You probably know that swans mate for
life. But did you know Canada geese are lifelong love birds too?
A pair of geese raise their goslings and
then remain faithful until death, spending up to 20 years together, flying
south and home again.
When a goose (female) or gander (male)
loses its mate, their signs of grieving are disturbingly human. The widowed
bird hangs its head, losses the desire to eat and shows signs of apathy and
confusion. Animal researchers note that when a Canada goose’s mate dies, the
survivor is at their most vulnerable.
The Canada goose is a powerful reminder
about the importance of gathering support when we are grieving. Like the geese,
we have a tendency to isolate ourselves and stay grounded and still.
By refusing to seek out support, we
condemn ourselves to doing “grief work” alone; the toughest and most heartbreaking
emotional work we will ever do.
When we are grieving, whether it’s the
loss of a mate, parent, child or friend, it is imperative we seek out
compassionate and loving listeners. Why? Look to the sky. Those wild and
precious geese are showing us how we are uplifted, encouraged and comforted
when “birds of a feather stick together.”
Below are three lessons about life, love
and healing from our humble and often grumbled about Canada geese; a flock
that’s proudly true north, strong and free.
#1: Together we are stronger.
Canada geese gather together because
they are setting out on a journey. Once the flock takes to the air, the
flapping of each bird’s wings increases the stamina and speed of the
group. A bird travelling alone flies lower
When we are grieving the death of our
loved one, we too are embarking on a journey through unpredictable weather and
unknown territory. Surround yourself
with people on a similar journey. No one
needs, or should, journey through grief alone. Be a goose: find your flock.
#2: When tired and overwhelmed, give up control.
There is no such thing as a full-time
lead goose. No bird can lead the flock for the entire journey. As soon as the
lead goose shifts out of formation for a break, another goose takes over the
Irrespective of what role you play in
your “flock” (perhaps you’re a parent helping their children mourn), remember
to rest and renew by letting other people take over for a while. Be a goose:
lead, take a break, lead again.
#3: Accept encouragement and support.
The only reason why geese honk at each
other when in flock formation is to encourage each other. When one of the flock falls out of formation
and starts flying alone, two or more geese will follow the wayward bird in an
attempt to ensure the goose’s safety.
Being independent, strong and
unemotional are characteristics rewarded in a grief-avoidant culture. Yet when
we are grieving it is imperative we recognize and take strength from our
interconnectedness. Be a goose: when you fall to the ground, let the flock help
you fly again.
shout-out to Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt for his expertise and inspiration, especially
the article “The Critical Importance of Seeking Support: Learning from the