Our family guinea pig, Willy, had been suffering from the ravages of old age and a tumor for a couple of months. But until the past week he’d been eating pretty well and was fairly active. Then the day came – last Thursday – that he would eat and drink nothing. He just sat, unmoving. Unable to bear his obvious suffering, I took him to the vet, who agreed that euthanizing the little guy would be the kindest thing to do.
After I’d signed the required papers and whispered, ”Good-bye, little Willy,” I found myself bursting into tears. Both the vet assistant and the vet were all kindness and understanding, giving me the time I needed to compose myself and even bringing me bill so I wouldn’t have to expose my red eyes and nose to the folks in the waiting room.
“Has anyone else ever cried over the death of a guinea pig?” I choked out at last, and the assistant said reassuringly, “Oh, of course, all the time.”
I wonder, though, how many people really do get as emotional over a rodent’s passing as I did that evening. I’ve decided the reason for my slightly over-the-top response is two-fold; not only do I get awfully attached to pets, I also have a hard time with endings. Friendships which end for reasons I don’t fully understand; the climax of the school year, with farewells to students and staff and knowing that next year will inevitably be different; moving from one place to another - having to leave familiar haunts and friends and start all over. And, most heart-wrenching, putting to rest some of the hopes and dreams I’ve had both for myself and for others in my life.
A certain amount of grief is normal and good and healthy when one has lost something or someone important. But if you are unable to let go of grief, stuffing it deep into your heart rather than confronting and dealing with it, sadness and despair can overflow and poison your very soul.
Based on personal experience, here are a few recommendations for dealing with grief: Talk to your closest friends on a regular basis about things that matter, both to them and to you. Consider seeing a therapist. Exercise (I’m terrible about this, but I promise to be better… really). Eat mostly-healthy food. Cuddle with a pet. Hug more. Tell someone how great she is, and mean it. If you can, volunteer. Get out and see something new. Breathe deeply and think about a place of contentment and peace. Pay for a stranger’s coffee. Thank a veteran for his or her service. Love yourself.
How do you handle endings?