RESILIENCE: Sleepless in Lake Norman – How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep When You’ve Lost Your Loved One

We all want to get a “Good Night’s Sleep”

We want to wake rested and ready for the demands of each day. When you have lost a loved one, sleep is hard. The mind replays hundreds of events, memories, and all the “I wish” thoughts that torment your nights. So, you cry yourself to sleep, or you go sleepless, or at least not remembering if you fell asleep or not.


What can you do to facilitate attaining the best sleep possible?

Getting adequate sleep is one way to take care of yourself physically and mentally. After I lost my husband, sleep was elusive, especially since he died in our bed. I took naps whenever possible so I could work. Sometimes, I would like to have retreated into a coma and disappeared for a while. I had to laugh at myself. You know that’s not happening. There’s too much to do.


It’s good for you to know this “coma” thought occurs. It’s normal.

~ Just “don’t do it.” ~

Tips for better sleep

Keep a normal schedule

I continued to use a sleep CD that I had already used for a long time. I had to sometimes replay it two, three, or even four times. The normalcy of this was very comforting. I needed to change the CD to another of my favorites. The old one elicited memories of him. Making this change worked much better.

Switch beds

If you lost your spouse, change the bed you sleep in. For some this helps, and for others the need to keep connected is more powerful and it’s comforting to sleep in the same bed.

Ask for help

I visited my doctor, who offered me “something for sleep” if I needed it. A generous offer and sometimes helpful. I chose to forgo this option. It’s worth consideration for temporary relief — but only under a doctor’s care. Sleep is often elusive when it’s quiet and you are alone lying in bed. How to deal with this is unique to the individual.

Stop worrying

My self-care was to stop worrying about “not getting enough sleep” and instead to find something to do while I was awake. When I started rehashing events, I wallowed in self-condemnation for a while. Then, I simply said, Cheryl, stop beating yourself up. You weren’t perfect. Get over yourself. Think of something good, happy, positive and get a grip.

Try positive self-talk

“Affirmations” serve to create positive energy and thoughts. Remember — we are what we think. Here are a few to try…

  • I nourish my mind and body.
  • I breathe deeply and fully and relax my body.
  • I get the sleep I need every night, and my body appreciates how I take care of it.

Sleep will eventually happen. Give yourself time to adjust.


What are some of your SLEEP TIPS?

Please share them in the comments section so others can benefit.




Sleep calls to me as my day ends

And wants to be my long-lost friend.

But I hold off succumbing to

A peaceful slumber though wanting to,

Give in to rest and lay my head

On a plump down pillow —

Ahh, that’s the best!


First I turn right and then turn left,

Unable to find a spot to rest.

My eyes still open and mind abuzz

As I fret about what is and was.

So, I try again to build my nest

In a bed as soft as any I guess.


But sleep won’t come for me tonight

And I willingly give up the fight.

So I calm my mind and say my prayers

And before I know it I’m unawares.

Then morning comes and I’m confused

As sleep has played its final ruse!


           Cheryl A. Barrett, 11/24/201

Photos courtesy of Cheryl Barrett




Cheryl A. Barrett, RN, MSN, NC-BC, is a retired nurse with 30-plus years in a variety of settings: clinical bedside in ICU, staff educator, academic instructor both didactic and clinical, supervisor, home care education, editorial director of a nursing magazine and is a board certified integrative nurse coach.





In 2018 she published Good Grief: Strategies for Building Resilience and Supporting Transformation, inspired by the death of her husband. She won the American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year, 2018 in the category of Palliative Care and Hospice for her book. She is currently creating a companion workbook for those experiencing grief and loss.




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Comment List

  • Brewer 18 / 04 / 2021 Reply

    Another excellent article. Thank you Cheryl.

  • Ellen H Stafford 13 / 04 / 2021 Reply

    When my first husband died, there were several things that I did that helped me relax and go to sleep: 1) Hold onto something like a Teddy bear or a long “body” pillow. It fills the empty space in your bed. 2) Change your bedtime routine. Watching television reminded me of all the shows we had watched together so I started reading instead. It was a good respite from my thoughts to slip into someone else’s (a character’s) life for awhile. My last advice is that the pain does not go away, but it becomes easier to bear with time. Don’t give up.

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