What Animals Can Teach Us About Grief

Close up of two elephant faces

Written by Dr. Nandi Hetenyi

Unworthiness does not exist in nature. Neither does depression, anxiety, trauma, or addiction. There are no trees, flowers, plants, insects, elements or animals that worry that they are less than creation or better than all the others around them.

No creatures are beating themselves up, filled up with excessive fear or emotion or looking for something to take the edge off. When we do see these things in the wild, we know that this is an indication of dis-ease, something is deeply out of balance because nature’s homeostasis is flourishing.

What does exist in nature is grief. Many wild animals, from wild horses, to cats, wolves and elephants, grieve. These animals form close bonds in their lives and when these attachments are broken, when there is devastation, we see them grieve.

We may marvel at the documentaries, thinking, oh these animals are more like us. But, really. Are they? Perhaps it is us that could be more like them, more free range, wide open, primal in our dance with grief as we spiral in and out of the rhythms of life.

The farther away we have gotten from knowing the body of Earth as our Mother, to know her cycles and find the Winter just as beautiful as the Spring, we’ve become even more disconnected from the living expression of death as it moves through us: grief.

Some signs of stuck grief are addiction, depression, anxiety, self-hatred, self-criticism, fear of the past, fear of living, fear of the future or even feeling stuck in the now.

When we heal from trauma, it is grief that releases the bondage to the past patterns and frees us up to be in the moment. When we look into the frozen quality of depression, we find that the warmth of our love is grief that melts our hearts open and we feel more alive again.

When we relax with anxiety, we can feel grief releasing long held tension in our body. When we stop something we are addicted to, we can feel the edges of grief stirring in the depths to pull something through to clear us from our need to avoid it. When we awaken to the deep layers of our trauma consciousness, we often feel grief moving through us, reforming us and releasing the loops.


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Dr. Nandi Hetenyi is a psychospiritual healer, teacher and writer with a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology. She has been an eternal student of all things related to the soul, psyche and the the devotional path of the Great Mother. Along with 25+ years of clinical experience, she has spent most of her life doing a deep dive into studying and practicing meditation, yoga, shamanic journey, devotional practices, non-duality, dream work and energy healing. After recovering herself from addictions and experiencing an awakening to her soul, she fused her knowledge together to create an innovative approach to healing the mother wound at the root of so much of our modern day suffering. You can follow Dr. Hetenyi on Instagram @sacred_alchemy, and find out more about her work on her website, Sacred Alchemy Healing.

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