March 15th, 2013, by Russell Friedman
We’re indebted to psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe for the insightful research that led to the Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale. The now-famous scale details the 43 life events that are most liable to create feelings of grief, and in turn cause illness and other health-related problems. Although we use the word grief, rather than stress, we are in total accord with the list of grief-producing events.
Our only problem with the list is that it is comparative and as such, ranks losses in a hierarchy on a point system. Since we believe all loss is experienced at 100%—even though not all losses are equal—we choose to present the list in the same order as Holmes-Rahe created it; with the only difference being that we omit the listing of point totals for each loss.
We’d like to point out that not all of the life experiences on the list would logically be viewed as stressors or grief or loss events. Note that near the top of the list is “marriage.” While we all know that the wedding day can be stressful, and that marriage is not without problems, we also know it’s often referred to as one of the greatest days of our lives. Additionally, the list includes “change in financial state,” which is not limited to losing money, but includes the impact of a sudden windfall, like winning the lottery.
Our definition of Grief
Those two examples lead us to point out our definition of grief, which is:
“Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.” We believe all 43 events conform to that definition.
In addition to the life-events listed, we add a few more under the heading of “intangible,” for example: Loss of Trust, Loss of Approval, Loss of Safety, and Loss of Control of my body, among others.
You may be confused by the “happy” events that are on this list. They are happy yet they do bring a change in a familiar pattern and can have some amount of worry to them.
John W. James and Russell Friedman, founders of The Grief Recovery Institute® and authors of The Grief Recovery Handbook.
Over 40 life experiences you might have that cause grief
Death of a spouse
Change in financial state
Change in frequency of arguments
Change in responsibilities at work
Outstanding personal achievement
Change in living conditions
Change in working hours or conditions
Change in recreation
Change in number of family reunions
Change in eating habits
Minor violation of law
Loss of Control of my body
Death of a close family member /child Dismissal from work
Change in health of family member
Gain a new family member
Death of a close friend
Child leaving home
Spouse starts or stops work
Revision of personal habits
Change in residence
Change in church activities
Minor mortgage or loan
Loss of Trust
Loss of Safety
Personal injury or illness
Change to different line of work
Foreclosure of mortgage or loan
Trouble with In-Laws
Change in schools
Change in social activities
Change in sleeping habits
Loss of Approval