"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton
This is where I chronicle my reading life. I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.
This book, although only 125 pages, took me six weeks to read. Not because it wasn’t good, but because it WAS. I so craved affirmation and validation after my cat Phoebe died that I wanted to savor the experience of, as far as I can tell, one of the only books on the market written specifically for grieving a beloved cat.
“Soul Comfort” is self-published, but it is self-publishing at its highest calling, fulfilling a need that mainstream publishers seem to mostly ignore with a high-quality offering. The book is accessible and well-written, with a clean, consistent layout and is virtually error-free. Growing out of the author’s own grief after a beloved cat died, she shares her experiences as well as information from grief counselors and animal experts. The first part of the book validates the experiences of grieving after pet loss, and then moves into ways that you might honor your deceased pet and integrate your grief more fully. I especially liked her idea of choosing “continued connection” over “closure,” because it helped me reframe the way I’ve been addressing my own grieving process. In the beginning, it felt sort of frantic — like as soon as I got all Phoebe’s photos and videos together, as soon as I got her urn, as soon as I wrote her a goodbye letter, then I would have “closure” and be ready to “move on.” I did all those things and simultaneously started writing in My Pet Remembrance Journal, so then that journal became a proxy for my journey, and I started to feel anxious about finishing it so I could have “closure.”
But that chapter made me realize there really is no “rush” in my attempt to remember and honor Phoebe, and I’ve taken a more relaxed approach to putting together her mementos so that I can treasure that time rather than have it feel like “one more thing I have to do” instead of moving on.
The final third of the book explores the spiritual side of grief and the possibility of a loved one’s “essence” continuing to connect with you after they are gone. For me, this was the part that lagged the most, partly because it didn’t have a lot of “cat-specific” reference points but also because it felt as though the author tried just a little too hard to reassure the reader that life does continue after death. Even though she didn’t push any one religious agenda, and even though I do believe that mortal life is not all there is, something about it still rubbed me a bit the wrong way.
Still, I’m so glad that a book like this exists, and that Liz gave her project the time, effort, and professionalism it deserves. I will be holding onto my copy for a possible reread when I have to take this journey again (hopefully not for many years) or to lend to friends when the sad time comes for them to say goodbye to a cat companion.
Works referenced in the book that are now on my reading list: