Embracing Grief
Oct 16, 2023

A few weeks ago, I found a squirrel lying injured and vulnerable in the middle of the forest road, probably the victim of a car collision. The fear in his half-closed eyes deeply touched me. Slowly, I wrapped this trembling little being in my scarf, bringing him home while caressing and whispering words of support to him. An hour later, and against all odds, the squirrel came out of his immobility, but his hind legs were paralyzed.

Faced with his desperate attempt to get up, he eventually curled around his inert limbs, and through the incomprehension and sadness on his face, I found myself with his fate in my hands. At first, I considered returning him to the forest, but by leaving him to the fox, would I have honored the path he had already brilliantly traveled? His resilience in the face of predators, dangers, and the rigors of the seasons? To me, it didn’t seem right to condemn him to a certain, slow, and painful fate forced by human insensitivity rather than his own misfortunes.

With a heavy heart, I took the little squirrel to the veterinarian, who confirmed that his spine was irreparably damaged. I agreed to let him rest in peace, with the condition of being able to return him to his forest. Before he closed his eyes for good, I whispered, on behalf of my species, that I was sorry and that I would bring him back to the woods.

This experience left a deep imprint on my soul, especially as it occurred in the context of conflicts in the Middle East, the tragedy of the Arras high school that I am close to, and the painful anniversaries of my deceased parents.

There are so many causes that touch me for which I would like to shed tears. Among them, the fragile destiny of animals and children seems to act as a key, unlocking access to deep emotions within me. Their innocence, threatened in a perilous world, opens the floodgates of my grief, revealing a sorrow that is both personal and universal.

In the fast pace of our modern lives, how many of us take the time to feel what is happening deep within us? How many distractions and habits do we use to escape, hide, or suppress our emotions? What would the world be like if, on the contrary, we collectively allowed ourselves to feel our pain, grief, despair, anger, and sadness? And for you, what are the causes that allow your tears to flow?

In the West, many of us have forgotten the sacred spaces that our distant ancestors found in rituals. Spaces that allowed them to share and go through grief together, giving it the opportunity to follow its natural course. Communities no longer gather, but grief is always there, at any moment in our lives, and is not meant to be experienced in isolation.

If recent history has punished and repressed the expression of our emotions, it is essential to rediscover the essence of our humanity by facing the emotional burden of our grief. Grief acts as a deep emotional wound. When left untreated, our grief becomes stagnant, metabolized in our bodies, both at the cellular and tissue level. As long as we neglect these experiences, they continue to influence our lives, pushing us to react to the world through our suffering and insecurities. It is through our tears that blocked emotions flow within us, free us, and bring us back to our humanity.

Recognizing, feeling, and integrating our grief is not a sign of weakness, but of strength, both powerful and beautiful. By allowing ourselves to feel our pain, we regain the sovereignty of our narratives, reclaim our power, and are able to embrace the world with resilience, compassion, empathy, and vigor.

I thank the squirrel for these teachings. The day I found him on the road, I canceled my appointments to attend to his needs and mine. I took the time to slow down to honor his departure. I also took the time to let my deep sadness express itself; a sadness that I needed to share with others who accompanied me in my tears. Throughout the day, a weight seemed to lift from my shoulders, my heart lightened, and my sorrow for the life that had been taken eventually transformed into a celebration of his existence. My sadness gradually turned into gratitude and admiration for this little being and the beauty he brings to the forest.

Grief represents a passage into the unknown, a threshold we must cross to access the other shore, where our peace and deep joy reside.

En memoire du petit ecureuil

In memory of Peanut, the squirrel who lost his life due to human frenzy.