Nothing will ease your grief—at least, not for a while. But these tips will help you sleep, and sleep will help you heal.
Keep a journal
Limit writing to 15 minutes a day, and just write about how you feel. Periodically read back through what you’ve written.
Over time you’ll be able to see how you’ve moved through the grieving process. Somewhere around 80 per cent of us will move through the worst of our grief within a year.
Pay attention to your body’s needs. Prepare balanced meals, and serve them on your best china and linens.
Exercise for 30 minutes every day, even if it’s just a walk with the dog. And every morning, centre yourself in thoughts of gratitude for the people in your life, the sunshine outside your window, and the fact that you can make a difference in the lives of others.
Consult some experts
Check with your lawyer and a financial consultant about the effects a death has on your legal and financial situation.
No, you don’t want to deal with it. On the other hand, you’ll sleep better knowing exactly what will—or won’t—be coming at you in the months ahead.
Use guided imagery
“Mind/body stuff really works in helping you get to sleep,” says therapist Belleruth Naparstek, M.S.
“The imagery has enough cognitive recruitment to seduce the brain into seeing and thinking about other things, while the voice tone, pacing, music, and images will persuade your parasympathetic nervous system that it’s time to calm down. It will shut down the adrenaline and shoot some calming hormones into your nervous system.”
Slip a CD of guided imagery into your CD player, snuggle into bed, turn out the lights, and follow the imagery into sleep.
Ban the bottle
Alcohol simply prolongs the grieving process and makes it harder to get good, restorative sleep.
Schedule a massage
“Massage interrupts the neurohormones connected with sleeplessness and almost manually imposes sleep on you,” says Naparstek.
“If you can’t afford a massage, go to a massage school, where you can get one at a discounted rate.”
Get what you need
“For some people six months of medication is a good thing,” says Naparstek. “If you need to take medication to interrupt the adrenalisation of your life, so be it.”
There's no shame in medicating to cope with the throws of your grief.
Find new friends
Preferably other people who have lost a partner. Several women who belonged to the same church in Spring Hill, Florida, banded together after the death of their husbands and called themselves the Merry Widows. One was an artist, another a real estate agent, and two others were homemakers.
At first, they weren’t merry at all—like everybody else, they were devastated by their losses. But gradually as they met for lunch or dinner, picked each other up for church, and brought takeout or chicken soup to those who were sick, things changed. They joked—with a sometimes macabre humour that could startle those still married folks who overheard them—providing an understanding and caring for one another that soothed their adrenalised state.
Books on grieving, particularly memoirs of survivors, can reassure you that many of the intense feelings keeping you up will someday ease.
Write a letter
What would you tell your partner if you had a chance? Even if you don’t share the letter with anyone, the process of writing it may help you unload some of that adrenaline. If you’re angry, feel free to vent.
Accept your grief
Allow yourself to move through all the emotions associated with grieving—sadness, longing, guilt, anger, betrayal, the whole range of passionate emotion that allows you to be the loving, caring person you are.
Don’t try to stiff-upper-lip it. You’ll only make getting to sleep harder, prolonging the grieving process.
So many people will want to talk with you about your spouse and your grief. Friends will want to process their own grief by talking about it over and over. Be tough and tell them very clearly to leave you alone.
Same goes for those whom who know only slightly. “I got very comfortable saying, 'I don’t want to talk about this,’ ” says Naparstek.
Collect the stupid things people say
Write them down, share them with close friends, and joke about them. “I had a friend—a nurse—whose husband died of a heart attack,” Naparstek says.
“I knew that she’d had a snootful of all the things people say. So I called and said, 'Wanna get together for dinner? I’m buying. And we can talk about all the stupid things people say to new widows!’ “ She laughs. “We had a blast!”
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