Sleeping Habits

April 24, 2024

Dear Mitch,

Sleep—what is that?

My sleeping habits changed dramatically when you were sick and have continued on in my grief.

When you were sick,

I felt like when our children were babies. I could fall asleep, but the moment one of the kids was up, I was up. After your surgery, I would get about two hours of uninterrupted sleep if I was lucky. I had to be listening for you to call me to help you. Wake you up if you weren’t already, and make sure you were taking pain medications to keep ahead of the pain. Towards the end, when you were in so much pain, you would panic if you could not see me. Understandably, you were fixated on your medications, trying to stay above the pain to no avail. The tumors pushing on your spine were growing more rapidly than we could get the pain under control. It didn’t help that you would not sleep during this time either, as you were scared you would not wake up. Which is why I didn’t want to go back to sleep either. We knew I had days or weeks left with you. I wanted to spend every waking moment I could with you, even if it meant no sleep.

In my grief,

I sleep on and off all day and night. Catnaps rather than a “normal” eight- to nine-hour stretch of time. I am weary to the bone and in my mind, yet the minute I try to sleep, all the thoughts of you come rushing in. The despair I feel takes my breath away, the tears flood my bed, and the vast loneliness is more than I can bear. You find out quickly that the terms touch starvation or skin hunger are real conditions. It happens when a person experiences little to no touch from other living things. Now I know I have a lot of hugs from loved ones, but in grief, I still have this because the ONE touch or hug I want, I can’t have.

Leo, our dog,

when I am having a particularly excruciating time with the grief, will lay on my chest with his forepaws stretched out on either side of my neck, like he is giving me a hug. This loving gesture helps me by lessening the strength of the anguish.

Again, the double-dipped feelings you never realized existed til’ grief—exhausted and alert. I finally had to go to the doctor for some sleep medication. I hope this will be temporary, but it is the only way to get SOME kind of sleep right now.

Prior to all of this, I

would read a book before bed and fall right to sleep until morning. We never had our phones or a TV in our bedroom. Now, I do all the don’ts of getting a restful night’s sleep. I go to sleep watching YouTube ear-cleaning videos. I know you can laugh, but that’s what I do. My phone is by my bed in case, in the beginning, you needed to call me from downstairs, and now in case Zach or Lexi need me. Zach due to his cancer, and Lexi in case she needs me in the morning to watch Colson.

Right now,

I don’t know if my sleeping habits will change to before the cancer and grief. All I can do is try each night testing whether I need the sleeping pill or the videos. I’m not sure the phone will change now that I have a grandchild and until Zach gets the all clear on his cancer. Grief changes everything about you, including your habits. I have to wait until I have the strength to relearn these unhealthy habits back to the healthy habits I once did daily.

With all my love,

Nicole

 

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