How to Cope with Grief and Sleep Alone

Grief is hard. There is no easy way to move through it. Most of us will lose someone we love, will feel bruised right down to our soul. We’ll feel worry, fear, sadness, guilt, anger, frustration, confusion, and loneliness. Some psychologists say that those feelings are stages through which we move. But the truth is, moving through these stages is circular. We’ll begin to move on, spot a glove or a book left behind, and slip right back into a puddle of despair.

Unfortunately, a consequence of these uncontrollable feelings is something that makes it even harder to handle: Most of us simply don’t sleep. We lie down, turn out the light, close our eyes—and our minds remain sharply alert. And when we finally slip into unconsciousness, we frequently wake through the night.

Disrupted sleep makes it harder to handle our grief, our lives, and even the day-to-day duties of making the bed or paying the bills. And it may also affect our health. In a study of 4,395 married couples at the University of Glasgow, for example, when one spouse died, the risk of the other spouse dying from anything ranging from heart disease, stroke, and cancer to accidents and violence increased by 27 percent.

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