I have pulled more all-nighters since cancer came crashing into my life than I ever did in my 20s.
When Matt was first hospitalized we slept sitting up in hospital chairs. When he finally came home after 3 weeks, we quickly realized how horrible nights were. We would do fine emotionally during the day, but panic would set in at night and we would struggle. The fear of him not being here for Quinn was the thing that kept us awake the most. We would sob at the thought. Our worst nightmare happened. He’s not here to watch her grow up. That’s the true tragedy here, not that I’m 38 and without the love of my life. That she’s 6 and without the love of hers.
As his disease progressed, chemo started, surgery, more stress- I didn’t sleep. I was too scared to take anything because I was worried he would need me in the middle of the night. I am also a chronic over thinker and everyone knows that night time is the best time to over analyze your life.
Towards the end his oxygen needed to be checked frequently, and because he was stubborn and pulled the tubes off his beautiful face, I slept very lightly so I could stick them back in his nose. If I woke up and he was sleeping, I would just lay there and watch his chest rise and fall for a while, counting breaths per minute. His body was so tired of fighting. I lived in fear that every breath would be his last. I was selfish and wanted him to live forever. Human nature.
I thought having a colicky newborn would be the death of my sleep, but cancer destroyed my sleep patterns.
After Matt died the gravity of the situation weighed heavily on me at night. I could power through the days, but nights would take me out. I desperately needed sleep but would just lay in bed and stare into the dark. The room felt empty. The house felt empty. We had listened to an oxygen machine for long enough to miss the sound. Everything felt off.
For 2 months I averaged 3 hours a night. Some nights I wouldn’t sleep at all. Now it’s hit or miss. I have made friends with my local Starbucks baristas and they know what I want before I even get to the register. I have found the best under eye cream I can afford. The best concealer to hide the dark circles. I hide my lack of sleep pretty well.
I have tried melatonin. Ativan. Xanax. Oils. Candles. Wine. So much wine. Botabox should sponsor every grieving widow. Tylenol PM. Yoga. Meditation. Prayer. So much prayer.
People keep recommending Ambien but I’m not sure sleep shopping is what I should be doing when my finances are fragile. I also have to be with it enough to take care of a small person if she needs me in the middle of the night.
So I’ve learned to find comfort in the sleepless nights. I’ve written more in the last few months than I ever have in my life. I talk to God. I talk to Matt, as crazy as that sounds. I listen to music. I read.
Some nights are good. Some nights are bad. There are nights I pray for daylight because everything is better when the sun comes up.
I hate sleeping alone.
I’m convinced that widows don’t die from broken hearts. They die from lack of sleep.
One day I’ll sleep again. I’m hopeful. I’ve been encouraged by those who have gone before me. But for now, I’ll keep dragging myself into Starbucks and sucking back massive amounts of caffeine and painting on concealer and praying for daylight.