This past week, with a fair amount of trepidation, I attended my first grief class. I had done a little reading about the Grief Recovery Institute, but for the most part, I didn’t know what to expect. And to be honest, I just wasn’t sure that I could handle a group setting. I’m a terribly emotional person, and even with a small group, I envisioned it being awkward and uncomfortable.

Healing a Broken Heart

The premise behind the Grief Recovery Method is that from the time we are children, we’re socialized to believe feelings of loss and grief are unnatural and that we should be tough, move on, and stop crying. This program tosses that illusion out the window, assuring us that everything we are feeling is normal and natural. It also recognizes that grief is cumulative, and it’s about dealing with a broken heart resulting from any type of loss, be it death, divorce, job loss, or any number of others.

I think most of us were raised with the notion that we should be strong, and regardless of what comes our way, we ought to be able to put a smile on our faces and handle it on our own. That’s what we were taught, and for the most part, it’s how we navigate through life. How many times have you been going about your day, noticing other people in your path and thinking, “boy, she is always so happy,” or “wow, he has it together.” We forget that nearly everyone we meet has something going on in his or her life that we aren’t aware of.

Loss After Caregiving

Caregivers, in particular, get to a point where they put blinders on just to get through the day. The emotional toll of caregiving is great, but in the midst of it, we can’t afford to fall apart. Wearing our best game faces, we do what needs to be done; taking care of finances, overseeing or providing daily care, dealing with medical professionals, and coordinating logistics. Crumbling under the pressure isn’t an option. And then suddenly, it all stops… and we are lost.

It means so much to know that we aren’t alone. What I found in that initial class was that I was in a safe place, among kind, caring people who are dealing with grief just as I am. While each story is vastly different, the underlying theme is the same – all of us have experienced profound loss and we want some help in processing it. It doesn’t mean we’re broken or weak; it means we feel a strong need to understand these competing emotions and face them head on.

A New Day

I left the first class feeling just a tad bit lighter and proud of myself for taking a giant step outside of my comfort zone. I feel as though I’m embarking on a journey with a handful of complete strangers, who, ironically, may understand me right now better than the people I’m closest to.  A group of empathetic people with very different, yet extraordinarily similar stories – it may be just what I need.

Are you a caregiver who has experienced loss? Leave a comment letting us know your thoughts on grief classes, support groups, and counseling.



  1. Mary Ann Ballengee

    Ann, I am praying that you find the peace and understanding that sometimes can only come from those who have dealt with a similiar loss. Remember to give yourself time. It sounds like a familiar saying but it really does take time to adjust and find a new direction. I am sure your Mother loved and appreciated every day you were there for her, even though she couldn’t show it at the time.. I believe she is looking down on you with much love and pride!

    Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers, Mary Ann

    • Ann Napoletan

      Thanks Mary Ann. Your support and prayers are appreciated more than you know. ~Ann xo

  2. uELAINE


    • Ann Napoletan

      You may want to check with your local hospice to see if they have any suggestions. The Grief Recovery Institute is another option if you are interested in becoming certified to lead their classes in your own community. There are also books out there that may be useful; for example, this one. Best of luck to you. ~Ann

  3. Linda Isaacs

    Our HOSPICE people do wonderful counseling of all sorts, including bereavement. I would highly recommend checking into your local chapters for this service.

    • Ann Napoletan

      Thanks Linda. Great point and advice. I’m registered for a workshop through our hospice later this month titled ‘Daughters Grieving Mothers.’ They offer workshops and groups as well as one-on-one for those who prefer that.

  4. Jan

    I’m not the one dealing with the loss, I’m the one for which “crumbling under pressure is not an option.” That paragraph in your article hit home. I know I’ll be where you are soon enough and I hope I can find a supportive group when I need it. I tried attending a caregivers support group earlier this year but felt I needed to be paying the bills, monitoring the meds, taking mom for a ride when she was up to it, etc,etc… And just couldn’t commit the time, too many balls in the air! I’ll be checking back to see how you and the others who have responded are doing. Thanks for an enlightening article.

    • Ann Napoletan

      Thanks for sharing, Jan. I’m sure “too many balls in the air” is probably an understatement! If you get a chance, check out Caregiver Survival Network. You might find this to be a viable way to connect with other caregivers. Hang in there. ~Ann

  5. Ella

    Ann, thank you for sharing the concept of the Grief Recovery Method and I do hope that you will feel tranquility. I believe you will, yet it may take some time. Remember to take as much time as you need to grieve. Don’t ever be hard on yourself for feeling sad or remembering. Don’t pressure yourself to move on quickly, it’s ok if you can’t or don’t. Take care of you. Your Mother is with you still, loving you always. God Bless You

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