As a military spouse, the possibility of losing my husband is a nightmare I have had to think on more times than a woman should have to endure. Sadly, I have witnessed other spouses lose their husbands to training exercises and battle. When Sara Bailey approached me about writing a guest article on grief following the loss of a spouse, I understood the relevance of the topic to my community. Sara created TheWidow.net to support her fellow widows and widowers. She is also the author of the upcoming book Hope and Help After Loss: A Guide For Newly Widowed Parents. Please enjoy her article below.
Working Through Grief & Getting to Sleep: Strategies for Overcoming Insomnia Written by Sara Bailey
Grief can elicit a wide array of feelings and physical reactions. Feelings of profound despair can leave you at a loss in both body and mind, not knowing where to turn for relief. Of course, grief is a natural and healthy response to loss, but when it impacts your life in ways that damage your physical processes, it’s time to take action, whether that means initiating change on your own or seeking help from a doctor. Consider these strategies as you work through your grief.
Get Some Exercise The sleepier you feel at bedtime, the better your chances of getting to sleep, so get in a good workout during the day or make time for some physical activity during the workday if there’s no time to get out to the gym. Try to get outside because natural light will contribute to a deep, healthy sleep. Be sure not to exercise vigorously after 7 pm, which will get your metabolism racing just when you need to be settling down and relaxing for the night.
Establish a Restful Sleep Space A bedroom that’s not conducive to good sleep is a barrier to overcoming insomnia. Make sure that no light can get in, that the temperature stays below 70 degrees, and use a white noise app or FitSleep device to create constant background noise. Keep the space decluttered and orderly, and keep all screens (TV, computer, tablet, and smartphone) turned off to keep your brain from interpreting the light as time to wake up and begin the day. Also, avoid caffeine and anything that could stimulate your system in the evening.
Sometimes, redecorating the bedroom you shared with a spouse can help you begin the process of adapting to new living circumstances and deal with the grief you’re feeling. Consider buying a humidifier to add moisture to the air you’re breathing and soothe both skin and nasal passages, though remember to read reviews to make sure you find one that’s right for you. Strive for a new space using Feng Shui for a more harmonious flow of energy, which is central to its philosophy of creating peace through physical harmony. The national average cost of hiring a Feng Shui expert costs between $492 and $905 according to HomeAdvisor.
Meditate Before Bedtime Getting your body to shift from grief and anxiety to relaxation may seem difficult after the loss of a loved one, but it can be done. Try meditating for awhile after lying down in bed; focus on your breathing until you feel relaxed enough to try and sleep. Your aim should be to initiate your body’s relaxation response. When you exhale, repeat a brief phrase or word, like “relax” or “sleep.” Go through this process for 10 to 15 minutes until you achieve complete relaxation. It’s a restorative practice that can make a big difference for someone suffering from insomnia. Just remember that staying focused is the key.
Grief Journaling Keeping a journal is a good way to unburden yourself, to express painful thoughts and feelings you might not be comfortable sharing verbally with someone else. Record an entry every evening before bedtime, writing down anything that comes into your head. Everything’s fair game, so don’t hold back. It’s a good way to alleviate emotional burden and accept grief. These strategies can help you achieve an important separation between the need to express grief and the need to sleep. Remember that your need to take care of yourself doesn’t cease during the grieving process. If anything, self-care is more important than ever when you’re grieving, so take these sleep strategies seriously.