Now that you have information about the process of grief and ways to cope with grief, you may be thinking about grief a little differently. Whereas much of our society reserves the label of “grieving” for when someone has passed away, the reality is that we are grieving all the time because grief happens any time something changes. When we look at grief from a perspective of constancy, we can more clearly see griefs outside of death as worthy of our grieving.
Dr. Kenneth Doka, an expert on grief counseling and grief therapy, often includes the term “disenfranchised grief” in his work. He defines disenfranchised grief as “grief that persons experience when they incur a loss that is not or cannot be openly acknowledged, socially sanctioned, or publicly mourned.” When we experience disenfranchised grief, it may be because we feel like our loss is not worthy of grieving, because there are stigmas associated with what we feel we have lost, or we are concerned for how we will be judged in our expression of grief. Dr. Doka reminds us that the experience of disenfranchised grief is just like the experience of traditional grief, in that each person will have a unique experience, process, and timeline.
Additionally, Dr. Thomas Holmes and Dr. Richard Rahe created the Holmes-Rahe Stress scale, which includes 43 life events that can cause stress and are also linked with feelings of grief. While their scale is meant to be viewed through the lens of stress, there is reason to explore whether or not these stressful life events also create feelings of grief. Remember, grief happens in change – and there are fewer changes more intense than life events.
Here are some things you may grieve, outside of death, in no particular order:
- Relationship changes
- Change in financial status
- Health issues
- Losing a job
- Starting or completing school
- End of vacation
- Change in working hours or conditions
- Personal achievements
- Conflict with loved ones
- Change in living conditions
- Changes to the family structure
- A loved one moving away
- Change in habits (eating, sleeping, daily routines)
- Health related diagnoses
- Changes to career or family goals
While this list is not exhaustive, perhaps it gives some insight into why you have felt grief during change. It makes sense to feel grief when some aspect of our life has changed. The 5 Stages of Grief will likely happen as you process this grief, although the timeline may look different for each experience. If you find yourself dealing with this type of grief, the coping skills shared in our most recent blog may be helpful. And if you feel that it would be beneficial to work with a professional as you process this grief, we hope you consider reaching out to our office.