Saturday Morning Message: Strategies for Good Sleep

Author: Carol Lane

Good morning,

Sleep can be difficult after the death of a loved one. Some find that all they want to do is sleep and others find that getting enough sleep is a challenge. This week survivors shared their ideas about what they do when sleep eludes them. This article from the TAPS Magazine, “To Sleep or Not to Sleep, That is the Problem" may also be helpful. It offers suggestions from survivors about how to get good sleep.

alarm clock next to a bed

One thing that has helped me is to turn on a small fan in the bedroom. The constant sound helps to drown out the other sounds in the house which can easily awaken me. As always, look over the ideas and try what you like. We are all different.

Remember, you can write to me anytime just to communicate or if you have thoughts on what could make the Saturday Morning Message more helpful. I look forward to hearing from you. My email address is

Carol Lane
Mother of Bryon


Answers from Survivors

Responses from Survivors to the question: Have your sleep patterns changed since your loss, and what strategies do you find helpful on sleepless nights?

From Merry, mother of Wesley: My sleep patterns have been broken for as long as I can remember. I'm usually up every morning around 2 a.m. and have learned to accept the fact that this is my lot in life. I'm a very light sleeper. I use my tablet to listen to sermons or peaceful music, do breathing exercises to relax and can usually get back to sleep, not quickly, but eventually. 

Tart cherry juice has natural melatonin in it so I use that sometimes. Trying to get my mind to shut off and relax is another detail that I pray through. I try not to use over-the-counter sleep aids as they make me groggy.

From Cheryl, mother of Jack: I have not found any answers about sleeping. I try. I do drink a sleepy time tea. I try to "turn my brain off" going to bed and reading. Sometimes when I wake at night I have tried to pray for family; I usually fall asleep before I get done. Other times I just give up and get up. I do the things I would as if it was time to get up. I might get a chance to snooze a few minutes before it’s time to go to work.

From Carrie, wife of William: My husband passed away six weeks ago and I've had a terrible time falling and staying asleep. I find that exercising late in the day helps me to be tired when bedtime comes around. This is something that I didn't do previously. I used to be a late sleeper, but since he passed, I'm up most days by 7 a.m. Guess this is my new normal.

From Samira, mother of Andres: When I cannot sleep I make a tea with the skin from an apple (believe me, it works), and pray. I also hold Andres’ pillows. This helps me when I have that sleepless night.

From Sheryl, mother of Adam:  My sleep has been deeply affected since my son's death in 2017. To help me sleep, I keep very regular bedtimes. Bed is for sleeping only and I shut off screens at least a half hour before my bedtime.

From Perry, father of Christopher: In the weeks that followed the death of my son, my sleep habit had changed to where four hours was now my norm. It wasn’t that I couldn’t sleep, it was more like I didn’t want to sleep. I remembered a speech I had heard by Adm. William McRaven on changing the world, one task at a time. McRaven was the ninth commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command. I took his words to heart every morning when I woke up and made my bed. As I added more daily tasks to my list of accomplishments, I found sleep came a little easier with every passing day. Even today, almost 15 years later, I have bad days remembering things. Sleep can be hard. Even on a bad day no matter what happened at the end of the day, my bed I made myself is waiting for me. To me it is being mindful to do the little things with focus so that on the day big things happen, I am ready for them. I am not a tea drinker, but as a kind of reward on one of these hard days, I will fix myself a cup of tea. In the Japanese culture, it is said that all the answers to the world’s problems can be found in a cup of tea. Depending on my day, I have several different teas to choose from, but each is mentally and physically relaxing to me.

From Sandra, mother of Joshua: I have always had sleep issues. After the death of my son two years ago, it became even more difficult to sleep at night. On the other hand, with suggestions from my doctor and tips from the workshops at the TAPS seminars, I have tools to help me tackle my sleep issues. At the TAPS seminars, the workshops I found extremely helpful in overcoming sleep problems were Frank Campbell's workshop for people new to grief and the workshops on meditation. I open the blinds in the morning and close the blinds in the evening. Morning exercise is helpful for restful sleep at night. I love aqua jogging. I try to stop drinking all caffeinated drinks after 2 p.m. That means no tea, coffee or soda with caffeine after that time. The doctor also told me not to drink anything after 8 p.m.

In addition, my room is completely black, because I have blinds and curtains. I have a rain sound on my clock, and I just recently purchased an aromatic diffuser. I put lavender or frankincense drops in the diffuser. I have read that it is imperative to turn off all electronic devices one or two hours before bedtime. I hope you have better luck than me on that one. Reading a book, especially a boring book, can really knock me out. Meditation can also be a plus. Sleep is imperative when grieving the loss of a loved one so be sure to make it a priority. Restful sleep can help us to become stronger and more resilient while dealing with grief. These tips can help you get to sleep and stay asleep.

If you would like to send a message thanking one or all of those who participated in this week’s Saturday Morning Message, send it to me at and I will make sure your thoughts are passed along to them.


Question for Next Week’s Saturday Morning Message

Debbie, wife of Thomas sent the idea for this week’s question. Has a loved one come to you in a dream? How did it make you feel? What was remarkable about it? We look forward to your responses.

Would you like to share a question or read how other survivors respond to a topic or question you have? I would love to gather some thoughts for future Saturday Morning Messages. It can be helpful to read and hear how others cope. I encourage you to reply to the Saturday Morning Message by emailing I directly receive all responses that are sent to this address. In order to have your reply included in the next week’s message, it is best to send your answers to me by Tuesday morning of the following week. Thank you to everyone responding this week and those who read this message.


♫ Song for the Week

This week’s song is "I'll Never Love Again" from the soundtrack of “A Star Is Born” sung by Lady Gaga. My daughter and I were watching the movie a few weeks ago and I thought it would be a good song for this week’s message. 

A survivor once suggested we include a song of the week, which has now become a weekly feature. If you have a song that is special to you or reminds you of your loved one, please send it along with a sentence or two about what makes this song meaningful to you. One of our contributors, Andy, father of Danny, makes a playlist on Spotify of the songs that appear in the Saturday Morning Messages along with a few other songs special to him. You can sign up for Spotify for free to listen to the playlist. The playlist is called TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) Songs of Love and Remembrance.

You can send your favorite songs to

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).

Learn More and Register


▶▶  Connect With Your TAPS Family 

You can discover all the opportunities to connect with your TAPS Family on our website at the TAPS Event Calendar.

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).