This evening, I attended the first week of a 7-week series offered by the Grief Recovery Institute. As the day drew near, I became more and more apprehensive. Was I ready? Did I need it? Would I feel silly or overly emotional? Did I really want to share such an intimate topic in a group setting? Shouldn’t I be strong enough to deal with it on my own?

Here is what I learned tonight:

  1. I’m ready.
  2. I need it more than I thought.
  3. There’s nothing wrong with being emotional; it’s not a sign of weakness, but rather evidence of the love for the person or thing that was lost.
  4. It’s safe (and not nearly as awkward as I expected) to open up with others who understand.
  5. Taking this class is not a sign that I am weak or broken.

The greatest thing lesson I walked away with tonight is that grief isn’t just about death. Grief is about any sort of loss… and it’s cumulative.

Consider this perfect analogy. Very early on in life, you put on a backpack. As you travel through the years, you stop along the way now and then, pick up a rock, and toss it into your backpack. Some of the rocks are big, some are small, but as time goes by, you realize how heavy that backpack has become.

Now think of those rocks as the losses you’ve experienced in life. Suppose you lost your job – that’s a rock. Went through a divorce or break up – another rock. Downsized from the family home you’ve lived in for years to a smaller place – rock. Had to give away a pet due to unforeseen circumstances – rock. Became an “empty nester” – rock. Lost a loved one after a lengthy illness – BOULDER.

Starting to see a pattern? Each time we experience a loss, we toss another “rock” in our backpack telling ourselves we’ll deal with it later. Before long, the backpack is stuffed full and the burden is more than we can bear.

I feel like the class is going to be beneficial in ways I hadn’t even considered before tonight. There’s a book and weekly homework, and I think all of that will lead to self discovery and a self awareness that wasn’t there before. I’m hopeful that the ultimate result will be healing… not just for me, but for all six of us in the group. Six people, diverse lives, diverse experiences, diverse losses. All so different, yet strikingly similar…