Liz is angry at her husband’s doctor.

Henry, her husband of twenty-one years died six months ago of heart related issues and Liz has been spitting mad ever since.

When her friends ask if she’s talked about her feelings with the doctor, Liz screams… NO! ARE YOU KIDDING…I wouldn’t give him the time of day!

So, Liz’s well-meaning and loving friends have learned NOT to ask any more questions. And, because they don’t ask, she has gotten angrier!

Now Liz talks about her anger to strangers in the grocery store, to retail sales clerks and even to the new postal carrier. She continues to focus on her anger and refuses to think about anything else.

Liz is ruminating.

Rumination can be a mask for grief especially after the death of a loved one. By ruminating about her anger Liz can avoid thinking about her sadness.

In psychology rumination describes a vicious cycle. It is the repetitive dwelling on a problem, with a focus on how bad you feel and how awful things are – without taking action to make things better.

Research on undisclosed trauma tells us that rumination tends to extend the time that people are sad or anxious and if it continues without attention it can make a sad situation even worse.  

What we know is this…regardless of why a person dies, the more the surviving spouse is able to talk about the death with a friend, therapist or trusted person, the more able they are to grieve the loss and move beyond bereavement.

Some of Liz’s rumination is understandable. It may have helped her stay connected to her feelings as she slowly accepted the reality of Henry’s death.

But chronic rumination can hurt us more than help us…