Saturday Morning Message: When Grief Awakes You

Author: Carol Lane

Good Morning,

Sleep can be difficult for many survivors after the death of a loved one. Sharing ideas among survivors may be helpful. When we are grieving, it is hard to come up with new ideas, so today we will look at a variety of thoughts survivors have sent. 

Alarm Clock

Caryn, mother of Nathan, wrote, "When grief wakes me, it's usually because of a realistic-type dream. I usually can't return to sleep, so I will do one of the following: read a book, listen to music, get online or watch TV. But, most often, I look at family albums or write in one of my journals. 

Those nights always leave me with mixed emotions. I'm happy to have a visit and loving the realistic memories that seem so real. But, there's also the longing sadness that is always lingering in the background of my heart, my mind and my soul - always reminding me we are and always will be connected." 

Looking through the TAPS Magazine archives, I found an article from 2012 titled "To Sleep or Not to Sleep, That is the Problem" that was compiled from a previous Saturday Morning Message. I thought the responses from survivors about how they get the rest they need are very helpful to answer this week's question. You will notice that the full name of the survivor as well as the loved one is included as it is in the article.

From Mary-Ann McLendon, surviving mother of SPCO Blake McLendon 

"My husband and I both had a great deal of difficulty sleeping through the night. We were running on two to four hours of broken sleep per night for the longest time. It was horrible! We tried many things and nothing seemed to work for either of us, but a little further along we slipped back into a more normal sleep pattern. Here are some things that have worked somewhat for me:

  • Sleepy time tea helps relax the body, making it easier to go to sleep.
  • Sunflower seed and bananas can help with sleep problems. Try eating a banana two hours before bedtime. A handful of sunflower seeds at bedtime helps me sleep longer without waking up.
  • It's important to be in a dark room. Turn alarm clocks away from you if you have a lighted digital type. No night lights, no TVs turned on, and blackout window coverings are recommended. Or use a blindfold made for sleeping. The darker the better.
  • It is best not to watch TV or use your computer just before bedtime. It has to do with the kind of blue light they emit that adds to the sleep problems."

From Shanette Booker, surviving spouse of SSG Andre Booker

"When my husband Dre first passed away, I used to sleep in his favorite high school sweater. He always wore that sweater when he wasn't feeling well or if he had a hard time falling asleep. I found great comfort in putting it on before going to bed. The other thing that helped is that my phone alarm is set for 10:29 every night with taps as its ring tone. After Dre passed away I would hear the night bugle call on the post where we were stationed ... it helps me now to remember that it's time for "us" to go to bed. I lie in the bed, grab my journal, and write to him as if we were talking about how our day went. After that I find myself snuggling up with his favorite blanket, and I close my eyes and think of him holding me as I 'trick' myself into falling asleep."

From Susan Britanisky, surviving mother of LTC Jeanne Hutchinson

"Sleeping after the death of a loved one, especially if the death was not anticipated, is impossible for a long time. After three years, sleep comes a little easier than in the beginning, but waking up each morning is still difficult. Sleep is necessary so, for the most part, I think of our beautiful successful child and send her our total love and tell her we will be with her eventually. This gives me some comfort of mind and body and allows sleep to come."  

From Rose D'Angelo, surviving mother of TSGT Nicholas D'Angelo

"I still do not get enough sleep. If I have trouble getting to sleep, I warm a glass of milk and put a teaspoon of honey in it. That works for me. I keep a journal and it seems to help me to write in it as often as I can. I take things one day at a time. If I have trouble sleeping, I do not worry about it. I read scriptures and books written by people who have experienced losses like I have. Lots of prayers, too. I pray for God's comfort, strength and peace for myself and my other children."

From Shirley Hemenway, surviving mother of ET1 Ronald Hemenway

"I was working right after Ronald died, and yes, there were days I went to work very tired. Usually, the next night I could sleep because I hadn't had much sleep the night before. I still have nights I can't sleep, so I get up and do some things that never got done during the day. I feel better if I accomplish something on the nights I don't sleep. Keeping busy seems better than tossing and turning all night and keeping my husband awake."

From Alice Daniel, surviving mother of SSG William Daniel

"The dark is the worst time for my mind. I pray for each and every one of you to come up with your own method of coping with sleep time as soon as possible. I learned two things early on. One was not to go to bed until I could no longer hold my eyes open. The other was that if I woke up in the middle of the night, I might as well get up. Otherwise I lie in bed and my mind wanders to places I do not wish to visit. However, I could not sit in my den like a bump on a log from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. Needlepoint, crochet, puzzles or any mind-occupying activity is a good thing to do. When it became apparent that I was not getting enough sleep to operate on, I finally gave in to our long-time family doctor and began taking a nighttime sleep aid which has helped tremendously."  

From Kathy Allen, surviving mother of SSGT Charles Allen 

"On those nights when I wake up and can't get back to sleep, I sit up and read. I find that a good book takes my mind to other places where I can relax and, for a short while, not think about what has happened. On one night, I knew I wasn't going to get back to sleep anytime soon, so I got up as if it were morning, put on a pot a coffee, and started watching a movie. After a cup of coffee, I fell asleep on the couch and woke up as the movie ended. I was able to go back to bed and sleep through the night."

From Mary Richards, surviving mother of A1C Kenneth L Richards 

"I can have a great deal of trouble falling asleep. My mind wanders places I don't want it to go. Memories and my imagination can seem so real! I was given the gift of a set of CDs with sound tracks that help ease anxiety and help me fall asleep. I don't use it all of the time, but it can help. I also use a guided meditation to keep my mind clear and 'whirling-thought' free to help ease me into much needed sleep.

I'm not much of an early riser, but I just get up and get going. There is always laundry to fold or food to prepare. One of the other things I do is try to avoid napping. Sleeping during the day just keeps me up longer at night.

In this darkness, I find it helpful to remember Psalm 30:5, 'Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.' I will not be forever weeping. There will be joy again. A time will come when my darkness is relieved and a new day begins."  

You may notice that several survivors talk about writing being helpful. Here are some ways to use writing to connect with others through TAPS: the blog section on the TAPS website, the monthly Writers' Circle Newsletter, and replying to the weekly question in the Saturday Morning Message. Songs that are soothing are also appreciated. It doesn't matter the time of day, you can always send your thoughts to You won't wake anyone, and we love to hear from you. 



We talk about a "new normal" during the grieving process, so the question this week is: How has the death of your loved one given you a different purpose or meaning in life? For example, have you volunteered for something, started a new craft or reached out to others in a way that has helped lift your grief? I look forward to your responses. 


Leslie, mother of Eugene, sent the song this week. Leslie shared "God Only Knows" sung by Michael Buble as the song this week. This was a song originally performed by  the Beach Boys. Leslie wrote, "This song was sung by someone else at the end of this year's Grammys. It's a beautiful song and very appropriate."  

The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication; written and contributed to by survivors. The primary focus of the SMM is to foster peer based connection, survivors helping survivors, for support and encouragement along the grief journey. It is the goal of this communication to foster a safe, supportive atmosphere where we can openly share in a non-judgmental and caring manner. Read and contribute as you are comfortable, and explore any opinions/ideas shared that are most beneficial to you on your individual journey. Content submitted for inclusion in the SMM is edited for spacing considerations and grammatical corrections.  

If you ever need to speak to someone regarding an urgent matter or just need a listening ear, the loving family at TAPS is available to you 24 hours a day. Please feel free to contact TAPS at1-800-959-8277.

Other Items and Events of Interest

Arlington Cemetery family at headstone

Join us on Memorial Day Weekend, May 28 to 30, for our 27th Annual National Military Survivor Seminar! We will be live streaming all of our general sessions with guest speakers.

Important Note: In-person registration is still open, but we are in a waitlist situation due to COVID occupancy restrictions in the State of Virginia. 

If you have any questions, email or call our Helpline at 202.588.TAPS (8277).

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About the Saturday Morning Message

The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication contributed by survivors. The primary focus of the SMM is to foster peer-based connections for support and encouragement. It is the goal of this communication to foster a safe, supportive place where we can openly share in a nonjudgmental and caring manner. Read and contribute as you are comfortable. Content submitted for the SMM is edited for space considerations and may be used in other TAPS publications. The loving family at TAPS is available to you 24 hours a day. Please call 202-588-TAPS (8277).