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There is no roadmap for grief. You won’t find a one-size-fits-all solution for moving through mourning after the death of a partner or spouse. You will, unfortunately, feel helpless and hopeless at times. However, it won’t always be this way.
Over time, you will have to face the despair and the grief — not to mention the anger and guilt. Trying to shut out obsessive thoughts and stressful memories can limit your ability to focus at work, home, or even at night. Depression can not only lead to insomnia, but it can also create the opposite effect — getting too much sleep. Either way, you wake up feeling more tired than ever before. That is no way to support your heart, mind, and body as you get healthy and heal.
Sleep will come, but it may need a little encouragement. A good night’s rest will do wonders for your ability to make decisions about your grief, whenever you feel ready.
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Here are two tips to get you started.
Create a New, Cozy Space
Sleep may be escaping you because your bedroom is filled with memories, many of which might simply be too painful to bear. This could keep you tossing and turning all night. Maybe you’re ready to overhaul the bedroom and give yourself a fresh start — and maybe not. If you aren’t ready to make changes to the room you shared with your loved one, you can start sleeping in another bedroom in the house.
Either way, making your bedroom a cozy, comfy space can lull your body and mind into sleep. For example, start by using light bulbs that emit fewer than 4,000 lumens, and direct all lights — especially your bedside table lamps — toward the ceiling or away from the bed. Purchase comfortable pillows and sheets, and consider upgrading your mattress so that your bed creates a feeling of security and comfort to help your body relax. You can also look into devices that elicit sleep, such as white noise machines, or technology that monitors your sleep quality and gives you insight on how your sleep may be interrupted without you even knowing. Also, if you live in a drier climate, add a humidifier to help open up your skin and nasal passages, which will also make it easier to sleep comfortably.
Look Into Natural Supplements
Although some people will immediately turn to over-the-counter sleep medication when they suffer from insomnia, a lot of these products can be habit-forming and dangerous. As such, it’s important to look for all-natural supplements that can help restore a healthy sleep pattern, as opposed to simply making you drowsy. For example, many people turn to melatonin supplements to help them drift off to sleep at the end of the day. Melatonin is the hormone that tells your brain it’s time to rest, and a supplement can help provide that signal.
Another popular supplement people use to help with insomnia is CBD oil. Cannabidiol (aka CBD) is found in cannabis, but don’t let that alarm you; unlike marijuana, CBD will not get you high. Instead, you reap the health benefits without the unwanted side effects. In addition to helping with insomnia, CBD oil has shown to help with anxiety, stress, and inflammation. Before you select a brand, however, read up on the different products, their potency, and their effectiveness. And always talk to your doctor before beginning a new supplement.
Exercise Every Day
Mourning can make it hard to get out of bed, let alone walk out of the front door. Some days, this impulse is okay to give in to, but when it becomes the norm, you should try to make a change. Exercise is a good way to start. You can start exercising for 30 minutes a day without having to interact with too many people — take the dog for a walk, go for a run, or check out a spin class. These moderate workouts will help your sleep immensely; sleep is our body’s natural recovery mode. When we work out, we need longer and deeper sleep to help rebuild muscle tissue and recover from strain. Exercise also has a mental health perk — it floods your body with endorphins, which can help boost your mood, reduce stress, and ease anxiety. Exercise is meditative and can be both a good distraction from grief, as well as a healthy coping mechanism for working through it. Feeling angry at your loved one? Run harder and use those powerful emotions as fuel. Having a hard time managing the stabbing pain in your chest? Practice yoga and let your breathe calm your mind and body.
Grief will come in waves, and that can happen in patterns that disrupt your sleep. When you aren’t operating on a good night’s rest, your mind and heart aren’t capable of sustained healing. You might start making some not-so-great choices when it comes to coping with sorrow — such as turning to drugs or alcohol, especially to try and sleep. Instead, give your room a makeover, one that makes you feel wrapped in a comfy cocoon. And step up your exercise game — work out a little harder and a little longer. Both tips can not only improve your sleep, but they can also help you navigate those five stages of grief, as well.