Saturday Morning Message: Sleeping & Grief
Author: Carol Lane
Sleep. What do you do to get the rest that is needed while grieving? That was the question last week. Some survivors sleep too much and others too little.
In addition to the replies that were sent in last week, it can be informative to look past articles on grief to find information. Once there, you can search for articles of importance to you.
There are two magazine articles that directly addressed the issue of sleep. One is written by Susan R. Blankenship MS, BSN, RN, CCM and Rebecca I. Porter, PhD, ABPP, LTC US Army called Physical Reactions to Loss and Grief It Isn’t All in Your Head (or YourHeart).
The other contains a past Saturday message with survivors answering the question about sleep called To Sleep or Not to Sleep That is the Problem.
Enjoy the answers that came in last week along with a note from Cathy talking about continuing memories of her son, Jacob. Remember that any advice coming from survivors is the sharing of their experiences which is the intention of this weekly letter. Take what you think will be helpful. Thank you to everyone who responded and also those who read the Saturday Message. Together we find strength.
The question for next week is: Describe a place that gives you comfort. It could be a specific place or something that helps ease the pain like a walk with a friend.
From Cathy, surviving mother of Jacob: Jacob had my smile, but more beautiful. His blue eyes would light up when he smiled. I share stories of him that make me smile and have found people to be more comfortable with my grief. I had a friend share with me last week that she admires my strength and wonders how I continue to smile when I talk about Jacob even if tears are falling down my cheek. She said it reminds her of the good times, not the sad times. I made Jacob a promise; that his smile would live on through his momma. Even when I don't want to, I smile.
I also have been involved in a military ministry at our church. We filled 50 backpacks for homeless veterans and purchased Christmas wreaths for 10 veterans who had passed away in our church in 2012 with a portion of Jacob’s memorial money. He served on many missions trips as a youth and it’s a touching way for his spirit to live on through ministry.
From Pam, surviving mother of Joe: Ah... the illusive sleep! Yes, grief will definitely mess with your sleep patterns. I find that I have trouble falling asleep and toss and turn. I started staying up until I got sleepy, but found that sleep never came. My mind would take over and I would start to bring up all the ‘coulda, shoulda, wouldas’ that might have kept my son from going to Afghanistan. Not that any of those would have worked as he was a soldier through and through. So now I turn off the TV at 9:30 and either finish my emails or read. I force myself to go to bed no later than 10:30. When I go to bed, I start to pray. I pray for everyone I know that needs some extra guidance, I pray for those who are ill, I pray for those who are having birthdays or anniversaries, I pray for our world leaders, I pray for peace throughout the world, I pray for the souls of those who have departed including my son. If I’m still awake, I pray for myself. I ask God to give me peace of mind to relax enough to fall asleep. And that works every time.
From Kathleen, surviving sibling of Kevin: I find that some nights I still have trouble sleeping. It has been 1 year and 14 days to date. As a sibling close in age to my brother, I was able to quickly & easily befriend a group of Kevin's closest friends & unit members - with the addition of a 6 hour time difference between us - talking to those men and women into the late hours of my night were helpful and therapeutic for all involved. Many times I would get a phone call from one of them as they finished their shift at work before reaching out myself. As time passed we were all able to begin to fall to sleep, and sleep a little more, each night. I also tried to "wear myself out" through the day, in keeping with workout goals Kevin and I had set together a year prior to his death. I started to run more, and was able to train for and run in the NJ Run For The Fallen this past fall - a full 6 miles. Now, I push harder and tell myself that Kevin is running alongside me and in the gym with me each day. It helps me push myself to maintain my goals and not give up, as well as sleep at night. Currently I am training for the Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon this May, I run 5 miles a day + circuit training + attempt to run closer to 13.1 miles once every week. It has decidedly worn me out enough that I can sleep at night. Bodily exhaustion, in a healthy manner under the tutelage of a trainer, is my sleeping pill.
From Frank, surviving father of Joe: I could sleep all day every day. I make myself get up and TRY to do something. Not always successful. Gonna keep trying.
From Alice, surviving mother of Austin: I took Ambien during 2 deployments, Austin's battle with cancer, and after my Austin died. The Ambien quit working. It seemed forever that I stayed awake all night long, had trouble falling asleep or woke up at 2 AM, if I was lucky enough to have fallen asleep. Talked to my neurologist and he wanted to do a sleep study. Turns out I have mild sleep apnea. I Googled PTSD and sleep apnea. VA studies show PTSD and sleep apnea go hand in hand. I reluctantly sucked up my pride and got the breathing machine. I'm now sleeping 7-8 hours a night - no meds. I've lost 15 pounds. (Sleep deprivation can cause weight gain). I recommend a sleep study for anyone who has been through the trauma we folks have and is not sleeping. Wishing you all peaceful rest in the near future.