Being Witnessed In Grief Is A Powerful Balm For Healing

    —
October 20, 2020

Dear friends,

Two days after my cat, Hedda, died in 2016, my friend Francis sent me a sketch with a note “from” Hedda that read, in part, “P.S. I love you more than tuna.” Through my tears, I thought that would be a great book title. I had a clear vision: an illustrated gift book that people would give to friends, family, colleagues, or clients after the loss of their cat. A step beyond a sympathy card, this would be the first “empathy book” for adults grieving the loss of a cat.

Thinking About You - Being Witnessed In Grief Is A Powerful Balm For Healing Blog

 

Inspired in part by Eckhart Tolle and Patrick McDonnell’s Guardians of Being and Charles M. Schultz’s Happiness is a Warm Puppy, P.S. I Love You More Than Tuna offers comfort and inspiration through New Yorker-style drawings and simple, evocative language. My goal was to make it heartfelt without being cloying.

Every year, six million Americans and Canadians must say a final goodbye to their cats—buddies who leapt into their hearts as kittens, purred away heartbreak through multiple breakups, snuggled by their side in homes large and small, and occasionally deleted folders of work by stretching out on a warm keyboard.

“Pet loss” is considered a disenfranchised form of grief; it’s not culturally sanctioned. We don’t have any universal rituals for this grief, like sitting shiva or holding a wake. This often leaves the bereaved feeling isolated and misunderstood, which compounds the grief and makes healing more difficult.

People grieving companion animals have a need to be seen, their grief validated. Being witnessed in grief is a powerful balm for healing.

Friends of those grieving companion animals are often at a loss for ways to show their support. P.S. I Love You More Than Tuna gives all of us the opportunity to make a profound impact with a simple gesture.

When Francis sent me the sketch and note, I felt seen. Francis’s gift acknowledged the bond I’d had with Hedda and my grief at her death. The present tense of the note also reminded me that Hedda was still with me, even if I couldn’t see her. That was significant in terms of helping me heal, and that’s the comfort I hope P.S. I Love You More Than Tuna will provide to other cat lovers.

Sounds True has created a lovely video preview for P.S. I Love You More Than Tuna. I hope you’ll check it out below.

Best Friends Animal - Thinking About You - Being Witnessed In Grief Is A Powerful Balm For Healing Blog

Ultimately, I hope this book will benefit the world in multiple ways: for the recipient, witnessing and healing; for the giver, a tangible action they can take to help another; for Best Friends Animal Society, to which I’m donating 10 percent of my proceeds, contributing to their work of keeping pets in the home. This includes helping low-income people connect with resources they need to feed, train, and care for their companion animals. And of course, I hope this will benefit Sounds True and their work in the world, which is quickly becoming more needed than ever.

Take care,

Sarah Chauncey

Book Cover

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Sarah Chauncey

Also By Author

However you need to grieve, that’s the right way for...

Grieving a cat—or any kind of grief—is not a one-size-fits-all experience (as though any experience or emotion were?). Some people can’t stop sobbing, while others reflect quietly. Some are comforted by hugs and rituals; others need solitude to process their loss.

There’s no “right” way to grieve, and there’s no “right” length of time. In fact, I don’t see a loss as something we “get over,” but rather something that becomes a part of our life experience. When our skin is gravely injured, it doesn’t go back to looking the way it did before; it heals, and we have a scar. 

Loss changes the fabric of our lives; it changes the way we perceive and interact with the world. And like a scar, walking through grief (not trying to circumvent it) makes something in us stronger, more resilient. Grief is something to be healed, not to transcend.

Grief is nonlinear, too. Our human minds would love to make grief into a process that has a distinct beginning, middle and end…but in my experience, that’s just not true. Grief, like life, is messy and unpredictable. As Jon Kabat-Zinn writes, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

We all grieve, and for each of us, our grief is as unique as a fingerprint. If we try to avoid grief, it will redouble its strength and burst forth anyway. However you need to grieve, that’s the right way for you.

An original post by Sarah Chancey, the author of P.S. I Love You More Than Tuna, the first gift book for people grieving the loss of their feline friend. This originally appeared on morethantuna.com.

sarah chaunceySarah Chauncey has written and edited for nearly every medium over the past three decades, from print to television to digital. Her writing has been featured on EckhartTolle.com and Modern Loss, as well as in Lion’s Roar and Canadian Living. She lives on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, where she divides her time between writing, editing nonfiction, and walking in nature. Learn more at morethantuna.com and sarahchauncey.com.

 

 

 

 

 

ps i love you more than tuna

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Meet the author of . . . P.S. I Love You More Than Tun...

The Author

Sarah Chauncey is the coauthor of P.S. I Love You More Than Tuna along with illustrator, Francis Tremblay, coming October, 2020. She has written and edited for nearly every medium over the past three decades, from print to television to digital. Her writing has been featured on EckhartTolle.com and Modern Loss, as well as in Lion’s Roar and Canadian Living. She lives on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, where she divides her time between writing, editing nonfiction, and walking in nature. Learn more at sarahchauncey.com.

The Book

Book cover

Our cats occupy a unique space in our hearts. When they’re gone, the loss can be devastating, the grief profound.

 

P.S. I Love You More Than Tuna gives us an opportunity to give friends, loved ones, or ourselves tangible comfort during the grieving period, when so many of us feel isolated and misunderstood after a beloved pet dies.

 

 

Send us a photo of your sacred space.

sacred space

First Nation, Saysutshun Newcastle Island is an ancient forest and marine provincial park. Saysutshun, I’m told, means “training or preparation ground,” and indeed, for millennia before colonization, the Snuneymuxw brought healers to this small island to train “mentally, physically, and spiritually.” I knew none of this history when I first began walking long stretches of the uninhabited island’s 13.6 miles of trails. I only knew that the island seemed to lift away anything that wasn’t essential, easing my mind and making way for creative ideas to flow. I’d walk a bit, then sit and meditate, write for a while, then walk some more. This bench, under a circle of seven trees, became my favorite writing and meditation spot. The moss-covered trees became my friends, teaching me to stay rooted when things around me change. As I wrote in a 2016 essay about the island, “I have become a literal tree-hugger, and even—when nobody is looking—a tree-kisser.”

What was your favorite book as a child?

harold purple crayon

I was a total bookworm as a child. Instead of playing games at recess, I preferred to curl up under my desk and read. Of all the books I read—from every Encyclopedia Brown to Freaky Friday to The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway (I was a precocious kid), the book with the most enduring impact was also the simplest: Harold and the Purple Crayon. I was enchanted by Harold’s adventures, amazed by his ability to draw his way out of every obstacle and ultimately find his way home. Long before I began seeing this as a metaphor for creativity (and life!), this story appealed to me. Fifty years later, I continue to find new layers of meaning in this little book. It’s a simple yet profound testament to the power of imagination and creativity.

What is one unexpected thing or habit that inspires your writing practice?

sarah chauncey forest new castle

Walking in nature is my creative “secret sauce” and the central practice to my writing. Several years ago, I realized that although my role in this world is as a writer, my job is to bring myself back into presence, over and over, to get into a place where words can flow through me. I walk to get out of my mind and into my body. I come into fierce presence by noticing the rain on my face, salal berries ripening into deep blue, or the texture of earth beneath my feet. When my body is occupied by walking, ideas bubble up from my subconscious. Whether I’m looking for ways to trim an over-long essay or searching for words to evoke a hard-to-articulate experience, as soon as my legs find their rhythm, ideas begin to flow.

Learn More

Book cover

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Being Witnessed In Grief Is A Powerful Balm For Healin...

Dear friends,

Two days after my cat, Hedda, died in 2016, my friend Francis sent me a sketch with a note “from” Hedda that read, in part, “P.S. I love you more than tuna.” Through my tears, I thought that would be a great book title. I had a clear vision: an illustrated gift book that people would give to friends, family, colleagues, or clients after the loss of their cat. A step beyond a sympathy card, this would be the first “empathy book” for adults grieving the loss of a cat.

Thinking About You - Being Witnessed In Grief Is A Powerful Balm For Healing Blog

 

Inspired in part by Eckhart Tolle and Patrick McDonnell’s Guardians of Being and Charles M. Schultz’s Happiness is a Warm Puppy, P.S. I Love You More Than Tuna offers comfort and inspiration through New Yorker-style drawings and simple, evocative language. My goal was to make it heartfelt without being cloying.

Every year, six million Americans and Canadians must say a final goodbye to their cats—buddies who leapt into their hearts as kittens, purred away heartbreak through multiple breakups, snuggled by their side in homes large and small, and occasionally deleted folders of work by stretching out on a warm keyboard.

“Pet loss” is considered a disenfranchised form of grief; it’s not culturally sanctioned. We don’t have any universal rituals for this grief, like sitting shiva or holding a wake. This often leaves the bereaved feeling isolated and misunderstood, which compounds the grief and makes healing more difficult.

People grieving companion animals have a need to be seen, their grief validated. Being witnessed in grief is a powerful balm for healing.

Friends of those grieving companion animals are often at a loss for ways to show their support. P.S. I Love You More Than Tuna gives all of us the opportunity to make a profound impact with a simple gesture.

When Francis sent me the sketch and note, I felt seen. Francis’s gift acknowledged the bond I’d had with Hedda and my grief at her death. The present tense of the note also reminded me that Hedda was still with me, even if I couldn’t see her. That was significant in terms of helping me heal, and that’s the comfort I hope P.S. I Love You More Than Tuna will provide to other cat lovers.

Sounds True has created a lovely video preview for P.S. I Love You More Than Tuna. I hope you’ll check it out below.

Best Friends Animal - Thinking About You - Being Witnessed In Grief Is A Powerful Balm For Healing Blog

Ultimately, I hope this book will benefit the world in multiple ways: for the recipient, witnessing and healing; for the giver, a tangible action they can take to help another; for Best Friends Animal Society, to which I’m donating 10 percent of my proceeds, contributing to their work of keeping pets in the home. This includes helping low-income people connect with resources they need to feed, train, and care for their companion animals. And of course, I hope this will benefit Sounds True and their work in the world, which is quickly becoming more needed than ever.

Take care,

Sarah Chauncey

Book Cover

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  IndieBound  |  Bookshop

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Embracing Empathy as Your Superpower

What do I do when a loved one is suffering? How do I have empathy if I’m getting a divorce or losing my job? If my family treats me unfairly? Or if I’m emotionally overwhelmed or in chronic pain?

If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions, I’ve written The Genius of Empathy for you. It also includes a beautiful foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

In the book, I present empathy as a healing force that helps you overcome obstacles in your life with dignity, grace, and power. As a psychiatrist and empath, I draw from my insights and present techniques from my own life and from the healing journeys of my clients, students, and readers. As I say in the book, “Empathy softens the struggle, quiets the unkind voices, and lets you befriend yourself again.”

Empathy doesn’t mean being “on call” 24 hours a day for those in need. Empaths can often wear an invisible sign that says, “I can help you.” However, if you want to heal yourself, have better relationships, and contribute to healing our tumultuous world, you must learn how to set healthy boundaries and observe, not absorb, the energy of others.

To start taking a more proactive role in how much empathy you give others at any one time, I suggest that you keep in mind the following “rights.” They will help you maintain a healthy mindset and prevent or lessen any empathy overwhelm that might arise:

  • I have the right to say a loving, positive “no” or “no, thank-you.”
  • I have the right to set limits with how long I listen to people’s problems.
  • I have the right to rest and not be always available to everyone.
  • I have the right to quiet peacefulness in my home and in my heart.

Practice: Take a Sound Break to Repair Yourself

Plan periods of quiet to recover from our noisy, fast-paced world. This helps calm your nervous system and your mind, an act of self-empathy.

It’s rejuvenating to schedule at least five minutes of quiet or, even better, complete silence for an hour or more where no one can intrude. As I do, hang a Do Not Disturb sign on your office or bedroom door. During this reset period, you’ve officially escaped from the world. You’re free of demands and noxious sounds. You may also get noise canceling earbuds to block out noise.

If too much quiet is unsettling, go for a walk in a local park or a peaceful neighborhood to decompress from excessive sound stimulation. Simply focus on putting one foot in front of the other, which is called mindful walking. Nothing to do. Nothing to be. Move slowly and refrain from talking. If thoughts come, keep refocusing on your breath, each inhalation and exhalation. Just letting life settle will regenerate your body and empathic heart.

Embracing your empathy does require courage. It can feel scary. If you’re ready to discover its healing power, I would be honored to be your guide to helping you in overcoming your fears and obstacles, and enhancing this essential skill for long-term change.

Though many of us have never met, I feel connected to you. Connection is what fuels life. While empathy is what allows you to find peace. With both, we can make sense of this world together.

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Ignite empathy as a superpower for personal healing, deeper relationships, and more potent work in the world. New York Times bestselling author Dr. Judith Orloff draws on insights from neuroscience, psychology, and energy medicine to show us how to access our sensitivities, soothe our nervous systems, and embody our most fierce and authentic selves.

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