What Causes Grief?

What Causes GriefOften we may think that only death causes grief. This simply is not true. Grief can be experienced on many different levels for a variety of reasons.

Life changes.

  • Death of a spouse.
  • Death of a parent.
  • Miscarriage or the death of a child.
  • Giving a child up for adoption.
  • Moving. Particularly difficult for children, first-year college students, newly marrieds, and the elderly.
  • Empty-nesting. When a child leaves home, many parents experience varying levels of grief.
  • Death of a pet.


  • Dating break-up, particularly if it was a long relationship.
  • Marriage. Some people feel loss because their relationship has changed which may bring changes with other relationships. Some may feel a loss of independent decision making.
  • Birth of a child. Some feel a loss of independent decision making. Some resent lifestyle changes.
  • Divorce and separation. Not only are the adults affected, but the children and extended family are affected.
  • A way-ward child.
  • Friendships. Sometimes friendships end, whether due to arguments or geographical changes.

Health. (These may affect not only the patient but also those that love them and will be caregivers.)

  • Diagnosis of a chronic or terminal illness, whether personally or that of a loved one.
  • Diagnosis of a disorder or medical condition of a child that would cause life-long care, and the loss of the life the parents had hoped for their child.
  • Diagnosis of infertility.
  • Personal injury resulting in drastic lifestyle changes and disability.
  • Personal injury resulting in temporary changes.
  • Aging. Some grieve the loss of strength, loss of physical appearance or independence.

Work or School.

  • Failing an exam or failure in a project.
  • Loss of position or promotion.
  • Increase in work load or responsibility.
  • Change of job or school.
  • Graduation.
  • Job loss.
  • Retirement.

Other forms of change.

  • An act of violence.
  • Loss of home or possessions due to natural disaster or accident.
  • Financial loss due to national economic collapse, stock market crash, banking issues, etc.
  • Change in habits or lifestyle such as quitting smoking, changing diet for health reasons, cutting back spending due to economic loss, etc.

You may look at the lists above and think that some of them are a bit “over reaching” in describing them as “grief-causers.” We need to remember that each person is different and, therefore, will respond to the above situations in their own way.

For example, a week or so after Nathan graduated from Kindergarten, he broke out in hives. Although we tried to rule out anything and everything, the hives persisted through over the counter treatment. We took him to the doctor. She checked him and took a history. She asked if he had just graduated from kindergarten. We said yes. She told us that many times children have difficulty changing their routines, especially when they know that they would not be returning to what they knew as “normal.” The hives, in this case, were the physical way to express what he could not express verbally. She gave him some medicine to deal with the hives and encouraged us to keep him talking about the changes and what to expect in the future. {We were switching to homeschooling.} In a way, it was part of his grieving the loss of what he knew.

When we hear of someone experiencing any of the above situations, remember to encourage them. Send a card, make a phone call, buy a bag of groceries, send a pizza (pre-paid, of course!), offer child care — there are so many things that we can do to help and encourage someone who is suffering from a grief-causing situation.

photo credit: photopin.com


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