Grief: How To Deal With It

As human beings, we are an emotional species, running the gamut from ecstasy to despair and grief…Today I was thinking about the nature of grief, a very strong and powerful emotion in humans, and was surprised to find out that other animal species experience grief as well…

Actually this should come as no surprise, since we are only animals ourselves, and the emotional mind set we have evolved from would explain this phenomenon…Grief in humans can be a cathartic experience, we must go through the stages of grief to cleanse our minds of the tragedy or loss that produced the grief in the first place...

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I personally have been feeling grief stricken at the death of my cat, whom I loved and cherished for over 16 years….I have already written an account of my feelings, a eulogy of sorts here about a week ago, but every day produces a fresh reminder of my loss…I realize that this does not compare in many people’s minds with the death of another human being, but in many ways my cat and me were closer than a lot of human beings, and that there are all kinds of grief…But I find that I am not alone in my grief…

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According to my Google sources: “Every person on this earth experiences tragedy and loss. Nobody is excluded from the painful feeling of grief. It is a disorienting experience. It takes away our identity and our own understanding of self.” I learned that there are 3 phases to healthy recovery after a loss….

1) “First, we exit our old life. Our loss forces us to leave behind the life we’ve been living. The normal routines of everyday life are disrupted. Some people believe that where we end up after that push-out of the old life is the next phase of life. But unfortunately, that’s not true. In this confused and lonely state, we only end up in the space between two lives.”

2) “Second, we begin living in a gap between lives — the life we left behind and the life we have yet to enter. I like to call this space the Waiting Room. When we’re in the Waiting Room, we’re still attached to the past — which is already gone forever – even as we’re trying to figure out what the future looks like. In this place, we struggle with our new reality, thinking that it is our new life. We are unable to see ourselves clearly and make
decisions as we used to. The brain’s ability to plan and reason is temporarily gone.

3) “Third, we begin to experiment with our new life. This is perhaps the scariest aspect of life after loss, because so much is unknown and has been taken on faith. Little by little, we begin stepping out of the Waiting Room and entering a new reality. We start to do this early on, even though we haven’t fully landed in the new life yet.

While these three phases address life after loss, the important things to look at for recovery are what happens to the mind… The trauma of any event that slams the door shut on an aspect of the past — a divorce or a death — leaves its mark on the brain. We are left with uncertainty. We don’t yet know what life will be like. We are afraid to take action and start over. Ultimately it is not the grief that stops us from starting life over, but fear of losing that life all over again.”

So those are the 3 main stages of grief in humans, and how as human being we compensate for our loss and move through the stages of grief…We must learn to accept what happened, we must deal with a certain period of waiting time and we must then overcome our uncertainty, our fears and doubts, and begin reliving our lives….I am trying to deal with that now, and I am probably still in the first stages of grief; I am in the space between my old life and my new one…They say time heals all wounds, and I know for a fact that this is true, but obviously, time takes time, so there really is no quick fix to grief…

Some people drown themselves in alcohol and drugs, throw themselves into a frenzied round of work, outside activities and events to muffle their grief, to try and deny it’s very existence, but this is a band aid, a stop gap temporary fix to our problems and not a real solution to the deep seated feelings of grief, which is a deeply emotional process we must all work through…

What my grief research turned up was somewhat of a surprise, in that so many animal species feel grief too…For example, again according to my Google sources:” Sea lion mothers, watching their babies being eaten by killer whales, wail pitifully, anguishing their loss. Dolphins have been seen struggling to save a dead infant and mourn afterward. Among the best examples are grieving rituals of elephants in the wild….

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Zoo M¸nster - Gorilla-Mutter Gana mit ihrem toten Sohn Claudio, der im Alter von drei Monaten gestorben ist 17.08.2008 muenster gorilla baby claudio ( 3 monate ) ist verstorben . mutter gana ( 11 ) trauert um ihr kind und traegt es immer hinter sich her bzw auf dem ruecken .   E.T. 18.08.2008 Bild Bund / © grief20

To quote Joyce Poole: “As I watched Tonie´s vigil over her dead newborn, I got my first very strong feeling that elephants grieve. I will never forget the expression on her face, her eyes, her mouth, the way she carried her ears, her head, and her body. Every part of her spelled grief.  “Young elephants who saw their mothers being killed often wake up screaming.”

And finally, “Gorillas are known to hold wakes for dead friends…As reported by local news, gorilla family members “one by one … filed into” the room where “Babs’s (the deceased gorilla) body lay,” approaching their “beloved leader” and “gently sniffing the body.”

So it seems that we as humans are not alone in our feelings of grief, of loss, of anguish, of despair at the loss of a loved one…In fact it seems to be a universal constant amongst all sentient creatures, and is yet another reason why we as humans should stop being so arrogant as to assume animals are just dumb brutes, incapable of emotion…

The fact remains, we are all animals, after all….

Just leave it like it is right now

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