Grief Counselors and the Guinea Pig

Listen to the Story

In the light of recent events I’ve been thinking about grief counselors.

Just how in the world do they do it. Their job has to be the emotional equivalent of a fireman running into a burning building fireman being another job that mystifies me

I was actually Google-ing grief counseling when I got the call.

It was my three year-old granddaughter crying hysterically into the phone – Baby tried to wake Bear up but Bear won’t wake up! Bear won’t wake up!

Baby and Bear are Guinea Pigs or I should say, Bear was a Guinea Pig you see Bear had passed away suddenly.

I’m not a grief counselor, OK – but at the time, with GOOGLE offering me one million, four hundred and twenty thousand hits for grief counselor I thought that I could at least pull off a funeral for Bear, the Guinea Pig, to ease a little girl’s pain well, at least I’d give it a try.

Pet funeral’s had always been my wife’s territory. This one should have been. After the third or fourth Bear won’t wake up! a steady stream of I want NaNa’s began.

NanNa was at night class. It was like a 6 to 10pm deal. NaNa was not going to be in on this one.

After a few Honey, I’m so sorry’s I asked to speak to mommy.

and, After what seemed to be hours of a three year-olds breathless crying jag, mommy got on the line.

The conversation was very NOT NaNa-like – WHY DIDN’T YOU CALM HER DOWN A LITTLE BEFORE YOU CALLED? Mommy fired back – She’s FREAKIN’ OUT OVER HERE BIGTIME. I DON T KNOW WHAT TO DO.

A dealing with grief website that I clicked on explains that the ability to cope is diminished due to the shock of the event and the additional stress that has just been imposed on the individual

DO YOU HAVE A SHOEBOX? I snapped – I HAVE 100 PAIRS OF SHOES. OF COURSE I HAVE A SHOEBOX!

It was 6:18 – after a mini-van processional across town, Bear’s funeral began in my backyard at 7:01.

Slow, deliberate steps. I’m carrying a shovel, my granddaughter is carrying a pink Candies shoebox filled with yellow daffodils and Bear

I HEARD HIM SQUEAK! No Honey, Bear didn’t squeak

a few more steps

HE MOVED, HE REALLY MOVED!

No baby. He didn’t.

I’m ONLY THREE!

That was the one, the comment that flashed me back to some of my own losses to death.

This three year-old taught me something very important.

I’m only three translates to I’m only human

It doesn’t matter, if we are three, thirty three, or ninety three the pain of losing someone that we love, even if that someone is a Guinea Pig named Bear, is well, unbearable no pun intended.

So for you grief counselors out there, I could never do your job I can thank you for all of the rest of us, the non-grief counselors. Thank you for showing up in our most unimaginable times. Holding our hands through the disbelief, the confusion, the anger, and the pain and thanks for just being present for us when we aren’t able to be present for ourselves.

I did the best I could to be present for my granddaughter.

We lined the grave with even more daffodils – of course to keep Bear warm, since as I was reminded several times that he didn’t have a blankie.

We buried him just a little deeper, so that, according to my granddaughter, a dog, or a squirrel, wouldn’t dig Bear up and die him all over again.

I tried to say a few words over Bear, but I didn’t really know him that well. The three year-old stepped up and delivered a prayer as sweet as was ever offered at any Guinea Pigs funeral.

Then she looked up at me, held her hands out, and said. IS THAT IT?

I answered, Sometimes people sing a song.

She smiled. I’ll sing Bear my favorite song!

It was about 7:25. She stood over Bear and under a big tree and sang Happy Birthday to You at the top of her lungs

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