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What a Mother Whale Has Taught Us About Love and Grief

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Recent images of a grieving whale have captivated not only me, but people around the world, as the photos have captured a stunning display of a mother's love.

The mama whale's calf died shortly after birth, and as I write, she has continued to carry it for three days. She holds on because she knows that letting go will result in permanent separation. A separation that no mama is ever prepared for.

This whale is no exception to the heartache that comes with the loss of one's offspring. She is instinctively hanging on, putting off the inevitable for as long as possible. Just like any mother would.

She is unwilling to let go.

But, like every loss mom knows, it's only a matter of time before she will have to. The time will come when she has no choice but to lay her baby down and say goodbye. And she will be left to fumble through the remainder of her days, always aware of what is missing.

Those of us who have lost babies and children know that we don't get to physically hang onto them for long. But emotionally, we never let go. We carry the weight of their lives on our shoulders, the burden of their loss in our hearts.

As we navigate the rough waters of grief, we are tossed about by the waves and swept under by the currents. But we never let go. Because the love that a mother has for her child is everlasting, despite the most tragic of circumstances.

A mother's love does not die. And we cling to the reality of our child's existence with whatever we can find to hang onto.

This story is a strikingly beautiful example of the desperate love, the everlasting love a mother has for her child. And the heartache that ensues when she outlives the one she gave birth to.

Humans are watching in awe as this mama whale instinctively demonstrates an act of love, with no pressure to hide her grief.

Yet the same is not usually true when these instincts play out in the world of humans. When a baby is mourned and grief is on display, people tend to look away. They become uncomfortable. Annoyed. They tire of witnessing the expression of a mother's grief.

I can't help but wonder what would happen if people were able to see grieving humans the way they see this whale. Through eyes that radiate awe. And understanding. With hearts full of empathy. And grace. With a perspective that sees beauty in a mother's undying love, instead of seeing her sorrow as a burden.

When our grief is seen and shared, acknowledged and accepted, our experience, our loss, is validated. The life of our child becomes real to others and so does our loss. Our story becomes more beautiful, and with the permission to tell it, our hearts begin to heal.

Find the full story in The Seattle Times here:

A version of this article was originally published at A Beautifully Burdened Life. Be sure to follow Jenny on Facebook for more on her incomplete family and imperfect motherhood.

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