Wednesday, March 19, 2008
We are all creatures of this great earth- interconnected in ways beyond understanding.
And yet, when a member of the herd passes, even elephants mourn.
They gather around,
extend their trunks,
and gently touch the tusks of their fallen friend.
It's their ritual.
It's how they heal.
And it's sad.
And it's beautiful.
So maybe what we're trying to say
is that the world doesn't expect you to be fine with this.
Be how you need to be. Mourn how you need to mourn.
These words are from a card that my best friend, Kristen, gave me after Caroline's death. It was so beautiful and the words were so perfect. For some reason I thought of this card today and dug it out. I wanted to share it. I also wanted to know if this is really true. This is what I found:
"One of the most natural emotions humans feel is grieving. This process is usually brought on with the death of a loved one. As humans, we have a natural arrogance to believe that we are the only ones capable of complex thought, as well as the whole gamut of emotional experiences. However, research and observation has proven that elephants are indeed capable of many complex functions of thought and feeling. There have been many observations of elephants grieving. In Joyce Poole's Coming of Age with Elephants, a situation is described where a mother elephant is seen grieving over her stillborn baby for a few days. This mother's physical stature was observed as slumped, appeared to be crying, while trying to revive her baby. This mother elephant was seen to be in denial which is a common reaction with humans confronting death. Finally, after some time had elapsed, the mother finally succumbed to the reality that she no longer had a live baby. She had to move on.
"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" (Joyce Poole P.90)
The plain truth is that elephants have a deep need to remember and mourn lost ones. This can even be observed many years since the death of a loved one. Without prior knowledge of an in-depth longitudinal study our observations would be meaningless. But, as observed by Joyce Poole, when an elephant walks past a place that a loved one died he/she will stop dead still; a silent and empty pause that can last several minutes. An elephant pause. I wonder if, like us, they relive experiences shared with the loved when they visit their place of death or resting spot. This is not that implausible given their need to investigate and touch the bones of a dead fellow elephant."