Today’s Guest is author Reagan Pasternak. Reagan J. Pasternak is a Canadian-born film and television actress, singer, and writer. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband, son, and five rescue animals. Learn more about Reagan at reaganpasternak.com. Instagram: @reaganjpasternak
Hi Regan! It is an honor to chat with you today. Please introduce yourself to our readers.
So happy to be here. I’m Reagan. I’m a Canadian born actress who moved to LA over ten years ago. I’m an animal lover, so when I lost one of my beloved animals, I decided to write about what that experience means to me.
Please tell us more about that and your inspiration for writing Griffin’s Heart.
That’s a long story! It started so many years ago when I had to deal with losing my soulmate animal, Griffin. It started as a way to cope with that loss. I am a person who has to communicate everything I am feeling (much to my husband’s dismay), and this was an extension of that. I needed to validate and communicate my feelings. I honestly didn’t know what the book would be back then. I am an actress and mom and a very busy person, so I was just writing gradually at first. I am an avid reader and consumer of every book you can imagine. So, over the years, the book started changing and flowing. I was learning about neurobiology and mind-bond connection and thought about how that related to grief. I realized this would be read by somebody around the world. I didn’t want the readers to be bogged down by the reading, so I created a space for them to share and celebrate. I wanted the book to become a keepsake and a celebration of the animal.
How long did it take you to bring Griffin’s Heart to the market-from brainstorming to publishing?
It took over a decade! First, the process was very scattered; then in the last two years I was very focused. I couldn’t shake the idea, which is how you know you have to see it through. I had read The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks. I recommend that book which talks about the zone of genius. First, I was in flow state, then it was a commitment! And once I’m committed to something, I going to finish it. Now, it’s here.
We didn’t have the opportunity to meet Griffin. Can you tell us about him?
All these years later, I can still bawl my eyes out. It’s hard to explain why you love someone. It an innate feeling; you either have it or you don’t. Griffin was my first responsibility as an adult. He was there with me for the ups and downs of life and such a kind spirit. He was in tuned with me. He was hilarious and silly and smart but more than that, you feel a connection that is unexplainable with a human or animal. All of these reasons help you understand how you can love someone so much.
In your book, you use this quote “The essence of anything is the thing that always stays true about them in any situation.” You introduced us to Griffin’s character. Briefly describe the essence of Griffin.
The essence of Griffin was pure, silly, and kind. He went through so much near the end when he got sick and still was all of those things. He made me feel so loved.
Everyone experiences loss in life. You talk about the importance of mourning your pet and how mourning is a path to healing. Tell us about this and why it is so important.
I believe this is even more important today than when I started writing; this statement becomes more and more true. I believe that if we shy away from pain, it doesn’t make the pain go away. Yes, the hard part will feel uncomfortable, but we are here to learn and grow. I don’t believe we are here to be forgotten when we die. We are supposed to be remembered and celebrated. Allow yourself to feel your pain. You can move through a beautiful part of losing someone that takes you back to the love. There is nothing wrong with love.
The book is organized into three parts that includes journal prompts, exercises, inspirational quotes, and personal stories. Is this what helped you during the grieving and mourning process?
So, when I would write Griffin’s heart every day, I really did set an intention every day. It was to connect with a person in grief and relate to them since I have been that person. I would really try to organize the book in a way that never be too overwhelming. The reader can take a break with the breathing exercises and photos. I would focus every morning and see what I would want and need if I were reading this book. You can skip any part that doesn’t feel good to you, come back later, or put a photo there as a keepsake. The book is in three sections is called “to say goodbye”. You can’t read that section until you get through the first two sections.
There are some creative and inspirational ideas in this book including music and art therapy. I loved the suggestion of creating an upside-down drawing. Will you share just one tip with us today that someone can do right now?
I would say the theme would be allowing; it sounds simple but is quite difficult. All of the exercises get you to do just that. Breathe through the sad part to get through the better part. The upside-down drawing accesses the right hemisphere of your break. Creativity and love flow in this space. In this exercise, you’re not in your analytical headspace when you’re looking at lines and shapes. It’s so important to allow ourselves to access this creative self even if we are not creative people. It reminds us that life is so fragile!
I love how you say you’re a “crazy cat lady and proud.” Explain that mindset to us.
I am a crazy animal lady! I have a giant 130-pound dog sitting beside me and can see a litter of kittens all around me. Even now when I’m doing the interviews about the book, I find that people have a stereotype in mind. Believe me, there are other things that make me crazy. I want to identify with any reader who can’t share how they are feeling and how much they miss their animal. If you’re a crazy cat lady, just accept it and go with it.
Pets are an important part of people’s daily routine and lives. When did Griffin enter your life?
Griffin entered my life in my twenties at the end of my first long term relationship with a wonderful guy. I was starting my first lead in a television series. It was a hectic and emotional time for me. I think of that hilarious giant- eared cat who barely had any fur because he was a Devon Rex. It was a complete paradox to everything else going on. He cracked me up the very first time I saw him. The pressure of a new job and break-up and moving out of the apartment we had once shared was a lot. That cat had me so happy! It’s unconditional love; it is a stereotype and true. He was everything to me. He traveled across the country with me and was just my constant when I didn’t have that many constants at the time.
What is the best response someone can give to someone who has lost a pet?
I have a whole chapter about this topic called “some people just don’t get it.” It’s tongue and cheek. One great response is to simply say, “I’m here” or “I’m here if you need to talk.” So many sales of the book have actually been from non-animal people who don’t know what to say and want to give the book as a gift. I love that! Giving the book, flowers, or sending a sweet note to validate how they are feeling is huge. Simply saying, “I’m so sorry” makes a difference. The feeling is real. I just lost my mom and a dog. Both are a loss, and I felt both.
As an educator and publisher, I have to know-have you thought about turning Griffin’s Heart into a children’s book?
A lot of people have asked me that question. I love the idea. It’s a possibility! You never know!
Well, I want to be the first to interview you for that book. Thank you for being here today! I know that all of our readers will be excited to pick up your new book today.