SHERMAN OAKS, Calif. — Actress Reagan J. Pasternak is in mourning. She recently said goodbye to her beloved dog Jed that had been a part of her family for 14 years.
“Nobody can tell me that’s not meaningful,” she said. “I had him before I had my human son. He’s part of our life and part of our family, and it’s hard.”
Jed is not the first companion animal she’s lost. Growing up, Pasternak said she doesn’t remember a time when there weren’t animals in the house, and now as an adult, her Sherman Oaks home is filled with furry friends and with joy.
There are two dogs, Stella and Luna, plus a rather shy Siamese cat called Dr. Purr Purr that was found roaming around the Sony lot. And then there’s a mama cat and her quartet of kittens.
“Come on, right? What’s better than a kitten?” Pasternak cooed as she cuddled one of the tiny creatures. “Nothing! Nothing is better than a kitten!”
She and her 9-year-old son decided during the pandemic that they wanted the experience of fostering kittens and finding them forever homes, so they worked with an organization called Cats at the Studios.
“We got her and her kittens when they were three days old,” she explained. “Of course, now we are in love with them, and I don’t know how many will really be leaving my house.”
Spend five minutes in this full house, and it’s clear that for Pasternak these animal companions are family, but Griffin was even more than that.
“He was what I call my soulmate animal because we were just completely connected,” she said, sitting on the back deck with Luna curled in her lap. “I absolutely adored that guy.”
Griffin moved with her from Canada to Los Angeles, and when she began dating her now-husband, Kelcey Parker, she said Griffin was like their baby.
“And then he got heart disease and died,” she recalled. “And I could not believe how much it affected me, how broken I was and how I couldn’t quite get through that pain and find a resource that I wanted to help me through that.”
It’s been 10 years since she lost Griffin, 10 years of reading and processing and slowly healing, 10 years of lessons learned, and realizing the pain never really goes away.
“I’ll miss him forever,’” she reads from the back of a photo of Griffin, as she chokes back tears. “And I still do. All these years later. It’s tough. Grief is hard. It’s complicated.”
This is why 10 years later, she has published a book called “Griffin’s Heart: Mourning Your Pet with No Apologies.”
It’s a part memoir but also part journal. Pasternak guides readers through a series of exercises intended to help them process their own feelings. It was her “intentional intention” as she was writing, she says to give the reader the sense that she’s there with them, listening, holding their hand. There are places to put photos, draw pictures and in the final section, to say goodbye.
“Bringing some sort of peace and closure, hopefully,” Pasternak said as she closed a copy of the book she’s been filling out for another cat named Murmur. “You’re closing it up. It’s full of your pictures, your memories.”
In that sense, she hopes it will ultimately become a keepsake and a memorial to a lost loved one.
Grief is not an easy journey. She knows that. But Pasternak wants readers to know that their grief is real and valid, and it shouldn’t be dismissed or ignored.
“Once you move through the pain, you realize it’s really just about love and what’s bad about love?” she asked. “Nothing. Nothing is, so honor how you feel.”