Help Carry the Load

Image result for pictures of an orca and her calf

“Every love is carved from loss. Mine was. Yours is. Your great-great-great-grandchildren’s will be. But we learn to live in that love.” — Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything Is Illuminated


In July this year Tahlequah, an Orca mother, also known as J35, delivered a newborn calf in the waters near Puget Sound, Washington, but an hour later, the calf suddenly died and instead of letting her baby go, she carried the lifeless newborn around for seventeen days, in an arduous display of animal grief.

She then pushed her limp baby girl along for an estimated 1,000 miles (about 1,600 km).

However, she was not alone on her journey of grief, because what emerged so naturally, was the support of other female Orca’s around her, who took turns to carry the 400lb calf from her mother across the seas, while she ate and rested.

The whales literally surrounded her and uplifted this mother by helping her carry the weight of her grief.

Such a beautiful display of compassion and support.  The Orca’s remind us to step up and to step in and support those who are broken in grief.  They show us that we are all affected by death and when we take time to share the load, we lessen the pain for those who suffer.

20 thoughts on “Help Carry the Load

  1. Karen, I live in the Puget Sound area, and this incident was so sad. Thank you for writing about it. It was indeed touching how the other whales supported this grieving mother.
    (What is worrisome is that we’re losing more and more of our young Orcas, due to pollution and climate change.)
    Love and blessings to you ❤️

    1. Wow that’s amazing Betty and how special you were near this event. It is so very sad we are losing these majestic mammals. They are a gift to our world. Thank you 🐳

  2. What a beautiful story of the support offered in the mother’s grieving process. 💕 We can learn so much from these majestic creatures for years to come if we begin to work collectively to save our planet. All of nature has so much to show us! Thank you for sharing this story. Sadly, I never heard about this. I live on the opposite coast. 🙁

    1. It is beautiful Carrie and I think deep down as humans, we are uncomfortable to ask for support. Many of the mothers I know who have lost a child, desperately want other people to take the load from them, but don’t know how to ask and then get upset that people don’t know what to do. It’s a vicious circle. Sometimes we just need to step in confidently and say “I’m here” “Let me support you.” 💚🙏🏻

      1. This is a touching story Karen. But as you say we humans don’t always share enough of the burden we’re carrying for others to understand that it’s time to step in. I just lost a neighbor (while away in NYC last week) who decided life was too heavy to continue and we all learned about her burden (grief) only when it was too late. So sad.

      2. That is very sad Helen. It seems easy for us to say, “Ask for help and support,” but there are many layers and wounds within that prevent us from speaking up and being vulnerable. Hopefully we can learn from those gone before us and change this stigma in society. 💕💚

      3. I hope so too ❤ We have many neighbors here who would have been willing to support had we known…we're all very sad that we didn't know.

  3. Living in the Pacific Northwest, this story garnered much international attention, and the world watched in sorrow with Tahlequah as she carried her dead calf over the 1,000 miles. One expert noted that it was most likely that the grief Tahlequah felt was deeper because after 17 months of gestation, she then had the chance to form an emotional connection with her baby before it died. The power of love shown as a wonderful example from our friends in the animal kingdom …

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