedly, but without applying any dogma or belief system. For the sake of the left side of your brain, I even bring in some encouraging scientific perspectives.
But first, in Part 1, you’ll find the most helpful wisdom and practices I gathered on my own loss journey and in my research and interviews for this book.
Trust Your Instincts
Please read just what your heart is drawn to in this book, and read the chapters in whatever order calls to you. That will be your best path to restoring your spirit and finding peace.