Do animals grieve?

Published by Chapster on 2006/7/18 (11208 reads)

I've seen that expression on humans and animals alike, many times, even across species. People who had not a friend in the world are guarded and mourned by their chihuahua, who stands on the top of the bed, similarly pawing at their dear friend, certain that they will arise in a few moments, but knowing intuitively that they won't. They understand what has happened. They appreciate that it is part of the life cycle. But, like so much of creation, they feel the deep need to mourn.

Romeo, a cat, apart from going to it's litter box, stayed on his human mother's bed for three days, cradling his knitted monkey. He quit eating for a time. He was plainly, and deeply, saddened.

Edith was dying. I saw her in the afternoon. She had spoken so many times of wanting to die. At ninety-nine years of age, she was ready to go.

"I've seen so many of my family come and go. I love my relatives, but I don't really even know them. Just pray that I die."

"I will Edith."

"Lord, sometimes we just get really tired. Nothing makes sense anymore. The world's all changed around us and we feel like we just don't belong any more. Please hear Edith's words today. She's tired. She loves you, Lord, and she feels like she can trust you to take her. So, when the time's just right, please come and sweep her awayinto your arms. Amen."

A week or so later, on a Friday evening, while I was mowing my lawn, a bird came and sat not four feet away from me, gas lawn mower chopping away. I had become keenly aware of birds in the course of caring for patients. Somehow, I knew that Edith had just died. And, she had.

Barb and I sat with a friend we knew and his mom. He was unresponsive and was dying. Moments before he died, and I swear this is true, a dove landed on the small window sill of his hospital room. It stayed on the ledge for the last twenty minutes of his life, leaving as we said an Amen to a prayer.

Tags: grief   bereavement   animal   elephant   dog  

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