Dear Annie: I have not slept well since my partner died 18 months ago. Is this normal? – M
Annie says: In short, yes. Just as it would also be normal if you'd written that you couldn't stop sleeping. The way each of us grieve is totally unique, and affected by a whole range of factors, not least our own psychological tendencies.
So, it might be that historically, when you experience overwhelming or intense feelings, such as those integral to the grieving process, your body and mind’s way of dealing with that is to stay alert, and to keep hold of all the thoughts and feelings.
Another person might find that they are experiencing similar emotions but their way of responding is to switch off entirely, and all the time – they might find that they can't stay awake for very long at all.
The important point is, thinking about your grief in terms of what’s ‘normal’ or not isn't helpful. So I hope you can find some self-compassion for the way you are responding to the loss of your partner.
That is not to say, however, that sleeping badly is an inevitability and there is nothing you can do about it. As I mention above, bad sleep is often about the brain not being able to let go of certain thoughts or feelings.
Any action you can take during the day to make space for these thoughts and feelings, will support you in getting some rest from them at night.
Simple things like a bath, journalling, OR even writing a grief blog, or a bit of mindfulness can all really help. And of course, counselling and bereavement organisations will very effectively provide you with the space to process all these thoughts and feelings you must be experiencing – so that might also be an option.
Eighteen months is still very early days. It is really OK that your life is still being affected. And all the more reason that you might choose to seek support for this.
- If you’ve lost someone close to you, or been affected by a bereavement, psychotherapist Annie Broadbent is here to help. If you have a question for her to answer in this column, write to her at DearAnnie@funeralguide.com
Annie Broadbent is a trained psychosynthesis counsellor, with specialist experience working with the bereaved. As a therapist she explores the mind, body, feelings and spirit, working with individuals in a way that is most appropriate for them.
She is the author of bestselling book Speaking of Death (What the Bereaved Really Need), inspired by personal experiences of living through bereavement, including her own. Whilst writing her book, Annie volunteered at St Christopher's Hospice and has given a number of talks on issues around grief, bereavement and mental health.
Regretfully, Annie cannot enter into personal correspondence