Over 40 Different Grieving Events

In the late 1960s, psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe conducted research that resulted in the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS), more commonly known as the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale. This scale lists over 43 different life events that can cause stress. Each event, called a Life Change Unit (LCU), had a different “weight” for stress. The more events, the higher the score. The higher the score, the more likely the patient was to experience illness. Unfortunately the SRRS did not take individual differences into consideration by assuming that each stressor affects people the same way. Regardless it became an important study for better understanding how certain life events increased the chances of stress-related illnesses and health-related issues.

Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale

The Grief Recovery Institute® (GRI) has leveraged the Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale for the events that can produce the range of emotions we call grief.  Since GRI founders John James and Russell Friedman feel that all grief is experienced at 100%, they have chosen to omit the mean value/scoring system. Since everyone is unique not all of the stressors listed might be viewed as grieving or loss events. As a result, they have added “intangible” events such as loss of trust, loss of safety, loss of faith, etc. which can also produce feelings of grief.

Their list of grieving events include:

  1. Death of a spouse
  2. Divorce
  3. Marital separation
  4. Imprisonment
  5. Death of a close family member
  6. Personal injury or illness
  7. Marriage
  8. Dismissal from work
  9. Marital reconciliation
  10. Retirement
  11. Change in health of family member
  12. Pregnancy
  13. Sexual difficulties
  14. Gain a new family member
  15. Business readjustment
  16. Change in financial state
  17. Death of a close friend
  18. Change to different line of work
  19. Change in frequency of arguments
  20. Major mortgage
  21. Foreclosure of mortgage or loan
  22. Change in responsibilities at work
  23. Child leaving home
  24. Trouble with in-laws
  25. Outstanding personal achievement
  26. Spouse starts or stops work
  27. Begin or end school
  28. Change in living conditions
  29. Revision of personal habits
  30. Trouble with boss
  31. Change in working hours or conditions
  32. Change in residence
  33. Change in schools
  34. Change in recreation
  35. Change in church activities
  36. Change in social activities
  37. Minor mortgage or loan
  38. Change in sleeping habits
  39. Change in number of family reunions
  40. Change in eating habits
  41. Vacation
  42. Holidays – Christmas, Thanksgiving
  43. Minor violation of law
  44. Loss of Trust, Loss of Approval, Loss of Safety and Loss of Faith, etc.

Since grief is defined as “the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior”, it is understandable why these events can produce the range of emotions we refer to as grief. It’s also important that we understand if we go through one of these events in our lives, it is normal and natural to have these feelings. For example, although moving is on the list how many of us have treated it as a grieving event? Probably not very many. Understanding moving can cause feelings of grief can help us to have a plan-of-action in advance for how to address it.

The same is true for all the events listed. If we recognize these events can cause feelings related to grief, we can address them honestly when they happen. We can also change the way that society has traditional viewed grief, as only the result of the death of a loved one. Knowing the scope and breadth of grief, can help future generations deal with grief more effectively.


Sending you love, comfort and peace!