Animal Energies Help Make Sense of Grief Process

Since my daughter Jeannine’s death over eight years ago, I learned that the only thing I could control was the present. Doing this made it easier to allow the universe to take care of my future.  However, I have recently begun to discover the role of the past in enhancing my quality of life in the present and…future.

During a trip to Long Island last year,  I was introduced to the power of animal medicine. The lessons that animals teach us is beautifully described in the book, Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power Through The Ways of Animals, by Jamie Sams.  I never had considered the animals as sources of teaching and wisdom while Jeannine was alive. However, since Jeannine’s death, I have learned to embrace non-ordinary phenomenon to provide clarity in a world without her physical presence.

Frankly, my old ways of thinking about and relating to the world no longer applied. I believed that animal medicine would be another unique way  to learn lessons about myself, the world and my grief journey. When I got home, I recorded every animal that crossed my path, consulted the Sams book, and wrote the teachings I believed were being conveyed to me.  These teachings were always relevant to my present reality.

Earlier last month, there was a stretch of several days where I saw crows everywhere. They were on the side of the road  or flying over my car .  Another time, two of them walked unceremoniously across my yard while I enjoyed a morning cup of coffee.

Sams states that one of the teachings of crow medicine involves “balancing the past, present and future in the now.”  Sams summed this perspective up very eloquently: “Honor the past as your teacher, honor the present as your creation, and honor the future as your inspiration.” I thought I had been living this mantra since Jeannine died, but crow apparently thought I was missing something.

I didn’t fully understand what crow was trying to teach me until I had a recent session with a Holistic Practitioner. During this session, we discussed  family and childhood issues. They also surfaced in two previous sessions with her.

I disclosed that my favorite uncle, who had died when I was 14, was prominent in my thoughts lately.  It then occurred to me that I needed to honor his past influence on me, in the present.

After disclosing this to her, she suggested that I create a sacred space containing inanimate objects representing my ancestors and Jeannine.  I began to use that space, twice a week to acknowledge their qualities that has helped me in the present, and that would help me in the future. Doing this has given me a sense of peace and a belief that Jeannine as well as my ancestors have influenced my grief journey from the beginning.

Once I discovered that crow wanted me to more fully honor my ancestors, in the present and future, he stopped making his presence known to me.  However, I suspect that I will continue to embrace the teachings of other animals throughout my grief journey.

Dave Roberts 2011

David Roberts

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David J. Roberts, LMSW, became a parent who experienced the death of a child, when his daughter Jeannine died of cancer on 3/1/03 at the age of 18. He is a retired addiction professional and an adjunct professor in the psychology department at Utica College in Utica, New York. Dave is a featured speaker, workshop facilitator and coach for Aspire Place, LLC ( He is also the chapter leader for The Compassionate Friends of the Mohawk Valley. Mr. Roberts has been a presenter at the Southern Humanities Council Conference in both 2017 and 2018. Dave has been a past workshop facilitator for The Compassionate Friends. He has also been a past workshop facilitator and keynote speaker for The Bereaved Parents of the USA. Mr. Roberts has contributed articles to the Huffington Post blog, The Grief Toolbox, Recovering the Self Journal and Medium. One of Dave's articles, My Daughter is Never Far Away, can also be found in Open to Hope: Inspirational Stories of Healing and Loss. Excerpts from Dave's article for The Open to Hope Foundation, called The Broken Places were featured in the 2012 Paraclete Press DVD video, Grieving the Sudden Death of a Loved One. He has appeared on numerous radio and internet broadcasts and Open to Hope Television. Dave was also part of a panel in 2016 for the BBC Podcast, World Have Your Say, with other grief experts, discussing the death of Carrie Fisher. Dave’s website: is devoted to providing support and resources for individuals experiencing loss.

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