3 comforting lessons about grief we can learn from the animal kingdom.

Did you know that grief is not just a human emotion? Behaviors of grief have also been observed in other species.

You've probably heard stories like the dog lying beside his owner's casket, but beyond the anecdotes is enough scientific observation to suggest that many animals experience what we could call grief symptoms.

Here are three things we can learn about grieving from the animal kingdom:


1. Getting over a traumatic loss doesn't happen overnight. Animals have been observed staying near the bodies of companions for days.

While you're going through the stages of grief, it's important to remember that your mission isn't to feel better right away or even as soon as you can.

When cameraman Mark Deeble was following an elephant family in Kenya for the documentary series "Africa," he observed a mother mourning the loss of her calf. She stayed next to the body for over an hour.

Photo by Olaf Kraak/AFP/Getty Images.

"In a more benign environment, an elephant might mourn for longer," James Honeyborne, a wildlife filmmaker, wrote in The Daily Mail. "I have heard of animals staying beside the bodies of dead friends for three days and nights, refusing to move."

Geese, which are notably loyal animals, often mourn in seclusion for a long time when their mate dies. Some will even refuse to take another mate ever again.

Grief is a long and slow process. You shouldn't put pressure on yourself to get better in a day, or a week, or even a year. There are no time limits to your feelings. As psychotherapist Martha Clark Scala writes:

"You may start to feel better in three months, but don't be surprised if you're still miserable, at least some of the time, several months to several years after your loss. The average length of time it takes most people to consistently feel better is about a year. However, it's also common to feel better for a while and then take a turn for the worse. That can be triggered by events such as special holidays or occasions that have a particular association with the person you've lost, especially the anniversary of his or her death."

Whether it's anger, guilt, or unbearable sadness, your emotions are what they are. Don't hide from them or try to push them down. Give yourself the time and space you need to really embrace your feelings. It will help you heal.

2. Having the comfort of close friends nearby can help you process your feelings. Multiple primate species have been observed mourning as a group.

In 2008, a volunteer at a chimpanzee rescue shelter named Monica Szcupider took a now-iconic photograph of chimps lining up at the fence of their enclosure to watch as the body of Dorothy, one of their fellow chimps, was wheeled away.

"Her presence, and loss, was palpable, and resonated throughout the group," Szcupider said.

Photo by Rob Elliot/AFP/Getty Images.

When you lose someone close to you, it's important to remember that you're not alone, even if you feel that way. Leaning on friends and family can be a key part of the healing process.

Recently, a snub-nosed monkey fell to her death in front of her partner at an observatory in China. The rest of her group ran over to her, holding her hand and giving her comfort for nearly an hour as she lay dying. The lead male of her group stayed by her side longer than anyone and kept glancing back at her even once he rejoined his group at a nearby river.

A snub-nosed monkey in Korea. Photo by Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images.

Deaths rarely affect just one person. Being with other people who are feeling the same loss can bring you all closer together as you help each other come to terms with the trauma.

3. Death can be hard to accept. Some animals have been observed participating in behaviors suggesting they're in denial.

"The first reaction to learning of terminal illness or death of a cherished loved one is to deny the reality of the situation," writes Julie Axelrod at Psych Central. "It is a normal reaction to rationalize overwhelming emotions. It is a defense mechanism that buffers the immediate shock."

A gorilla in Germany was documented holding the body of her deceased baby for a week, trying in vain to restore life to him. Dolphins have also been known to carry dead loved ones on their backs for long periods of time, trying to buoy them and get them to swim again.

A different gorilla with her (alive) baby at an Illinois zoo. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

These stories are tragic, but denial is often a normal part of the grieving process for both animals and humans.

Denial is not the same as refusal to accept reality, though there are certain warning signs you can pay attention to if your natural denial phase is becoming unhealthy.

But getting from denial to acceptance that a loved one has passed is hard, and the road to recovery takes many forms and has many stages. Denial doesn't mean you're crazy or unable to cope — it's just one way the brain can react.

The biggest takeaway? Regardless of species, grief is a totally natural part of life.

Losing someone you love is incredibly painful, and the grieving process means you might be hurting for a long time. But it's something we go through, humans and animals alike.

Photo by Patrick Hamilton/AFP/Getty Images.

You may think you're wrong for feeling as bad as you do, or for crying as much as you want to cry. You're not. The confusing, terrifying, maddening, and isolating process known as mourning is both natural and kind of amazing.

It's amazing because it means you were lucky enough in your life to love someone so much that their loss can hurt this bad. Cherish the happy memories you have. Those aren't going anywhere.

Death and heartbreak are a part of life for both humans and animals. But so are happiness and fulfillment.

And so is healing.

Photo by Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images.

True
Frito-Lay

Did you know one in five families are unable to provide everyday essentials and food for their children? This summer was also the hungriest on record with one in four children not knowing where their next meal will come from – an increase from one in seven children prior to the pandemic. The effects of COVID-19 continue to be felt around the country and many people struggle to secure basic needs. Unemployment is at an all-time high and an alarming number of families face food insecurity, not only from the increased financial burdens but also because many students and families rely on schools for school meal programs and other daily essentials.

This school year is unlike any other. Frito-Lay knew the critical need to ensure children have enough food and resources to succeed. The company quickly pivoted to expand its partnership with Feed the Children, a leading nonprofit focused on alleviating childhood hunger, to create the "Building the Future Together" program to provide shelf-stable food to supplement more than a quarter-million meals and distribute 500,000 pantry staples, school supplies, snacks, books, hand sanitizer, and personal care items to schools in underserved communities.

Keep Reading Show less

The recent passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg not only marked the end of an illustrious life of service to law and country, but the beginning of an unprecedented judicial nomination process. While Ginsburg's spot on the Supreme Court sits open, politicians and regular Americans alike argue over whether or not it should be filled immediately, basing their arguments on past practices and partisan points.

When a Supreme Court vacancy came up in February of 2016, nine months before the election, Senate Republicans led by Mitch McConnell refused to even take up a hearing to consider President Obama's pick for the seat, arguing that it was an election year and the people should have a say in who that seat goes to.

Four years later, a mere six weeks before the election, that reasoning has gone out the window as Senate Republicans race to get a nominee pushed through the approval process prior to election day. Now, they claim, because the Senate majority and President are of the same party, it makes sense to proceed with the nomination.

Keep Reading Show less
True

$200 billion of COVID-19 recovery funding is being used to bail out fossil fuel companies. These mayors are combatting this and instead investing in green jobs and a just recovery.

Learn more on how cities are taking action: c40.org/divest-invest


Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather has become a beloved voice of reason, knowledge, and experience for many Americans on social media the past few years. At 88, Rather has seen more than most of us, and as a journalist, he's had a front row seat as modern history has played out. He combines that lifetime of experience and perspective with an eloquence that hearkens to a time when eloquence mattered, he called us to our common American ideals with his book "What Unites Us," and he comforts many of is with his repeated message to stay "steady" through the turmoil the U.S. has been experiencing.

All of that is to say, when Dan Rather sounds the alarm, you know we've reached a critical historical moment.

Yesterday, President Trump again refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power after the election when directly asked if he would—yet another democratic norm being toppled. Afterward, Rather posted the following words of wisdom—and warning—to his nearly three million Facebook fans:


Keep Reading Show less

"Very nice!" It appears as though Kazakhstan's number one reporter, Borat Sagdiyev, is set to return to the big screen in the near future and the film's title is a sight to behold.

Reports show that the title submitted to the Writer's Guild of America, "Borat: Gift Of Pornographic Monkey To Vice Premiere Mikhael Pence To Make Benefit Recently Diminished Nation Of Kazakhstan" is even longer than the first film's, "Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan."

As the title suggests, the film is expected to feature an encounter with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence as well as President Trump's TV lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

Keep Reading Show less