Did you know elephants grieve when one of their herd dies? Scientists say it’s because they live for approximately 70 years and develop strong bonds. Long, close relationships make death difficult.
Yesterday I saw death. And I discovered that elephants aren’t the only animals who grieve.
I’m back from my Portugal vacation — my broken shoulder still sore but healing — and into my daily routine. Yesterday on my morning walk I saw a dead raccoon in the middle of the road (which isn’t part of my usual routine!). The poor creature wasn’t there 30 minutes earlier when I left home, which means he only recently left this world.
Seeing the big furry striped-and-masked raccoon was sad, but bearable. I’m used to it; I live next to a large forest in British Columbia, Canada. I see owls, rats, squirrels, deer, bears, coyotes and even cougars. Most of the time they’re alive.
What broke my heart about this raccoon was his friend. A second raccoon was hovering over the body, pacing, sniffing, prodding. He withdrew while I walked by, then immediately returned to his mate.
When you’re left behind
The surviving raccoon didn’t want to leave his partner. A car came down the road and the raccoon didn’t budge. Only when the car stopped in front of the two raccoons did the survivor turn and slowly lumber away.
The car backed up and pulled alongside the dead raccoon. “What happened to you, buddy?” the guy asked, sticking his head out of the window. “Awww….” After a moment he drove away. Because what else do you do?
The surviving raccoon returned to his mate as soon as the car left. I stood, heartbroken and helpless.
Elephants aren’t the only animals who grieve.
The weird part is…
I listen to sermons on my morning walks. I love this time with God; after the sermon I walk in silence and listen for His voice. I was talking to Jesus yesterday, right before I saw the dead raccoon. I told Him I didn’t want to ask for a sign that He’s aware of me. I don’t want to test the Lord, yet I yearn for abundant evidence that He’s walking with me, watching over me, hasn’t forgotten about me.
Why did God show me pain and death at the happiest point of my day? That poor surviving raccoon didn’t want to leave his mate behind. He didn’t want to move on with his life, go about his daily routine, start over without his partner. That raccoon wanted his mate back…and he didn’t want to let go.
The reason God showed me this slice of raccoon life is because I vowed to love Him no matter what my circumstances are. I promised to worship Jesus not because of the gifts He gives, the blessings He bestows, or the resources He provides. I vowed to reflect His light, love, peace and joy no matter where I am, what I lose, or what I witness.
Including dead raccoons and grieving survivors.
“Can you love me while you’re walking through loss, grief, and suffering?” Jesus asks. “Will you worship and glorify me even when your heart is broken?”
Choosing life over death
When I asked God how to cope with grief and loss, He reminded me of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha.
Jesus wept (John 11:35). Jesus felt the pain of being left behind, of losing someone you love. He met death. Jesus knew that weeping is part of healing, that remembering the past and honoring lost relationships is healthy and good. It hurts, but it helps.
The surviving raccoon was saying goodbye to his mate. He didn’t want to continue without his partner, but he had no choice. He may not have been ready to move forward alone, but the time had come.
He had to choose between staying with death and decay, or moving into a new season of life. He chose life.
Today on my morning walk I saw no evidence of either raccoon. I won’t soon forget them, but my heart is no longer broken.
My heart is big, soft, compassionate and alive…but not broken. I am learning how to see pain, grief, and death without letting it crush or destroy me.
4 Things to Remember When You’re Left Behind
1. Weeping, wailing, screaming and collapsing are healthy ways to process pain. It’s crucial to acknowledge your feelings, to allow them to move through you. You need to express your feelings or they will leak out in destructive, unhealthy ways.
2. Writing helps you work through grief. Writing forces you to slow down and clarify how you feel. David, author of many of the Bible’s Psalms, wrote through his anger, grief, fears, failures, regret, weakness, and tears. He also wrote through his joys, praises, worship, songs, and love. Sometimes we don’t know what we think or feel until we write it down, because our emotions and thoughts are a big jumbly mess.
3. Writing to God eases pain and helps you find peace. This morning in my journal I wrote, “How does Your suffering help survivors, Jesus? What would You say or do to ease the pain of people who are sad, lost, alone and scared?” God answers my questions when I write, listen, and become still in His presence. Try it.
4. Learn what it means to worship God for who He is, not what He gives. This is by far and away the most important thing a follower of Jesus can learn. We are called to let our lights shine, glorify God, and love others not because of the blessings He bestows but because of who He is. We are eternally free, saved, and secure because of Jesus! No matter what we face in this world — no matter what losses, pains, slings and arrows — we have something miraculous and wonderful to look forward to. Learn what this means.
It hurts when you’re left behind. It’s hard to pick up the pieces and start over, whether your husband left you for another woman or you feel overwhelmed by grief. The good news is you have a choice! You can reach out for and receive God’s strength, courage, and faith. You can choose to leave death behind and move forward into the new season He has planned for you.
And you will experience more joy, life and peace than you ever thought possible.
“See, I am doing a new thing!” says the Lord in Isaiah 43:19. “Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” – Isaiah 43:19.
With His love,
Previous Blossom Tips
- How to Keep Going When Life is Hard – Blossom Tip 59
- How to Always Be Happy – Blossom Tip 58
- What to Do While You’re Waiting – Blossom Tip 57
She Blossoms Through the Bible
Let’s get holy and practical! I’m writing an article for every chapter in every book of the Bible. By the time I reach Revelation 22:21 (“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.”), I’ll have written 1,189 “Blossoming Through the Bible” blog posts!
In every article, I share:
- 3 qualities of God
- 3 character traits of humans
- practical steps for growing forward
Starting in the beginning, with Genesis:
- The Reason You Were Created – Step 1
- What You Were Created to Do – Step 2
- Who You Were Created to Be – Step 3
- Healing Your Heavy Heart – Step 4
Your thoughts – big and little – are always welcome. I can’t always respond personally, but I read every comment and email.