by Sandy Fox
Has your sleep pattern changed since the death of your child? Do you wake up every few hours? Do you toss and turn for hours trying to get to sleep? Do certain dreams wake you up, particularly if your child is in them and you can’t get back to sleep? Do you get enough sleep or do you get too much sleep? Do you fit any of these patterns?
I asked many bereaved parents what they do at night if any of these situations fit them. Hopefully, some ideas from others may work for you.
Zoey: Many nights I cry myself to sleep thinking of my child who died so young. I think of what I have lost, what she has lost and can never have, and it makes me so sad. I do not like to cry in front of others, so at night, in bed, in the dark, for me is a good time to let all my feelings out. It exhausts me to the point that eventually sleep overcomes me.
Candy: I drink something that will relax me. Usually tea does it for me, or even some warm milk or hot chocolate. Liquor is not the answer, nor is it good for your body.
Mark: I make sure I’m in a dark room. Even if I have to wear a mask, I need it to be dark. I grab my son’s favorite stuffed animal and hold it close to me for comfort. It eases my mind and relaxes me so that I can fall asleep much easier.
Alicia: I find it much easier to fall asleep if I have the TV on. It sort of lull’s me to sleep. The only negative about the TV is that eventually you wake up from the sound and have to get up to turn it off. Then my mind starts wandering to my child and sometimes I have trouble getting back to sleep.
Steven: If I wake up in the middle of the night, I go in the other room, so as not to disturb my wife, sit in a comfortable chair and read a book or magazine. I forget everything when I read. When I am done, I go back to bed and find I can usually sleep a few more hours. If not, I just get up and do things around the house until it is time to go to work. I’m usually very tired that next day and that night can sleep. So I have a combination of both good and bad nights
Danny: When my son died, that was the end of my good sleeping habits. Now I find I need to take pills to help me sleep. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with that. I just hate to think I’m getting addicted to anything, so I take a very light dose and hope for the best.
Sara: There is so much to do in a day, I don’t seem to get it all done, so if I find I can’t sleep after waking in the middle of the night, I try to get some of those necessary things done and not leave them for the next day. My grown son, who died far too young, told me he used to do that when he had too much business on his mind and it helped. After getting some chores done, he was able to sleep more restfully. So I am now trying it, and it seems to work, thank goodness. Thanks, Michael.
Dick: I have trouble sleeping because I am constantly thinking of my daughter, who in a split second, was killed in a car accident. I imagine the accident. I see her terror, the terror that now haunts me and keeps me tossing and turning during the night. What do I do to get some rest? I try to put my mind in a better place, a beautiful place where I long to travel to with my family, a beautiful place where all is right with the world and we are all together. Sometimes it works and other times I continue to toss around until morning, when I’m so exhausted, I fall into a deep sleep and am sometimes late for work when I finally do get up.
Carolyn: Sometimes, through all the stress, I find that taking a half-hour to one-hour nap helps me catch up with the sleep I miss at night when my mind becomes very active thinking of my daughter and what a wonderful life she would have had, if not for the skiing accident that killed her.
Finally, if you want to look into it, many tapes and CD’s help relieve the anxiety you may feel after the death of your child and can help you get the rest you so crave. Meditation can clear your mind also. No one remedy works for everyone, but hopefully, trying some of these suggestions will work for you.