header image header image header image
Birds of a Feather Flock Together: Look to the Sky When Grieving

Posted On 12/5/2016 By Admin

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.


Lesson #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 and slower.


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.


Lesson #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 leadership role.  


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.


Lesson #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. 


A special shout-out to Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt for his expertise and inspiration, especially the article “The Critical Importance of Seeking Support: Learning from the Geese.”