As promised, here is an exclusive interview with film and television actress Reagan J. Pasternak (HBO’s “Sharp Objects,” “Being Erica”) who believes that she may have produced the right book addressing this issue during our current global health crisis.
Griffin’s Heart, Mourning Your Pet With No Apologies is part memoir and part interactive guide.
Cultural Currents: What advice do you have for pet owners who may wish to find another companion?
Reagan J. Pasternak: Well, I touch on this in part three of the book in the chapter titled “Hope”. Of course, choosing a new animal is such a personal choice. If you feel ready, I think that adding a new pet to your life can be such an exciting and fulfilling new adventure. And, if you’re struggling with the decision for any reason — whether it be fear of having to go through this inevitable type of loss again, or you are simply still stuck in the grief or guilt or sadness, then my book is truly meant to walk you through those emotions. I believe we can learn so much from losing someone we love — but we have to allow ourselves the space to mourn. My hope is that Griffin’s Heart will give you that space. And then, perhaps you will feel more accepting of allowing a new animal into your life.
CC: Our readers ride the ferry. This is often a place for reflection and contemplation. Can this be a healthy place for mourning?
Pasternak: Hmm… Well, I think that depends upon where exactly you are in your grief process. Being surrounded by strangers might not allow you to explore your feelings authentically. I, personally, had a very hard time keeping my emotions in check after my animal, Griffin, died — my grief was just too raw. I do believe that after you have gotten through the hardest parts, the parts we are naturally inclined to push away (especially when grieving an animal as opposed to a human) and avoid feeling, I think we can allow ourselves to remember the good — the funny idiosyncrasies, the love — then maybe we can contemplate a little more easily on a ferry ride. It takes time.
CC: Finally, how do you explain the loss of a family pet to children? Are there any special things to remember?
Pasternak: Such a great question. My book is all about the reader’s experience of allowing their feelings of grief to be there and celebrating the animal that they lost. But the same could be applied to healthy grieving for children too. Validating the pain a child feels when losing a pet is so important. Letting them cry and giving them an outlet to express their feelings. They can journal, or draw a picture or write a poem. There is no need to “fix” grief. It just is. There is a beautiful quote in the children’s book called, Lifetimes, by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen, that says “There is a beginning and ending for everything that is alive. In between is living.” The living is actually the important part. Those are the beautiful memories we should encourage our kids to hold on to.