Dad, Grief


I’ve never had a problem with sleep.

Other than the periodic night of anticipation, I’ve never been able to relate to people who go long spans of time struggling to fall asleep. The zombie types clicking through the channels trying to find things to calm their mind. That has never been me. Since I was a little girl I’ve quieted my sleepy-time mind the same way every night: Daydreaming.

That’s the best way I can describe it, anyway. Whatever is keeping my mind going, whatever has me anxious, whatever is stressing me out – I daydream it away. When I was little this often involved boys kissing me behind the school bus at recess. I would imagine these detailed situations that would allow me to just drift into sleep easily. When things have caused me stress as an adult, I have done the same thing. I imagine winning the lottery (Which, for the record, I’ve never played.) and I would dream about the ways my family would spend the money. When I was looking for jobs I would imagine that dream position that allowed me to pursue a career in napping while strictly enforcing the Weekly Pedicure policy by paying for all of my spa visits.

My very vivid imagination has been the key to quieting my mind in the night since I was a child. I have never been able to sleep late, it’s too difficult to quiet my mind again once I start waking in the morning. But falling asleep in the evening? Has never been a problem.

Until recently.

Since Dad died…falling to sleep has been a challenge. When I stop moving for the day and lay in bed, I think about him. I think about how real it is that he’s gone. About what I miss and what I’ll never hear or see from him again. And I can’t imagine it away. It’s the first time in my life that the painful thoughts following me during my day, can not be conquered by my imagination at night. This is the first time I’ve ever had a problem that is completely impossible to solve. The laws of nature prohibit it. While winning the lottery was never a realistic solution to my money problems in the past (especially since I never played) it was still possible. So it allowed me an outlet to escape to dream land.

My Dad will never come back.

It’s just been in the last week that I’ve finally been able to truly define the cause of my sleep problems. On days that his death is NOT in the forefront of my mind, sleep comes easily. But since Father’s Day and the weeks before, it’s been on my mind often. And I can’t make it go away. I close my eyes at night and just…miss him. I still have those moments that it hits me painfully that…he’s really gone. The logical part of my brain knows that and needs no reminders, but the active part that won’t quiet as I try to fall asleep at night? That part stays distracted enough during the daytime hours to not think about it. But at night? It’s there, stabbing me in the heart repeatedly. Keeping me awake and alert until I finally take some generic Nighttime Pain Relief to help me sleep.

I’m sure this is just another thing time will heal. My mind will focus on this less intensely as the months tick by. But the truth is: He is gone. And that…that simple truth…will still find ways to interrupt my peace forever. Because that’s how long he’s gone. Forever.

20 thoughts on “Permanent”

  1. (((((Kim)))))

    Have you tried focusing on happy memories?
    Have you tried having conversations with him?

    I have suffered from insomnia since about the age of 9. I don’t wish it on anyone. The more stressed/worried, etc. I am the less I sleep. I used to average 4 hours, but it has been much less or not at all over the last 18 months. It is terrible and eventually catches up to you, so I hope once your father’s passing isn’t so fresh it will be easier for you. It has been more than 20 years since I lost my grandmother and I still carry her with me.

  2. I agree with Maria. Since you have such a vivid and powerful imagination, focus on the positive memories. Or make up new ones. Think about how much he would have loved doing that silly thing you did today, how much he would have laughed with you. And although it’s sad because he’s not PHYSICALLY there, I still believe that he’s THERE.

  3. When my dad died, I experienced the super-intense grief of the first couple of months, right on schedule. And that was…okay. I mean, it was HORRIBLE…but it was…okay, you know? Exactly what I’d expected. I knew the intensity of it would diminish.

    What I wasn’t truly prepared for was everything after that. The settling in of grief. The background grief, I guess I’d call it. It doesn’t dominate everything I do as it did for the first few months. But it’s always there, quiet and patient, ready to step up when I think my mind is clear. Like when I’m going to sleep.

    I wish I knew something soothing to say, beyond just “It sucks. You’re not alone. But it SUUUUUUCKS.” And, of course, “I wish it were all different.”

  4. Oh, poor Zoot. I don’t know if it’ll work, but I think what I’d try (since he’s on your mind anyway) is to “daydream” about happy, funny memorable times you had together.

  5. I am so sorry– for your loss and for the insomnia. I have had insomnia for years, and it is something I would not wish on anyone.

    The only thing that ever helps me at all is to rad a good bad thriller (I love Lisa Gardener and Patricia Cornwell). It has to be engaging enough to keep my mind off things and scary enough to provide a distraction from my anxiety.

  6. It will get better. The memories never end, but the pain does diminish. My dad has been gone almost 8 years. I can sleep again. He still reappears in my thoughts and dreams at the most unexpected times, but the daily anguish has passed.

    Hang in there! You loved you Dad so much, of course it will take some time.

  7. I am sorry that you are having to go through this. You are right, it will eventually pass. I think those that have mentioned focusing on happy memories, and maybe remembering stories that you can tell your kids about times with him may help a bit.

  8. Oh, poor thing. Just be careful that you don’t get into a sleep deficit. Because then you get crabby and your patience is thin and for some reason, your husband and kids don’t seem to like this so much (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything *ahem*).

    This past year has been a rough, rough, rough year for me. One I haven’t even found the words to write about yet.

    One of the hardest things for me to admit through all of this was that I possibly needed help. Gulp, medication, even.

    I will tell you what, though. Even just something to help you sleep, that will shut your mind off for long enough for you to get the rest you need to function the next day? So. worth. it.

  9. I swear by Hyland’s Calms Forte (they make one for kids, too). My Target pharmacist special-orders it and it’s also available at health food stores and
    My pediatrician also approved it.

    It’s non-habit-forming, 100% natural, homeopathic, no side effects, wake up rested, not groggy…

    The kids version is a quick-dissolve tablet. I wouldn’t travel without them again. Great when travel interferes with regular nap time and kids are wound up and excited. Just helps them settle without adverse effects of heavy drugs.

    I take two if I’m having trouble sleeping (I have a lot of trouble getting my brain to shut down at night), then two more 20 minutes later if I’m not asleep (that’s happened once, I think, usually the first dose works).

    Hope this helps!

  10. I was the same way for quite awhile after my gram died. She was like a mother to me. One thing I’ve found that helps is to calm your brain by focusing on each part of your body. Start with your toes – make sure your toes are relaxed. Your feet next, and then your ankles, going to your calf, and then your knee, ect. Slowly make sure that each part of your body is relaxed, including your shoulders, your neck, your face.

    Usually by the time you get to your face your mind will have relaxed and calmed and you will be able to sleep.

  11. I’m sure that you’ve heard this a million times but your grief is normal and will some day pass. I have a hard time with sleep because my brain doesn’t shut off-for different reasons-but I think meditation is great and counting your breaths. I discovered this about a week ago and it’s done wonders for me.


  12. Your experiences with grief sound a lot like mine after my dad died suddenly 9 years ago. Unfortunately, I developed some pretty bad sleep habits because of my insomnia. I began watching late night talk shows in bed, and became dependent on the noise to fall asleep. Now, I listen to podcasts to get the same effect.

    I did have luck with prescription sleep medicines, but that was in combination with seeing a therapist and taking a mild antidepressant, too (all of which I no longer need to do). Those measures were something I chose to take after a year of out of whack emotions.

    Anyway, I just wanted to let you know it’s not unusual to experience sad feelings at night when you are physically and mentally exhausted. And, I hope this is only a temporary problem for you. It’s not a bad thing to take the OTC sleep aids, but I don’t recommend abusing The Tonight Show ; )

  13. I’ve had similiar problems in the last few years–although I haven’t lost a close relative recently, other unhappiness rears its head when I’m trying to fall asleep and thoughts of death and loneliness practically give me panic attacks/cause insomnia.

    I haven’t used drugs yet, but have had a little luck with other imaginiative games that help distract me. I think since you’ve used imaginative distraction in the past to quiet your mind, you might find success doing the same here. Experiment with not thinking about your dad–it will make you sad, and who can fall asleep sad? I’ve played games where I imagine every house/apartment I’ve lived in and try to recreate in my head the bedrooms I’ve fallen asleep in, down to the pictures on the wall and the smell of the sheets/sounds outside the windows.

    You could also find some shivasana meditation recordings that walk you through quieting your mind.

    These ideas may be useless to you—but maybe they’ll help?

    So sorry, Zoot.

  14. It will heal in time I promise you. In the months following my Dad’s death I couldn’t sleep either, reliving horrifyingly stressful scenes back in my head over and over. In some ways I likened it to Post-traumatic Stress syndrome, but I’m not a Dr nor have I fought in a war. It helped when I got my cat Willow. She was a tiny kitten and when I woke up frightened she would always wake up too and crawl on my chest and purr this huge double purr, like a steam train. It used to relax me, my chest would loosen and I could breathe and eventually fall asleep again. Strange isn’t it we starve ourselves of what need most, sleep to help us heal and get through the next day.

  15. I totally know what you are going thru. Last week was the two year anniversary of my dad’s death and I can remember feeling exactly the same way you described for months after the funeral. My inclination to just lay in bed in the mornings has never been a problem until his death. During the day it’s not so bad. There are plenty of distractions. When I’m driving by myself or at night is when it hits me. One thing that I’ve come to love though is dreams, the realistic ones, where I’m helping him with household projects, and it’s like he never left. I wake up so happy to have had that dream. It sometimes feels like he really is wrapping his arms around me. My thoughts are with you!

  16. Maybe you could turn your talent for writing and your imagination and memories into letters you write to your dad? Something along the lines of “If you were here right now, we’d be _____________.” Or tell him about your day. Tell him about a trait of his that you p.icked up — a talent for fixing something or a way of parenting that you realize was a fixture in your childhood. Save the letters you write in a shoebox or file or mail them, under his name, to a friend who will keep them for you or read them, if that is what you choose.

    I also find that OTC melatonin is great for helping me sleep. I got a bottle for not much money (no more than $10, if memory serves) at a local drugstore. It’s natural, boosts what your body already produces, sleep comes on naturally instead of with the sledgehammer effect that I’ve experienced with various nighttime aids, and it doesn’t leave you with a sleeping pill hangover.

    Good luck, Zoot. We’re all here for you. 🙂

  17. I’m so sorry Kim. This was very well written and expressed, and gave such insight into how you’re hurting…thank you for being so brave to share!

  18. As I started reading this post, I thought wow, that’s another thing we have in common. We share a love of Joss Whedon (you’re the one who clued me in to Dr. Horrible – which no one else I know cared for) and Bones. And I’ve been doing the whole imagination thing to get to sleep or to take my mind off of problems since I was small too. Like you, it almost always works except when dealing with a major live crisis. I’m sorry you’re having trouble dealing with your dad being gone – time will help but getting to the point of peace is hard. God bless you & help you with this now.

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