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    Hi Pete,

    Fellow animal lover here. I’m so sorry for your profound loss. I just wanted to reach out to express my condolences and to say THANK YOU for giving your cat what were undoubtedly the best 2+ years of his life. I have so much gratitude for you, and I don’t even know you. If a stranger can feel this without knowing you, I can assure you that your cat had an infinite amount of gratitude and appreciation for you; you gave him the life he always deserved.

    I relate very personally to your story. A week after moving to NY my first cat—Henry—found me on a street in Brooklyn. He was the coolest and quickly became my best friend. About six months later, I adopted a second cat to give Henry some company while I was at work, and thus we welcomed Vika into our family. Vika was—and is—a much more typical cat, but Henry charmed the hearts of people who’d say things like “I never wanted a cat, but I’d have one if he could be like Henry” after meeting him.

    We had 7 glorious years together. Then one day I came home and immediately knew something wasn’t right with Henry. I grabbed him in my arms and ran around trying to find a vet that was open since it was a holiday. I finally succeeded, and while walking there he looked up at me, rested his head on my hands, and then died in my arms.

    The rest of that day—week even—is a blur. For the next two months I had crying fits just when I thought I might finally be okay. The grief we experience—it’s a sign of how much we loved these little guys. Maybe they saved us as much as we saved them. I cry as I type this even though Henry’s death occurred about 1.5 years ago.

    In closing, I want to leave you with a sentiment from Nora McInerny, who said something to the effect of “we don’t move on from grief, we move forward with it.” (There’s a TED Talk on it that’s worth your time if you’re so inclined.)

    “We don’t move on from grief, we move forward with it.” I’ll always love and miss Henry, just as you will always love and miss your cats and dog. The pain becomes less acute over time. I’m not sure it ever fully goes away (sometimes I cry still just thinking of that one), but that love—those scars, those testaments to all the messiness and affection of the bond that binds two creatures for the short time they coexist in each other’s space while on this planet—stays with us forever, and our grief is a great, visceral testament to it.

    So sorry once again for your loss. Grieve and mourn for as long as you need and in whatever ways you need. And then take that love and honor it. There are lots of ways to do so, but doing for other animals what you did for your cat is absolutely one of them: loving them unconditionally and giving them the best lives possible during the short time they’re here (and I am certain they will return the gesture).

    Sending you lots of love and good energy from NY (and Vika says hello too!). Take care, Pete, and be well.


    • This reply was modified 1 week, 4 days ago by John.

    Hi Dario,

    I felt compelled to reply to your post as I am in a somewhat similar situation having recently ended a relationship with a man whom I loved enough–and still love enough–to spend the rest of my life with. Alas, he does not share these feelings, and so he made the decision to end our relationship.

    I expressed my desire to stay together and told him I thought what we had was rare, special, and unique. While he admitted to sharing my affections, he also expressed that he no longer had interest in continuing to participate in a relationship that did not meet his needs and one that he didn’t see changing without significant work from both parties (which he also felt incapable of committing to at this point in his life).

    I didn’t understand his reasoning (still don’t),  but I quickly discovered that probing his logic did not solve anything and only seemed to aggravate further an already difficult situation. I still love him. I’d still like to be with him. But I am also learning to accept his decision and–as best I can–to move forward with a life that will no longer include the man whom I still love.

    To that end, I would like to share with you a list of items that I have found useful in learning to let go and accept that which–to my heart, at least–is unacceptable (I playfully call it my “letting go for dummies” list):

    1. If you can’t let go, acknowledge your intention to want to be able to let go. There is a subtle but tangible difference between fixating and acknowledging/accepting where you are.
    2. Try to see letting go as a celebration of the love you have for the other person. I know, I know! Giant eye-roll–especially if you are dealing with the intensity of the pain from loss. But intense feelings are what render this method particularly effective.

      See, I have all of these feelings about the breakup, right? This isn’t my decision. This isn’t what I want. I want him. I want us. I want everything to be okay. I want to wake up in the morning knowing that he’s mine and go to sleep each night smiling at the thought of the next time I will see his face.

      Unfortunately, these feelings are not mutual, which is why we currently find ourselves in the throes of this unpleasant situation in the first place. My once-partner has decided this relationship is no longer right for him, and I have to respect that decision; I could, I suppose, choose to ignore it or not acknowledge it, but by now I know that fighting it will only prolong the pain, suffering, and sadness that I need to experience as part of my healing process. Alas, my love for him will motivate my choice to respect his decision and to honor his journey. I know love isn’t selfish, so I won’t try to make him stay in a place that doesn’t foster and support his emotional, spiritual, and physical growth and wellbeing.

      Every time my feelings of loss surface, I will remember that honoring his needs is a testament to my love–a celebration of the wisdom, strength, and maturity that live inside of me. I will simultaneously acknowledge the profound sadness that I experience when these feelings of loss surface. I will allow myself to grieve without blaming him or myself for my pain. I will try to see this suffering as a part of my gift of loving another person so deeply and so completely that the pain of losing him is a natural part of my life experience. I will try to remember that I will love again.

    3. Re-condition your cognitive and emotional responses. Each time I think of my ex-partner and remember what we had and feel pain and loss, I will use my agency to actively interrupt the process and say to myself:

      “He broke up with you, boo. He doesn’t want to be with you. It isn’t your fault, but it’s over.”

      This must be done from a place of self-compassion rather than self-judgment or self-criticism (hence my use of the term “boo” rather than “idiot” or “dummy”). If you can’t muster self-compassion, ask a friend to say these words to you when you bring up the subject of your ex or your recent breakup. If that’s too uncomfortable, imagine saying these words to a close friend or family member in a similar situation.

      Speak the words out loud–to yourself, to your cat, to a good friend. Acknowledge your feelings and be gentle with yourself, especially the first few times you speak the words. Cry. Be held. Do not try to deny yourself the catharsis of the embodied experience of your loss, pain, and suffering.

    4. Analyze and learn; try to avoid fixating. Know the difference between analysis/healthy reflection (and being analytical) and fixation.

      Don’t attempt to mindread (because you can’t); doing so will only reinforce maladaptive narratives and patterns of behavior. There’s no amount of thinking that can resolve the situation to your satisfaction. No matter how many times you replay some fateful conversation/moment from your relationship in your mind, the outcome won’t change.

      If possible, put your pain aside for a moment and consider your ex-partner’s agency and his ability to make decisions for himself. Listen to what you’ve been told, and then listen again. Repeat this process until you’ve not only listened but have actually heard and understood what is being communicated.

      Seek answers if you must, but do so with the knowledge that, when emotions run high, as they tend to do in matters of the heart when two people want opposing things, answers frequently beget only more questions.

      We treat others with dignity when actually hear them, respect their decisions, and honor their agency through our actions. This is an act of love. Aspire towards grace in the face of the indignity of heartbreak.

      Widen your scope. See all of the many areas of your life and your world that could benefit greatly from your enduring capacity for love, which–if anything like mine!–was heretofore narrowly focused on your ex-partner–friends, family, pets… the world needs your love, intense and so firmly rooted in the desire to nurture and to create meaningful connections, even if the duration of such connections is brief and fleeting. Find new ways to express your love while acknowledging the capacity and scope of your existing ones; see that one is not better or worse than the others, but that they are all extensions of your innate goodness.

    5. Pull yourself out of fixation. Learn your weak spots and, in one of your better moments, brainstorm what to do should you become obsessed with thoughts of the relationship. These methods tend to be particular from one individual to the next, but some general ideas include taking a mindful minute (calibrate in advance so that you know how many breaths comprise a mindful minute for you), listening to music, going on a walk, calling a friend or loved one, caring for a pet, stretching, checking a small task off your to-do list (e.g., grocery shopping–ones that are related to self-care can be especially effective when you’re hurting), signing off social media for the rest of the evening, etc. You can always return to the thoughts, if you like, when the intensity of the emotions has subsided, and you feel you are able to engage–but not necessarily identify with–them.

    These strategies are neither exhaustive nor perfect, but they are helping me deal with the incredibility and indignity of heartbreak, and I am beginning to move on even though this still isn’t what I want. I hope you find them useful. If not, perhaps just reading that someone else in the world is experiencing what you’re experiencing might help.

    I am sorry for you pain, and I hope that you will take steps that only you can take in order to begin to alleviate it.

    I wish you the best on your journey and all the love, joy, and happiness that you deserve.

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