Broadening our View of Grief

Grief is tethered to loss, making it inevitable in this life. One definition of grief captures this: “Grief is the normal and natural emotional reaction to loss or change of any kind. Of itself, grief is neither a pathological condition nor a personality disorder.” Grief is normal and natural in this world because loss and change are normal.

Loss and change are broad categories—pushing us away from a narrow understanding of grief. Working within these categories would require us to develop a broad spectrum of change/loss events that may be catalysts for grief.

The Grief Recovery Institute has identified more than forty potential grief events—each of which include some dimension of loss and change. Here is the list they provide.

  • Death of a spouse
  • Divorce
  • Marital separation
  • Imprisonment
  • Death of a close family member
  • Personal injury or illness
  • Marriage
  • Dismissal from work
  • Marital reconciliation
  • Retirement
  • Change in health of family member
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexual difficulties
  • Gain a new family member
  • Business readjustment
  • Change in financial state
  • Death of a close friend
  • Change to different line of work
  • Change in frequency of arguments
  • Major mortgage
  • Foreclosure of mortgage or loan
  • Change in responsibilities at work
  • Child leaving home
  • Trouble with in-laws
  • Outstanding personal achievement
  • Spouse starts or stops work
  • Begin or end school
  • Change in living conditions
  • Revision of personal habits
  • Trouble with boss
  • Change in working hours or conditions
  • Change in residence
  • Change in schools
  • Change in recreation
  • Change in church activities
  • Change in social activities
  • Minor mortgage or loan
  • Change in sleeping habits
  • Change in number of family reunions
  • Change in eating habits
  • Vacation
  • Christmas
  • Minor violation of law
  • Loss of Trust, Loss of Approval, Loss of Safety and Loss of Control of my body

Some of these grief events are counterintuitive. We don’t normally identify exciting new life change with the potential for grief. However, most change includes loss of some kind—there is always a transitioning from something to something. Being aware that grief may be one aspect of change equips us to better face transitions

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6 comments

  1. Thank you for this, Kory! Any resources you would recommend on topic of “qualifying grief”? Our pastor’s sermon yesterday entertained the thought that Americans could be going through the five stages of grief. He placed particular emphasis on the second: anger, noting that Americans appear to be angry during this election campaign. Looking at this list, I’m thinking the recent financial crisis along with the housing market could have contributed the process. Thanks for posting.

    p.s. Let’s get together for coffee sometime if you’re free!
    -Emmanuel

    1. Emmanuel,

      So great to hear from you friend. Hope schooling is going well! I am intrigued by your comments—especially on the idea of corporate/national grief—an area that does not get much discussion. My next post touches on a variety of grief categories that may speak into your question. Can you clarify what you mean by “qualifying grief”? I am not familiar with the phrase. Thanks!

      1. Great to hear from you as well! School is great! I graduated last week with my M.Div. from Truett (i’m ready to take on the world now!). I was asking about resources which answer the question: “What qualifies as ‘grief’?” Hope that makes more sense.

      2. Congrats! I wish you the best as you transition and step into ministry, exciting times! I would recommend Brenda Mallon’s book, “Death, Dying and Grief”, John Swinton’s book “Living Well and Dying Faithfully: Christian Practices for End of Life Care” along with anything Norman H. Wright has written—he has done a lot of great work on the topic and will help with the broad view of grief. Hope that helps!

  2. Thank you, Kory! That does help! Quick update: I’ll be staying in Waco and serving as senior pastor of a church here after i’m through with CPE. Also, I have a good friend who is interested in prison chaplaincy. He’s currently in CPE with me and has done good work. Is it okay if he reaches out to you? What would be the best way?

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