This post is in response to the WordPress one-word daily prompt: Ruminate
The first thing that popped into my head (of course) upon seeing this prompt was my anatomy and physiology days in my animal science and pre-vet courses and learning about the four-compartment stomach of a ruminant (cattle, sheep, goats, deer, giraffes, etc.) and the functions of each stomach.
But I digress.
I’ve always been a ruminator (is that a word?) and I think any psychologist will tell you, it’s considered a negative trait to have. I guess it would be if one tended to ruminate on just the negative. I tend to be a very deep thinker who overanalyzes everything.
Most of the things I ruminate about are the losses in my life—both animals and people. I lost a close friend to an automobile accident in July of 2013 and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about losing her and mourning the fact that I never got to say goodbye to her or tell her what she meant to me. She’s the second really close friend I lost in that manner (driving off the road and hitting a tree). Six weeks after her death, while still deep in the throes of grief over my friend, I found myself at the vet clinic having my almost 20-year-old cat euthanized. He had been a precious gift to me from a client when he was just 8 weeks old and I literally felt like my heart was being ripped right out of my chest. I didn’t think I was going to survive it. Really. My husband and I had a little funeral for Bigfoot and I delved into the grief books as I did when both my parents died of cancer. I think I read everything written by Elisabeth Kübler Ross. I went through all the stages of grief during his illness and death— the denial, the anger, the bargaining, the depression, and finally the acceptance (although sometimes I don’t think I’ve completely mastered that last one yet). I also added guilt to my stages of grief the day it hit me that I was grieving harder over the loss of my cat than I was over the loss of my friend. I remember right after Bigfoot’s death how offended I got when people would tell me I needed to just go out and get another cat. I remember Bigfoot died on a Monday and was buried on the following Thursday. On Wednesday, the day before I buried him, I was told by a well-meaning friend about a cat on Craig’s list that needed a good home. My cat wasn’t even in the ground yet, and people were trying to get me to get another cat to replace the one I had lost. I got emails and phone calls in the days that followed his death about kittens and cats needing homes. My mind could not even fathom getting another cat at this point. I know these people meant well but still, it hurt. I cried every day for a year over the loss of my cat, who was like a son to me.
When my mother was dealing with her multiple cancers, the oncology group she went to had a therapist right there in the office. The oncologist, who was just the kindest most caring doctor I believe I had ever met, urged my mother to talk to the therapist. My mother didn’t want to and told him she didn’t see the point, that she had cancer and nothing that therapist could say was ever going to change that. He told her there were “cancer related issues” he felt she needed to discuss and end of life issues. So my mother very reluctantly went. I sat out in the waiting room and cringed. I remember the therapist coming out to talk to me at the end of my mother’s session. I don’t really remember what all she said to me, but I do remember this. She said that while my mother seemed to be accepting her cancer diagnosis well, that she would move back and forth between the different stages of grief. That it wasn’t necessarily a smooth straight line flow from denial to acceptance, and then you’re done. She told me one day my mother might be in the acceptance phase, and the next day she might be in denial and a week or two later, she might be very angry about her cancer. Boy, was she ever right about that. That’s exactly how it all played out in my mother’s cancer journey. I never saw my mother in the “acceptance stage.” She simply wasn’t ready to die and she made that very clear.
As a veterinarian, I have seen my share of pet loss grief after the loss of an animal. I’ve seen clients who would go out immediately after losing a pet (sometimes the same day!) and get another pet. And I was happy for them because they were happy. Others, like me, needed more time to grieve. Some needed six months and some needed a full year or more. And that’s okay too. I went to a veterinary conference last weekend and attended some lectures on euthanasia and pet loss grief. The speaker, who runs a hospice center for animals (and certainly sees her share of pet loss grief), emphasized over and over that grief is different for every single person and people grieve in different ways. She said for some, grief lasts days, for some it lasts weeks, for some months, and for others years. And it’s all “normal.” When she said that, I somehow felt relieved. When my cat died, I heard comments like I needed to move on, I needed to just get over it, that life goes on whether we like it or not, etc., etc., etc. To me, those are the worst things you can say to somebody grieving. Are there times when I think people need professional help in their grieving? You bet I do. Sometimes I think people can get stuck in their grief and need a gentle nudge to help them in processing their grief. But I don’t think we can put a time limit on grief and we have to be careful not to tell people HOW they must grieve.
I ruminate over other things in my life. I ruminate over health issues, things going on in my sons’ lives, what my purpose in life is, spiritual issues, what the future holds, etc. And the list goes on and on. Today, I’ve found myself ruminating over a movie my husband and I watched last night. It was a Nicholas Sparks movie (why oh why do I even watch those) called The Best of Me that we got out of the $5 bin at Walmart. It was a good movie but my husband and I both predicted how it was going to end and we both said we were not going to like it if it did indeed end that way. And it did. But isn’t that typical for Nicholas Sparks movies? Isn’t there always a twist?
Writing this has me wondering if ruminating is synonymous with worrying. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of difference.
What do you think? Is ruminating and worrying the same? Are you a ruminator? Is it always a bad thing? Please feel free to leave a comment if you so desire.