Grief not only occurs in every culture in the world, but also appears to be a phenomenon that is not limited to humans. There have been stories for ages about birds that mate for life searching for their lost mate. When a group of elephants comes across the skull of a former member of the herd, some of them use their trunks to gently move and sniff the skull as if they are remembering. The most provocative examples of possible animal grief are those involving gorillas. For example, on December 7, 2004 the female gorilla Babs died at the age of 30 at the Brookfield Zoo. The zoo officials let surviving gorillas mourn her death in what the zoo’s curator called a “gorilla wake.” The Sydney Daily Telegraph reported on March 31, 1998 how a family of gorillas grieved the death of a three-week newborn. From these examples, and many others we see in nature that I haven’t listed, grief is a universal part of life. Therefore, we can be assured that the grief we experience after the death of a loved one is a natural reaction to loss.
Furthermore, grief is a very individualistic experience that can be very different for each loss we encounter and can be different from one person to another for the same loss. Since grief is so individualistic, it is also important to remember that what might be appropriate for one person may not be so for someone else. A large majority of losses lead to normal, healthy grief, but there can be some times when a loss leads to extreme, complicated grief that requires professional therapy to address it thoroughly. Complicated grief is another topic.