As humans, we like to think of ourselves as evolved, after all we are at the top of the food chain, but somewhere along the way we’ve lost our inner sense of value and compassion for a human life. When a loved one was lost, having a funeral was automatic, followed by a period of deep mourning that would last for weeks, months, or even years.
Somewhere along the way we’ve become a disposable society that has lost our ability to value life. In the past, when a loved one passed away, we used to hold three-day wakes prior to the funeral. However, in recent times people moved on to more a memorial service at the convenience of the family. That is the sad reality of how humans have evolved in the grieving process in the age of technology. As technology has progressed and lifestyles have become more hurried the grieving process has gotten to the point where it’s become almost forgotten. We as humans need to remember what’s really important and start setting aside time to honor our dead loved ones and pay our respects.
It might surprise you to find out that humans are not the only animals that grieve the loss of their loved ones or hold vigils. Many members of the wild animal kingdom celebrate the lives of their loved ones in ways that would put us as a society to shame. We should all take a lesson from the way they lovingly hold vigils over the bodies of their loved ones and protect them, about the value of life and our presence here on earth.
Elephants are the most compassionate of all wild animals when it comes to mourning death and loss. They have even been known to extend this compassion to elephants that aren’t related to them as well as other animals and even humans. They have a true respect for all life forms that we should take a lesson from.
When elephants encounter the body of a deceased animal they always stop and try to lift it to its feet several times using their trunks. If they are unsuccessful in their attempts, they will sniff and poke it before burying it with leaves, branches, grass, dirt, or whatever is available.
After burying the body, they usually leave. However, if the deceased animal was a relative they will remain by the body for several days or weeks mourning the loss of their loved one, leaving only to get food or water. Sometimes elephants will even become depressed and even starve themselves in reaction to their loss.
When a member of a dolphin pod dies, the other members will stay with the body and rally together to keep any potential harm from coming to the body. If something tries to move towards the body the other dolphins will become agitated and loom around to prevent it from getting too close.
The other members of the dolphin pod usually lift the body close to the surface and stay with it for several days while they try to come to terms with the loss of their loved one. They only leave the body when absolutely necessary to get air.
When chimpanzees lose a loved one they become very depressed and saddened much like we do. They mourn together as a group and comfort each other. However, they have a deeper grieving process than ours. Often, they will get so upset and depressed that they will refuse food.
Chimpanzees have a very interesting grieving process. The grieving and separation process takes them a little bit more time. We have often heard people say that they aren’t ready to let go yet, or that they aren’t ready to say goodbye yet. The chimpanzee doesn’t let go or say goodbye until they are ready.
They will maintain their routines and interrelate with their loved one for weeks or months until their loved one’s body has decayed so badly that they are unable to continue to do so. Only then will they leave their loved one to rest. This routine gives them more time to accept the loss of their loved one, so that they can feel closure in their hearts.
When a Gorilla loses a loved one, they mourn the loss quite deeply. They will pound on their chests and howl loudly. They will also hold informal wakes and funerals, at which other members of their gorilla family will come in, view the body, smell and touch it. If it’s a close family member, some gorillas have been known to become very depressed and stop eating.
When a member of a wolf pack dies all of the other members of the pack become extremely depressed and it takes them weeks to recover from their loss. With drooping ears and tails, they resist playing to pay homage to their lost friend.
Magpies also mourn the loss of their fellow feathered friends and hold funerals of sorts. When they encounter a deceased bird they will first try to revive it with their beaks. If that doesn’t work, they will cry loudly. Ultimately, they will cover it with grass, straw or whatever they can find, pay their respects, and then fly off.
What We as Humans Should Learn From This
Life is busy, but it’s not so busy that we can’t take the time to grieve and acknowledge the loss when a loved one dies. Attending a funeral service for your loved one isn’t just about you or how busy you are. It’s about them, and supporting their family members and other friends.
We as a society should take a lesson from our friends in the animal kingdom and learn to value our lives and the lives of our loves ones. Although the extremes to which wild animals grieve such as starving would not be appropriate for human life, we should take heed to their caring and gentle way of holding vigil over their friends who have passed away and put ore thought into funeral planning.
The way these animals painstakingly hold vigils in much the same way as we used to hold wakes should remind us how important that time is to help us cope with the loss of our loved ones, and to help us get through the grieving process. Not only does it allow us the opportunity to honor our deceased loved ones, but it gives us a chance to say goodbye.
Grieving and supporting each other is crucial when it comes to accepting the loss of a loved one. A wake and a funeral gives friends and family the opportunity to see their loved one for a final time, and a chance to say goodbye. That little bit of closure, and that opportunity to stand vigil and be close to their loved one, one final time is important to the coping and grieving process.
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