What can the death of an animal teach us about the power of ritual?

a ceremony to help children process a death

I am fascinated, excited, and inspired by the deep love that many children have for wild animals. It’s a love that seems natural, and sometimes more immediate than what many adults (including me) have to offer, at least at first glance.

Yesterday, my nine-year-old son saw from the front porch that a raccoon had been killed by a car on our street. It was a terrible sight. He called his brothers to see them. The six-year-old was very sad: “I feel really bad for the raccoon.”

I also felt bad and tried not to let the experience become a symbol of all the sadness I have for this kind of thing.

I suggested we light a candle for the raccoon. It occurred to me that the driver who hit the raccoon probably felt really bad about it, so I shared it too and wished this person the best.

And then, even though that was all I had at the time, my kids took it from there.

They put together a wreath, the nine-year-old boy made the tag “raccoon” and the 6-year-old boy made the picture above, which includes an assortment of vehicles with a big X.

“Why can’t everyone ride a bike?” he asked (although in the picture I think the bike also had an X).

All this happened and the candle burned for the next two hours and then they told their father … and all this helped them to overcome their feelings. Me too.

It was a sad situation, but I felt comfortable witnessing their feelings of love and connection, their care for another living being and the other, and the apparent effectiveness of this ritual.

He taught me what I can do to manage my own sorrows. He taught me that these rituals and gestures can be effective and meaningful. And he taught me the loving kindness that lives within us and that is right there to take advantage of.

#death #animal #teach #power #ritual

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