The house was so quiet after my daughters went to bed. Soon after we said our goodnights my thoughts would turn to what was and what would never be again. I would go to bed, but toss and turn. I would be up and down, pacing the floor until all hours of the morning. It was terrible. And you know how it is when you keep telling yourself that you need to get to sleep…the harder it is to drift off.
It is not uncommon to have dreams about a loved one after they die. This is a form of expressing grief and dreams help to facilitate mourning. On the other hand, an individual may experience nightmares and then find it difficult to allow him or herself to go to sleep. It’s important for them to find a trusted person they can talk to who will understand what they are going though and can provide some guidance.
The good news is that the recommended nightly requirements for sleep do not have to be linear. As long as a person is getting adequate rest breaks and little naps here and there, it’s okay. If you, or someone you know, is experiencing a disturbance in your sleep pattern because of a loss, understand that this is normal and eventually your ability to sleep will increase. Until that happens, try the following:
· Build in rest breaks throughout the day – even taking 20 – 30 minutes at a time to lie down in a quiet room by yourself will help to rest your mind and rejuvenate your body.
· If you are tossing and turning in bed, lay on the sofa with the television turned on low.
· Place soft music in your room and leave a low, soft light on if it makes you feel more comfortable. Avoid burning candles in the event you do fall asleep.
· Keep a glass of water by your bed and/or sip herbal tea or warm milk.
· Avoid self-medicating with alcohol as a way to fall asleep. Some people may become dependent on alcohol and as their consumption increases, other health risks rise too.
· Avoid taking medications that have been prescribed for someone else. Well-meaning family and friends may offer you their ‘sleeping pills’ but it is unwise to take them. I am not a fan of giving people sleeping pills or tranquilizers because they are grieving; however, I am not a medical doctor and if you feel you do need something, then you should be seen by a physician. Don’t just start taking something because it worked for someone else.