Tag Archives: A grief observed

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?
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Mean It.

It’s Monday. Wipe the sleep out of your eyes and get it together. Chop, chop. Time to go to work. Or to school. Time to put on your make up and smile, time to prove that you work harder, stronger, faster than anyone else. The rat race, right?

Lately, I have been thinking about the above phrase a lot. I suppose that is because a close family member is going through something horrible and awful and in my family, when one of us go through something, we all lock arms around one another. And I suppose some days it is harder for me to get my game face on.

Kindness goes such a long a way. I have been learning that well. And a lack of kindness…Well, for someone going through some type of battle, it can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

As my family walks through this, there are people who have been kind and people who have been unkind. Some of those people knew the battle and still chose to be unkind (that’s a whole other issue; ain’t nobody got time for an attitude like that!) but others, not knowing a thing, have been unkind.

It’s definitely got me thinking about what kind of person I am. Do I consider what the cab driver, the barista, a coworker I don’t know that well, a neighbor in my building, may be going through? No. I don’t. But I am trying to start. I really am.

I’ve seen how far a small kindness can go.

I’ve seen how painful an unkindness can be.

I don’t want to be that type of person. But I definitely am in process. I am definitely growing. I am definitely failing and asking for grace in this area. It makes me feel dumb that I had to experience other’s insensitivity (and this blog is not about calling anyone out at all) for me to work on my own. But I am working on it. And let me just kindly suggest that you think about the famous quote above too.

But we never know, do we? You never know who is fighting a battle. We don’t wear signs alerting the public. But let’s be honest. If we were to play the odds, everyone goes through something truly awful at least once in their life (a very conservative number) and how do you know that time is not now? Why not just try being a softer, kinder person in general? We don’t know what the cab driver goes home to at night or why the barista is working so slowly today. Take a moment and consider. Choose kindness and mean it. 

“I thought I could describe a state; make a map of sorrow. Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state but a process. It needs not a map but a history…There is something new to be chronicled every day. Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape…Sometimes the surprise is the opposite one; you are presented with exactly the same sort of country you thought you had left behind miles ago. That is when you wonder whether the valley isn’t a circular trench. But it isn’t. There are partial recurrences, but the sequence doesn’t repeat” (C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed, 60).

The fact is, I don’t know what you are facing. And as for now, you don’t know what I’m facing. But we are all, somewhere in the process. Let’s choose kindness. It cannot be false kindness. Never that. I can smell a fake a mile awhile. Let’s be honest and kind. And let’s be kind to one another as we both stumble and fumble through trying to be kind more often, to more people.

I’m not perfect but if you’ll kindly give me some grace, I’m trying to be more kind.

Also, if someone wants to count how many times I used the word “kind” in this post, I will give you a dollar.

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