It takes time to absorb the impact of a loss — whether it is sudden passing or due to a long-term illness. Coping after a loved one dies isn’t easy, and we sacrifice a lot to our emotions as we try to navigate these unpredictable waters. Mourning is a very natural and personal process, but it’s hard to see that when we feel lost and lonely. Some people experience symptoms of grief in many different areas of their life, such as a loss of appetite, energy, or sleep. It can often help to focus on ways we can manage those symptoms, such as exploring healthy lifestyle choices that can help us build a better night’s sleep.
Focus on Sleep as Self-Care
Prioritizing your needs may seem selfish, but it is, in fact, just the opposite. Sleep is both an important part of self-care and often impacted by a lack of it in other areas of your life. When you are experiencing grief, you feel the pain both emotionally and physically. Try a few physical activities to help you manage your pain and rejuvenate your sense of self-like.
- Go for a jog in the morning when you need a little peace and quiet.
- Take your dog for a walk when you feel overwhelmed.
- Hop on a bike at a spin class to sweat through emotions.
Revamp Your Space
There are many reasons you might find that a bedroom makeover could be helpful. If you shared the room with a lost loved one, you might find it inspiring to move forward. You may not be ready just yet, but sleeping without them is still so painful that moving into a guest bedroom feels like the right next step. Either way, you can set your bedroom up for sleep success by:
- Installing dim lights that point away from the bed — preferably toward the ceiling.
- Replacing a mattress that is older than eight years or is no longer comfortable or supportive for your sleep position.
- Hanging blackout curtains and purchasing a white noise machine or other sleep-enhancing devices to eliminate external distractions.
Meditate to Calm the Mind
Dealing with grief often means dealing with feelings of anger, guilt, shame, and fear. All of these emotions are hard enough on their own, let alone when you feel one or more of them at the same time. Your body may feel tired, but your mind is not letting it give up. That’s where meditation can be a helpful tool to encourage sleep by reducing stress and anxiety. Some meditation practices can help with sleep and grief, such as:
- Progressive muscle relaxation, where you tense, hold, and relax the muscles in your body, working your way up from your toes to your forehead. Time the tension on an inhale and the release on an exhale.
- Loving-kindness meditation can help you cultivate more positive, uplifting emotions for yourself and others. Inhale deeply and when you exhale, offer peace, love, health, and happiness to specific people (especially those you find difficult or challenging).
- Chanting a mantra — a simple word or phrase that brings you back to a positive mental state of being. For example, when plagued by intrusive thoughts, take a deep breath in and whisper “let go.” You can do this with a positive affirmation, a scripture passage, or even a line from a poem or song.
There is no manual or guidebook for moving through grief. There are a lot of unknowns and uncertainties that come with the loss of a loved one, but we do know that getting good quality sleep can help you manage the day-to-day difficulties so you can look toward the future with a little bit more hope and determination.
After losing her husband Greg, Sara Bailey 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.