by Jenny Albers
Losing a child is a club you never want to join. Whether you lose a child in war, in the womb or, late in life, the loss of a child is a parent’s worst nightmare and impossible to grasp without experiencing it first hand. Grief is a natural response when a loved one dies. The grief never goes away and you are forced to live with it and learn to cope with it for the rest of your time on Earth. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. It is a process and a very personal experience that no one can tell you how to do it, but can support you through it. Over the past few weeks, the nation has been watching, from a distance, a grieving orca mother carrying her deceased baby whale in the coastal waters between British Columbia and Washington State with her family. Jenny Albers, a brilliant and relatable author that we found on Facebook, goes into powerful depth about what the world can learn from this grieving orca mother. You can find her original piece here.
The world continues to watch a grieving mama whale maneuver the waters of the Pacific Northwest, while carrying her dead calf for, as of the last report, for more than two weeks in a row.
This sweet mama has captured the attention of people all over the world as they have witnessed the stunning display of both a mother’s love and grief for her baby who has died.
Nearly two week’s after her offspring’s death, she has continued to hang on relentlessly. She is acting on pure instinct as it is within a mother’s nature to cling to her child. And in doing so, she has taught us humans as few things about grief.
She has shown us that:
A mother’s love is sacrificial, even after her child’s life has slipped away. Whether loving or grieving, it is done at the expense of her own well-being. A grieving mother does not rest and knows that suffering is simply the cost of love.
A grieving mother will always fight to hang on to her child. If not physically, then emotionally. She will cling to her child’s existence by whatever means available to her. And she will refuse, with all her might, to let go. People will watch, they will stare, but she will not be deterred.
A grieving mother is strong. The weight of love she carries for a child who is gone might be heavy, but she refuses to set it down or let it slip away. To grieve takes every ounce of energy available, but she does not give up or give in to exhaustion.
A grieving mother should be seen. She doesn’t want to be alone because despite her immense strength, the burden of her child’s death is too heavy a burden to carry on her own. She longs for her suffering to be recognized and hopes that her agonizing circumstances will invite empathy and understanding.
Grief should not be feared. It is a heartbreakingly beautiful expression of love. We don’t have to avert our eyes from it. We can watch, appreciate, acknowledge, and empathize. It is normal, and to lean into it, instead of avoid it, validates the magnitude of a life lost.
Like her love, a mother’s grief is uninhibited. It flows freely and cannot be controlled, nor should it be. She displays it for all to see because she has no other choice.
There is beauty to be found in grief. The life that was, the love that is, and a creature’s ability to withstand the greatest heartache imaginable.
There is no shame in grief. It doesn’t have to make others uncomfortable. Or cause them to disengage. A mother’s refusal to “move on” should not be considered unhealthy. Instead, it should be considered a gift. A gift to know that we are loved unconditionally and forever remembered by at least one person here on this earth. A gift to know that our lives will always matter to someone.
Grief is universal. It touches animals and humans alike. It is natural. And its effects must be felt in order to understand the depths of true love.
And most of all, this mama whale has shown us that the loss of life, in all of its various forms, should be mourned. Whether animal or human, each life is valuable and existed for a purpose. Each life deserves to be missed.
This article first appeared in The Havok Journal August 10, 2018.
Jenny is a mother to two babies in heaven and two on earth. She has found healing through writing and shares about her incomplete family and imperfect motherhood on Facebook, please click here to read more. She is a contributor at Pregnancy After Loss Support and is passionate about bringing awareness to the topics of child loss and grief.