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Flock Only: The Point Where Grief and Animal Activism Intertwine

By Jasmin Singer — January 02, 2014

IMG_4133Dear Flock,

Sometimes I feel as though I tell you more than I tell some of my good friends. Perhaps it’s because I have this rule that my emails have to be under 5 sentences — or I simply would not be able to keep up with them. As a sidenote, I don’t think Mariann has ever written an email in her life that was more than 5 words, let alone sentences! There is a beauty, and a productivity, to terseness. (Mariann could write a book about it, but then again, maybe it should just be a tweet.)

I digress.

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(10) Readers Comments

  1. vegjulie
    January 3, 2014 at 3:53 am

    This is such an important concept, and thank you for framing it in this way. So many close off their hearts and turn away to avoid the pain, in all aspects of life. Of course this applies to animal activism. The concept of dopamine being closed off was important too, as so many with trauma history work hard not to feel. My father died last year of mesothelioma (the asbestos cancer,) and I've been dancing with grief for just over a year now. Grief allowed me to leave a job I despised, declare myself captain of my ship, and move across the country as a freelancer. I've said to many that grief is a great b.s. detector...I don't tolerate nearly the unhappiness I would have tolerated before. I've known much sadness and loss in my life, so this is one of many journeys. I feel that we should appreciate the fact that we are allowing ourselves to embark on the adventure of veganism and animal activism, that we are not closing off our hearts. There is so so so much wisdom to the serenity prayer, which can be stated with or without the "god" part at the beginning: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. It may seem cliché since it is so oft quoted in our culture, but to truly sit with it requires wisdom to the core. My grief has been more difficult when I try to bargain with the universe, to say that what IS is not acceptable. It must be, as there is no other choice. I suppose life is to be lived heart-wide-open. Best wishes to you in your process of grieving and healing.

    • Jasmin Singer
      January 3, 2014 at 9:45 am

      Thank you so much for sharing that, Julie! I thought it was so insightful. I like your thought about how we're not closing off our hearts, and how you relate it to animal activism too. I agree that the "Serenity Prayer" is so applicable to what we do (and to so much more). Yes, I suppose it has become overused -- but I guess that's for a reason. Thank you again for reading this and for commenting!!

  2. January 3, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    I loved reading this piece! I have previously felt that I should avoid the pain and grief and try to push it away but I think that experiencing it is so valuable. I will keep this in mind the next time I start to feel grief! Thanks for sharing Jasmin!

    • Jasmin Singer
      January 3, 2014 at 6:45 pm

      Thank you, Helen. Yeah, I have to constantly remind myself of that too -- that whether we're dealing with grief of a loved one or grief of the knowledge of what's happening to animals, we have to feel it -- and the ability to do that is the best part of us.

  3. January 5, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    Thank you for sharing with us, Jasmin. I love your grandmother's way of thinking - that she felt lucky to have had those people in her life at all (although I'm sure she grieved over their loss as well). It sounds like very good advice to just let the grief run its course through you and to not repress it. I am lucky enough to have not yet personally had to deal with the loss of any humans who I'm very close to - but I did take it hard when our dog, Blue, died. I found it comforting to write down all of the nicknames we had for him as well as some of the funny things he would do. I have a really terrible memory so writing these things down to read later on was a way I could revive my memories of him any time I wanted. After I became vegan, my grief caused me to search online for a vegan therapist because I assumed that one who is not vegan could not possibly understand where I'm coming from when I talk about the sadness I feel for the massive amount of suffering in the world, or the anxiety of eating with non-vegans, or the frustration I feel towards my loved ones because they do not see the issues in the same ways that I do. But I ended up finding a therapist who happens to be vegetarian (I didn't know this until our first meeting) and she does seem to understand -- and has even said she thought of me when she was visiting family and a relative wanted to go deer hunting. (Outreach opportunities where you least expect them! ;)) Even now that I've found her to talk to, I still think the best way for me to process my animal activism-related grief is to be around other vegans. I can be myself around them and they GET IT. Meetup groups are free therapy. And I know I'm not alone in these feelings because someone I know started a vegan support group on Meetup in our city! (Once I saw something snarky online that said something along the lines of "You never see meat eaters needing a support group." But that's because they don't allow themselves to dig deep enough to understand the issues!) I hope you are able to find ways to process your grief that are comforting to you and allow you to eventually glow in the light of your grandmother's memory!

  4. Jasmin Singer
    January 5, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    Dear Nicole, Thank you so much for your very thoughtful response. I used to be in therapy (I veganized my therapist!!). I have been out of therapy for years. That therapist, with whom I remained in touch, has since moved to Boulder. He and I have had a few Skype sessions since Grandma died and that has been really helpful -- even just his validation is helpful. I know that time needs to run it's course. I love your thoughts about Meet-Up groups! Though I'm not particularly interested in them (I hardly have time to see my friends these days), they were very useful to me once, and I love your idea of doing a Meet-Up group for this kind of thing. I also LOVE your comparison between support groups for people who are going through grief and support for people who are going through, well, learning about what happens to animals behind closed doors! Thanks again. :-) xo jasmin

  5. January 8, 2014 at 12:04 am

    This was a very special post, and very timely. Next week will be the two year anniversary since the passing of someone very special to me, my cat Gizmo. I still grieve for her everyday, but with the time of year looming so close I am definitely feeling more consumed by it. I love my cats with everything that I have, and they are some of the most important people in my life. Losing her was absolutely crushing. Because Gizmo was a cat, not a human, a lot of people dismiss my grief as being over-sensitive or ridiculous, so you can imagine what they would think about grief related to all those animals whose names I will never know and faces I will never see that have their lives taken from them because people want to eat them or use them in some way. And certainly being a vegan, especially as my interest and participation in activism grows, I feel utterly overwhelmed sometimes by the sheer force of what we face. I am also a vet, and that brings its own challenges. While certainly there is sadness and grief that comes from helping someone say goodbye to their previous cat due to severe illness, it is another kind of futile, raging grief that comes from dealing with people who just want to throw their cat away or have them killed (of course they don't deal with the killing themselves) because they are not convenient for them anymore. Grief comes and many ways. How to deal with it? I try and make something of it. When I think about those animals I cannot save from the slaughterhouse, I try and focus on spreading the positive that comes from being a vegan. When I am faced with people who are horrible to animals in their own lives, if I cannot help that animal I try and help another and another and another after that. When I think about not having my Gizmo anymore, well I try to live the same love and compassion that she radiated throughout her life. But sometimes you do just need to curl up into a ball and hug your kids, fur or otherwise (I am blessed to have my two other cats, just as loved, still by my side) and let it just overwhelm you until you are able to put yourself back together again and keep on doing what you can. Anyway, I think I am probably rambling, but I hope that made sense. Actually, just reading this post has helped me somewhat with the struggle I have been having leading up to Gizmo's anniversary, so thank you. And if you come across that magic bullet to make everything feel better, please let me know!

    • Jasmin Singer
      January 8, 2014 at 12:10 am

      Susan, Thank you for that honest and beautiful comment. I'm so sorry to learn about your grief, though so happy, too, that you and Gizmo had one another. I just started reading the book "Good Grief" and I cannot recommend it enough. Though it's written for people dealing with grief of humans, I think it can be easily applied to non-human animals. (It goes into other types of grief as well.) And I love, too, that you're maintaining such a positive attitude about your activism, using it to channel your sadness. You're a wise woman! Thank you again for sharing your story with me. xoj

      • vegjulie
        January 8, 2014 at 12:38 am

        Jasmin, who is the author of Good Grief? I looked on Amazon and found 3 or 4 books with that title. Sounds good for me right now. This theme of opening my heart to pain has been huge the past few days, and I've been thinking about it. Thank you.

        • Jasmin Singer
          January 8, 2014 at 1:17 am

          That would have been good to include, eh? It's Deborah Morris Coryell . xoj

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