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  • Writer's pictureMarybeth Haines

The Ability To Mourn - Learning From Animals

I feel about my dogs now, and all the dogs I had prior to this, the way I feel about children—they are that important to me. When I have lost a dog I have gone into a mourning period that lasted for months.”

-Mary Tyler Moore.

What allows us to mourn? Two nights ago I heard of an actor passing away suddenly and I surprised myself at my tears. I didn’t know this actor, but I knew that he was young and brilliant and had a full life, I thought, ahead of him. What IS this human emotion that is shared with animals? Some say that mourning increases social attachment that enhances survival.

Ever since a young age, I’ve always been fascinated with crows. Years ago, I saw a crow making a fuss by another crow that had passed away on the road. I knew immediately that the crow was upset.

I respect the fact that scientists may say that the crow was perhaps letting their group know what had happened in order to protect the rest of the crows, however, this crow’s cry was something I had not heard before.

I felt for this crow and he stayed close by me, even when I came too close. It may sound odd, but I feel that I had shared in his grief and it made me feel connected to nature. I still think about that crow on the side of the road to this day. I think about how freely he expressed himself. People can learn a lot by watching nature ‘happen.

One year at Christmas time, my father bought my mother a stature of two Canada Geese. He told us kids that ‘geese mate for life.’ Often geese who lose their mate will finally get together with another goose who has lost their mate. I live in the city but I grew up on a farm. In fact, I often speak about growing up on a farm where birth and death go hand in hand.

I’ve learned that elephants will mourn their dead by becoming silent with submissive body language. I’ve heard that they also bury their dead. Chimps and Giraffes also mourn their dead. Chimps will pout and cry and Giraffes can stay by their dead for a long time before moving on. It’s as if they don’t want to let go of the deceased, just like us humans.

When my dad passed away, our dog Piper mourned along side of all of us in the family. It was just the way it was. So, it is important to understand that mourning is not a bad thing. It is a healthy thing. Mourning releases pent up emotions.

Sure, it is heart wrenching, but it is also healing. Only through mourning can we get to that light. It is important to understand that pets mourn the loss of their owners. Being sensitive to the needs of animals when it comes to loss or change is essential to comforting them and helping them move on.

What is my main message I wish to share in this post?……We as humans can surely identify with animals AND learn from them and be assisted by them in our own mourning.

Animals comforting humans who comfort animals….do you see the unconditional circle here?

With love and hugs,


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