Grief & Rumination

Pastor Andi BlantonPersonal Stories

Rumination is a term used when our minds get stuck on the same thoughts over and over again. In the case of trauma and/or grief, our minds become fixated on something terrible that you saw or heard or imagine. The thoughts come up in your mind often and it’s hard to let them go. In my case, I didn’t see the accident that took my husband Mike’s life, but I’ve heard about it and read reports describing the state of his body. It is overwhelming. I am trying to move through some brutal images in my mind. Friends will tell me that Mike has a new heavenly body with no pain but that truth doesn’t stop the ruminations.

Our minds get stuck on these images or words because they are shocking. Maybe you remember the words someone used when the fired you from a job, or hurtful words that were said to you as a child. These things can change your personality and how you live in the world. Rumination is our mind’s attempt to understand something that cannot be fully understood. If rumination goes on too long, it can keep us stuck in trauma. Stuck, is not a good place to be.

What can we do to stop the traumatic thoughts and memories?

In case of a lost loved one, you can think about the best days of your loved one’s life, then write down all the details you can remember. I think about when we went to visit the University of North Carolina’s basketball museum in Chapel Hill. This was a dream of his since he was a boy. If you knew Mike Blanton, this was a great day for him. Our daughter took video of him in the trophy room of the museum and asked how he felt. His answer was, “I feel like I’m in heaven.” This is the day and those are the words that I hold onto when the ruminations begin. I also remember our wedding day, the days that our daughter and son were born and the days when UNC won the College Basketball tournament. I can see and hear Mike laughing and singing, “One Shining Moment.” These memories make me smile and that’s where I want to be.

Another strategy to stop ruminating thoughts is to distract your mind. Look around for anything that will distract you. You can go for a walk and notice nature around you. You can watch a movie, sing, dance, read a book, or read the Bible. Just because a thought pops in our head, you don’t need to stay there. If you’re stuck thinking about a mistake you made, make a list of all things you’ve done right and remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes, it’s part of being human. Lastly, know that you CAN do things to change your thoughts and you don’t have to be afraid because God is always with you.

Here are some scriptures that might be helpful.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
Joshua 1:7-9