Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sleeping with all the lights on and other oddities

When my husband died, beginning that very first night, I started sleeping with all or most of the lights on in the house. This went on for months. Before his death, even though he had spent very long stretches in the hospital, I had felt safe because he was still alive. Once he died, I realized how vulnerable and truly alone I really was. I became afraid. Frightened of every small sound inside and out. Frightened of ghosts, intruders, animals (no doubt with rabies), storms and the dark. I was pretty much fine during the day, but when night and darkness descended I almost became another person.

During this time (those first months after he died) I would fall asleep with my clothes on having not brushed my teeth or washed my face. I would sleep fitfully and wake up in the middle of the night and then being unable to go back to sleep, I'd read for a few hours.

Now as I get through the first months of my divorce, I am repeating some of the same patterns. By 8:00 p.m. I am exhausted and lie down just for a moment to wake up to find that it is 1:00 a.m. and I am still fully clothed. I am sleeping fitfully and restlessly. Not good, solid sleep at all. I feel all those same fears returning but this time when I wake up I go downstairs and turn all the lights off. I think back to what the divorce mediator told me - that having already survived the death of a husband at a young age, any future hardship should be easier to get over. I know he meant well and was trying to be encouraging but I do not agree with his reasoning because grief is grief no matter how many times you have to feel it. But I understand that I do have some experience with what it takes to survive hurt and pain.

Maybe a little wiser, that's all. The anguish of being rejected so cruelly is especially painful. I think after my husband died that I thought I would receive some kind of future immunity from further pain or suffering. It would bypass me in the future because it had already reared its ugly head. Well, that theory has certainly been a total bust as evidenced by living through an exceptionally difficult five-year period.

So, many of those awful feelings we all so much want to avoid have returned as I face this new loss. The same symptoms, the same pain, the same weird sleeping habits. Only this time I am turning off the lights in the house because I know he isn't coming back. When I think of those first months following my husband's death five years ago, I am struck by the realization that perhaps my leaving the lights on had less to do with my fears but more from my mistaken hope that if only I left them on, he would find his way back home to me and the boys.

Today I am grateful:

1. For all that my husband's death has taught me (I could just have a post on that).
2. That I realize what is truly important in life - love, relationships, family, personal growth, integrity, honesty, kindness, compassion - certainly not fame and fortune (although of course we need money to survive).
3. That I didn't waste my personal "wake-up call" which came when my husband died. I have tried to live my life as a better person since his death and will continue to strive even more so in the wake of my divorce.

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