Rumination following bereavement: an overview

Maarten C. Eisma*, Margaret S. Stroebe

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


    This contribution provides an overview of rumination (i.e., thinking repetitively and recurrently about negative events and/or negative emotions) in adjustment to bereavement. First, we summarise a growing literature on rumination and mental health outcomes of bereavement. Next, we compare two main theories explaining the maladaptive effects of rumination after loss, which hold conflicting implications for clinical practice. The Response Styles Theory (RST) states that rumination is a maladaptive confrontation strategy that perpetuates distress by increasing negative cognitions, impairing problem solving and instrumental behaviour and reducing social support. Conversely, the Rumination as Avoidance Hypothesis (RAH) holds that rumination may serve to avoid painful aspects of the loss, thereby hampering adjustment to bereavement. Crucially, while RST predicts that distraction reduces rumination, RAH predicts that loss exposure is more effective. We review evidence for RST and RAH and their clinical implications and conclude with a brief exploration of ways to reconcile these theories.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)58-64
    Number of pages7
    JournalBereavement Care
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2017


    • avoidance
    • cognitive behavioural therapy
    • complicated grief
    • counselling
    • prolonged grief disorder
    • Rumination


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