Dear Nikki: My cat died, my heart is raw

by Nikki Mark

I always love hearing from you and do my very best to respond to the many questions I receive.  Sometimes, I feel your questions and my answers would benefit others, too. This is one of them.

Today’s question was submitted by Jenn B. in Solvang, CA. It pertains to the loss of her cat, but my response can be applied to any kind of loss.

Dear Nikki: 

My heart is raw. I just lost my twin flame cat, Merlin, who showed up during my divorce and helped me get through the most difficult years of my life. When I was depressed and didn’t want to get out of bed in the mornings, he’d jump on my chest and put his nose five inches from mine as if to say, “It’s time to get up, I’m the man of the house now. I’ll look after you.” I know he’s just a pet and not a person, but I am overwhelmed by grief and can’t stop crying. I keep thinking it’s all a bad dream and that Merlin will come walking around the corner any time. What lifeline can we give ourselves during the first few days of loss when everything feels surreal, and we don’t think we will ever find a way through it?

Dear Jenn: 

I’m so sorry to hear about your Merlin. The loss of a pet can be devastating—many of us have been through it—so please don’t minimize the experience on my behalf. I appreciate that you are sensitive to the fact that I have a lost a child and many members of this community have lost family members and close friends, but as grief expert David Kessler says:

“When it comes to pet loss, if the love is real, the grief is real.”

In terms of the first few days after loss, it is so hard to know what to do or how to be. It’s as if our human minds frantically search for ways to fill the void and fix our pain, while at the same time our human hearts break open wider and wider, creating more of both.   

Just remember, in the words of Bruce Springsteen: “Grief is the price we pay for loving.” How deeply we grieve is an indication of how deeply we have loved.

So, grieve hard. Let your soul cry. And find solace in knowing that the more you honor your grief, the more you are simultaneously honoring your love for Merlin, too.  

Having said that, here are some tangible ways I have found to move through grief when it feels overwhelming and the suffering becomes unbearable:

1. Share your loss with others. You may be surprised to see who shows up to help you carry your grief in ways you may not have even known you needed. My husband reached out to his community through social media. I reached out to mine by calling my parents and a few close friends. There is no right or wrong way to do this.

You also mentioned in your email to me that you live on a farm. I imagine your community of animals is grieving the loss of Merlin, as well. Be with them. Grieve with them. Animals are channels of pure love—so just being in their presence may help lift your spirits and feed theirs, too.

2. Honor Merlin in your own special way. When we honor, we heal. I can’t explain the science behind it, I just know it’s true.

How you choose to honor Merlin doesn’t matter; it is simply the process of honoring him that is healing.

Maybe you want to create a special place on your farm that is dedicated to him and makes you think of him whenever you walk by. Maybe you already have an altar in your home and want to add your favorite picture of him to it. Maybe you just want to honor Merlin by continuing to love others the way he loved you. Only you know what will appease your spirit and make Merlin’s proud.   

3. Find comfort in creativity. Paint something. Build something. Write something. You can even play something. Grief loves to be poured into a creative outlet and alchemized into new expressions of love.

For example, in my earliest days of loss, I started writing. A few months later, I also started painting. Both outlets were total surprises to me, but they alleviated my suffering for hours at a time and taught me that grief likes to open new doors and point us in new directions. The creative process is also an active form of meditation that calms the nervous system, frees us from constant loops of pain, and provides space for a way forward to drop in. 

4. Make a concerted effort to keep energy moving through your body. Whether you take gentle walks in nature, ride horses, do yoga, or get an acupuncture treatment, move your body to ensure that grief doesn’t get stuck, deplete your immune system, and make you physically ill. Merlin would not want that!

Now, for a touch of hope.

Ainslie MacLeod is an author and expert on the topic of the human soul. I find his perspective on past-lives fascinating and his knowledge of the human spirit empowering.

During a live discussion Ainslie and I had last month, we talked about the loss of pets and what happens to their souls when they leave this physical world.  

I’m not sure what your belief system is regarding past lives and reincarnation, but Ainslie says in his book, The Old Soul’s Guidebook, that “a cat, a dog, or a horse that you’ve known in a life before this one may share your life now. And because their lives are shorter, they might join you more than once in a single lifetime.”

I love the idea that this might be true. So, after my discussion with Ainslie, I asked my dog Ginger to come back to my family when her time here is up. Even though I know she didn’t understand a word I said, I’m hopeful that her soul got the message and, when the time is right, will agree!

If this resonates with you at all, consider lighting a candle and sending out a prayer asking Merlin to come back to you when he’s ready. Hope is a very powerful medicine.  

A few final thoughts.

It seems to me that Merlin came into your life at a time when your heart was broken and ready for new lessons in love. Although divorce often closes the heart, Merlin made sure yours remained open and learned to receive the kind of love he had to offer.

With him by your side, you grew stronger. Your heart is now wiser. And as a final testament to how much Merlin loves you, he has left you the way he found you: cracked open and ready for a new adventure in love.

Merlin, true to the name you gave him, has shown you how to turn loss into magic. Now go make him proud. 👊🏼

P.S. If you’d like to watch my discussion with Ainslie MacLeod on the loss of a pet, click HERE. And if you’re interested in watching our entire discussion on “Healing Your Soul,” please click HERE. Ainslie is one of Oprah’s favorite soul experts, and mine too❣️

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