It’s hard to sleep when the one you love isn’t there. You already know that, from business trips and the occasional separate vacation. Now imagine they will never sleep by your side again. You will never hear them breathing. You will never nudge them to make the stop snoring. You will never again be able to wake them when you had a bad dream and know you don’t even have to ask for them to hold you. None of these will even be faint options, the poor choice to be regretted later. They are beyond your reach.
So the question naturally arises, how do you go to sleep without them? Here, in the first of a series of occasional instructional farcical posts, are directions.
How to go to sleep when the one you love is dead.
- At first you may find sleep is your only ally. Your fatigue from the long sick nights finally has a chance to be appeased. Sleep becomes the place where you can hide and pretend none of this is happening. Like a child, you burrow into your covers and put pillows all around you, a fort against the pain of the outside world. This won’t last so enjoy it while you can.
- The laws of physics shift and, while you know it’s impossible, the nights become unbearably long and impossibly quiet. Perhaps the planet has tilted in some new way. You will wonder if you have gone deaf or if the voices in your head have become so loud you can hear nothing else. So you do everything you can to delay the moment when you turn out the light and you are alone in the dark.
- Avoidance is an excellent tool. Do laundry. Do dishes. Watch shows on tv at which you previously scoffed. Go for a walk. Go out with a friend. Do everything you can to avoid that still, silent moment when the light clicks off and all you can see is nothing.
- The time will come when you need to go to sleep. Some of you may choose to avoid your shared bed. That’s fine. Some will choose to remain there. That’s fine, too.
- Surround yourself with the things you love, that which has given comfort in the past. Your books, your journal, your tv remote. Now may be the time to find your old teddy bear and hold her as close as you can. While none of these will help, they are at least cardboard arms against the dark.
- Build your fort. Pillows at your side to remind you of the warmth of your love when they lay beside you. Blankets around you, swaddling as if you are being held. Whatever you need to know you are safe. Or as safe as you can be without them there.
- Avoid the dark until your eyes are so sandy they hurt. Then.
- Be brave. Turn out the light. This is your second bravest moment of the day, exceeded only by getting out of bed in the morning. Notice the shifting shadows and the soft sounds. Cry if you need to, your eyes shut tightly against the night. Talk to your beloved and beg them to be there, even if you can’t hear them answer. You don’t know for sure that they can’t hear you.
- Finally, after many gasping breaths, starts and stops, the light turned on and then off again, lie back. Breath. Look into the night because the night has no terrors in it now. You have already survived the worst.
- And wait. Eventually sleep may come. Or not.
- In the morning avoid the mirror. You know the smudges under your eyes already, they have become your flags of honor. Go through the day. And then finally, when it is late enough, try again.
(16 weeks. I would stop time if I could. I don’t know how. I would do anything to have you here and whole again.)