Grieving Elephants.

Grieving Elephants 1If you have been around here or here, you may have noticed I have a love of elephants. It began when a friend who knows her animals, listed off some facts about elephants and when I heard these things and then looked into the eye of an elephant, I fell in love. It was kismet.

Did you know elephants grieve? It’s one of the things that make them incredibly rare in the animal world. They mourn the dead. If the elephant is in their herd, they form a funeral procession. If they come upon a fallen brother or sister, they lift their feet and feel with their trunks–learning this elephant and saying goodbye at the same time.

Their pregnancies take 22 months and so life blooms slowly as grief is observed. I know my pregnant friends cannot imagine two years of pregnancies but maybe that is why these animals care so much for their dead. Someone once told me that if a mother’s baby elephant dies, she would try to lift him, over and over again, until she breaks her tusks.Grieving ElephantsGrief is a hard thing. Saying goodbye to my papa was much more difficult than I ever anticipated. As someone who will do anything to avoid emotional pain, I was suddenly in fear of all my relationships. It wasn’t enough to only have people in my life who wouldn’t hurt me because they loved me, because inevitably, they would whether they wanted to or not. Glennon Doyle Melton writes about a conversation with her son and a dead goldfish, “I told him that we don’t love people and animals because we will have them forever, we love them because loving them changes us, makes us better, healthier, kinder, realer. Loving people and animals makes us stronger in the right ways and weaker in the right ways. Even if animals and people leave, even if they die, they leave us better. So we keep loving, even though we might lose them because loving teaches us and changes us. And that’s what we’re here to do. God sends us here to learn to be better lovers, and to learn how to be loved, so we’ll be prepared for heaven” (147).

I like that. I like it a lot. And yet it is hard for me. Because I don’t want to be weak and I don’t want to be hurt and I don’t want to keep loving knowing I may or will lose. I avoid these things.

Yet his power is made perfect in my weakness. He calls and commands us to love, both himself and the people he puts in our lives. And he doesn’t include exceptions like: love hard unless you may be hurt in the process. Grieving Elephants 2In the best book on grief I’ve ever read (A Grief Observed), C.S. Lewis admits, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” Oh! That makes so much sense. Fear has chased me my whole life. It chased me right into God’s arms. It still keeps me awake at night. It still pushes me towards perfectionism. I hate fear and I hate grief and I hate loss.

Elephants mourn. They grieve. This makes them unique and special. They feel. I run away from feelings. I watched a YouTube video of a herd of elephants coming across a fallen elephant they did not know. They stopped, they took their time. They kept lifting their feet, in angst perhaps? Their trunks reached to touch him.

They did not run past him. They stopped.

And here is what I have learned. You cannot outrace grief. It will beat you every time. You must walk through it. Grieving Elephants 4What if I just felt these things as they came, instead of fighting them off–loss, grief, fear, hurt, pain? What if I allowed my heart to break?

I think God promises: if your heart breaks, we will rebuild it into something more like mine. I never thought of it like that before and all the energy I waste fighting those feelings back, against the current of feeling, could go towards loving and grieving and the mess that is life.

What do you think, buddies? Are elephants making me maudlin or wise?



Visit the Peony Sponsor:

Subscribe to the Monthly Newsletter!

* indicates required

23 thoughts on “Grieving Elephants.

  1. Anne

    I have loved elephants (though not to the degree you do it seems) since I was little and had a pink and white stuffed elephant named Ellie. They are gentle beasts with eyes that pull you in. I just read Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult. Have you read it? The main characters work in an elephant reserve and so much info is shared about the elephants and grieving and research on it. If you haven’t read it, try it!

    1. Nina Post author

      Aw, I love that you had an Ellie. My love for elephants just grows the more I learn about them. They were also a way to connect with my little sis. She always loved (and still does) seeing my elephants and picking out new ones for me. We both have elephant necklaces 🙂 Another person mentioned the book to me so I may have to read it. I have been kind of disappointed in her last few so I’ve given up. (I know she is one of your faves with Sister’s Keeper…the vlog LOL…look at my earrings! ooh, I should where my ellie ones!) Thanks for reading what was a long post. I hope you are having the best vacation!

  2. Sarah @ 12 Twenty Seven

    I never knew that elephants mourned and grieved–what a special and beautiful creature! After losing my mom, my grandmother and my husband’s three grandparents in a matter of a year and a half, my heart was shattered more times than I can count. I remember keeping my feelings in check and dancing around my grief because I was afraid to face it. But, when I did, my heart was transformed and I learned to allow that pain to penetrate without tearing me down. Nina, you are such an amazing writer and I just want to thank you for that! <3

    1. Nina Post author

      Thank you for making me feel so special and loved today here and texting and on twitter. Like I told you, I almost didn’t post it because I didn’t know if I made sense. I didn’t realize you lost all those people in such a short time. I knew about your mom and grandmother but man. I am so sorry, Sarah. Dancing around grief is such a good way to put it. Because not only are we kind of trying to avoid it by just dancing or moving around the hole of it, we are trying to feel anything but grief and dancing is usually a happy thing. If we’re dancing, we can’t be said, right? You are so inspirational in telling me about your heart transforming. He is SO good. Thank you for READING. Love you!

  3. Cassie

    Ok, first, I love this post and how you worked in the elephants. Also, I obviously love Elephants (my tattoo). In addition to all of the things you mentioned about elephants, Ganesha is known as the remover of obstacles in the Hindu culture. He is also known for his wisdom. Such a wonderful post that definitely hit home for me.

    1. Nina Post author

      Cassie, you are so good at affirmation. I was talking to Bex yesterday and I was like I have no clue what I am going to write about. Maybe elephants? Because I’ve had an idea about elephants and grief in my head for months, maybe. But I wrote it yesterday and I didn’t even know if it made sense because with something like this sometimes I need distance to see it objectively, ya know? I love your tattoo and thank you for telling me about Ganesha. Every time I learn more about elephants, I think: yep, you are my people. Thanks, diggity!

  4. Katie

    I think allowing time to feel is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves. When I was younger I thought that being so overly sensitive was a handicap. It made me less bubbly, less extroverted, and more afraid, but now I see that it also gives passion, heart, and strength.

    Since you love elephants and are interested in their grieving patterns I recommend you read Jodi Picoult’s “Leaving Time”, part of it is about a scientist studying the grieving patterns of elephants in both the wild and in captivation. I learned so much! (although the rest of the novel didn’t live up to some of my other favorites by her)

    1. Nina Post author

      You are so right about allowing time to feel. What I like to do is allow so much time that when I really should start to deal with stuff and feel it, I’m like: nah, it’s fine…I’m over it. (I cope so well. HA!) I can see why being sensitive (not as in overly so or with a bad connotation) would make you feel that way. For me, it was just like, after I had been heartbroken a few times, how does it logically make sense to put myself in a position to feel this way ever again? But I’ve realized that’s life. And I can’t build a life that is pain free. I have thought about reading the Picoult’s book just for the ellies but I have been disappointed in her recent stuff too. Thanks for your thoughts, seriously. You are so right: feeling things does give us more passion, heart, and strength. Thanks so much!

  5. Kasey

    wiser. 100%. I love elephants too! I was just at the zoo yesterday watching one just hanging out, dancing to her own jams. they’re such incredible creatures.

    also. thank you for this, it really spoke to me on multiple levels. I especially appreciate the view of “if your heart breaks, we will rebuild it into something more like mine” I’m going to work to remember that view instead of trying to avoid the heartbreak altogether.

      1. Nina Post author

        How about I wrote it incorrectly in the first place? It’s always something with a blog post. LOL

    1. Nina Post author

      They are the best. I am glad it spoke to you. I wrote it yesterday and I was worried because sometimes I need more objectivity to see if it even makes sense! So your affirmation means a lot not to mention that it meant something to you. Thanks, Kasey!

  6. carissajade

    I love this, so beautiful. It’s human nature not to want to feel pain-but it makes us stronger and better to just embrace it. Keep your head up and keep on keeping on. That’s the best we can do!

  7. Marissa

    I loved this! I too struggle to allow myself to feel grief. But I’m very slowly learning to let myself feel all things — the good, bad and ugly. And in that, I’ve come to find that God is faithful in the midst of it all. Thanks for being vulnerable and sharing this piece of your life!

    1. Nina Post author

      Marissa, you are so right. God is faithful to meet us there. I am learning that avoiding hurt is really about my faith in Him, and I am avoiding an opportunity for him to meet me and honestly that is something sacred. Thanks so much for reading!

  8. Jo-Anne

    I think elephants are amazing animals, they are so large that they can be a bit scary. I use to wonder if they really didn’t like mice and saw an episode of mythbusters and they really didn’t like them they would walk around them and back up when a mouse was in their path

    1. Nina Post author

      did you know they are afraid of bees? and can get sunburned so they cover their backs with sand? i love elephant facts

  9. Kelli {A Deeper Joy}

    When I saw this title, I thought surely you had read Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult. It really opened my eyes about elephants and how they grieve. I’m so intrigued. I feel in love with elephants in Thailand.

  10. Jenni

    Ever since I first learned you love elephants, I ALWAYS think of you when I see one. I’m not even kidding! Yesterday I was in Cracker Barrel & they had green ones on clearance & you came to mind!

    I love this post too. The quote about making us stronger & weaker in the best way is so good. Life is hard & messy but grace & time make all things beautiful!!

    1. Nina Post author

      That makes me so happy!! Life is hard and messy but you are right grace and time do make all things beautiful. Sorry for the delayed response. Health stuff. Thanks, Jenni!

Comments are closed.