What do you have to be grateful for this week? Focus on that for a few moments today. Breathe it in. And smile.

It’s been an amazingly bittersweet week for me.

Here’s the sweet part:

This week, my new book, Upside Down to Right Side Up, launched in Kindle format and rose to #1 New Release and Best Seller on Amazon. I am so grateful and humbled by all the encouragement and support from my family, friends, colleagues and followers.

I did something earlier this week and gifted five books to women I know who could use the motivation found in this book. Did you know you could gift a Kindle book? I learned something new—it just takes knowing their email address and Amazon does the rest. Easy-peasy. And a beautiful gift of love and support. Do you know someone who could use that?

Here’s the bitter part:

Our 14-year-old cat, Harley, is losing his battle with anorexia. We’ve been trying to entice him to eat for a couple of months now. A five-hour trip to the emergency clinic indicated nothing worrisome in his bloodwork, thyroid is fine, no apparent tumors or markers for cancer—there is nothing apparently wrong.

The poor guy just can’t eat very much. I’m making food—which he doesn’t like. I buy Fancy Feast and Sheba in all kinds of flavors—he just licks the moisture out and leaves the rest. He doesn’t appear to be in any pain, either. He is getting weaker, though. We’re preparing our hearts for his departure.

Anyone who knows me knows how much our fur-baby-family-of-four means to me—to Jim, too. Here’s Harley at his best!

What I’ve learned about preparing for a loss

Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, a dear pet who is part of the family, a dream or a relationship, the feelings that come up can be overwhelming and hard to process. And sometimes, we don’t get to prepare for a loss—it happens suddenly and without warning.

It can seem like a never-ending spiral of emptiness and sadness. A pit in your stomach. A hole in your heart. That’s the grief. I’ve learned that it is not a permanent state of being, if we allow ourselves to move through and beyond it.

Instead, it is part of the process of letting go of the painful experience so we can make room for the lighter and brighter memories that can lift our hearts. Over time, these memories can become our go-to thoughts about who or what we’ve lost, rather than dwelling on the pain we felt. Those memories can help us to fill the hole in our heart with unexpected gifts that last forever.

There is no denying how intense these feelings can be at the onset of any loss. We might feel shock or denial at first. I keep praying that Harley will tell me when he is ready, so I can keep him from suffering. So far, he’s still cuddly and purring and seeking my company, so I don’t think he’s ready yet. I don’t think I’m in denial. And, I check in with that every single morning and evening, looking for the signs. Perhaps I am, though, and just putting my human needs above his. That’s always the dilemma with pets who can’t tell us, isn’t it.

As I prepare for this eventuality, I know what to expect, yet I know it will be very hard. There will be cycles of grief, ebbing and flowing and ebbing and flowing again. We all know about the stages of grief—there will be those, too, in some form or another. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. My experience is that those can be mixed with feelings of strength, faith and laughter, too.

I’ve learned that denying the feelings, stuffing them down, pretending not to feel anything, makes them linger longer. Feeling them, accepting that they are normal, and allowing them to flow through will help them to flow out.

Be patient. Give it time. Be gentle on yourself until you can fill that hole in your heart in unexpected ways.

I also learned that it doesn’t help us to hold on to our grief. You may feel afraid that letting it go means you no longer care, or that you will forget how much they meant. You may feel guilty for healing and feel a sense of disloyalty. I believe that holding tight to the precious memories is the best way to honor the person, pet or dream you’ve lost.

Allow the hurt to fade. Let the hole in your heart fill over time so you can feel whole again. Healing is part of the ebb and flow. As it becomes more gentle, you start to feel less pained. As you feel less pained, you open up to new possibilities.

The new possibilities allow you to participate again in the natural dance that is this life we all share.

Welcome to the dance.