Saturday, February 13, 2010

Bedtime fears and happy thoughts

I've been wanting/meaning to post this since late November. I haven't been slacking on it, but the subject matter makes me emotional. However, knowing that most or all of my readers are parents, this may just be helpful or useful to someone out there in the blogosphere.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my grandfather died suddenly in early November. The loss was a hard hit for me, and a hard hit for my Diva. This event in our lives is the official marking of the first time her innocence about life took a beating. My Papa was a big part of the Diva's life. They were a two member mutual admiration society. I was grieving double time, for myself, and for my sweet little girl who had never had to truly experience the loss of a loved one. Instead of my heart just been ripped out of my chest, it was being stomped upon as well.

As parents, we want the best for our children. We want to be able to protect them from the hurt and the pain that life can bring. Unfortunately, that hurt and pain is part of life. The best we can do is guide them through it.

The night my grandfather died is the night Diva stopped sleeping. She refused to be in her room alone, and after falling asleep she would be up within a few hours, terrified to go back to sleep. Also, a form of separation anxiety we had never experienced set in. Leaving the room was an impossibility. Endless questions about death pelleted us in pretty much every conversation. My amazing girl, the source of so much of my joy, was suffering.

After two weeks, I was at a loss as to what to do about the sleep issue. Something had to change. Diva was a mess, and we all now how important sleep is for the body. Getting her to go to bed was a struggle. I've always been pretty firm about bedtime, but when your baby girl is crying, "Please, I just can't be alone!', something has got to give.

I started polling everyone I knew. What do I do? How can I help her? Will she ever feel safe to sleep through the night again? I do believe it takes a village to raise a child. Some of the best answers to my questions came from the minds and mouths of our family and friends. One suggested a special blanket or animal to sleep with. Diva sleeps with a stuffed rottweiler, but I decided to add something else to her ritual. I pulled out an afghan that I have had since birth. I introduced it to her as her "brave blanket". I explained that the blanket had been mine, and was very special, and she could hold it close to her to help her feel brave at night. She was thrilled! I couldn't believe it. I didn't think it could be so simple, but my girl just needed reassurance and she needed something concrete that she could hold and feel. That brave blanket turned out to be something she could believe in.

The other jewel of bedtime advice that we now can not live without was happy thoughts. Diva's teacher told me that when her girls were young, she would rub their foreheads as they listed happy thoughts that would help them to sleep and keep them from being scared. Happy thoughts. Something so simple, that I never thought to do. Diva can't go to sleep now with out her brave blanket and a good long list of happy thoughts. But hey, she's going to sleep. And we've made it over our first hard emotional hurdle. I know there will come a time when little tricks like these won't be tools that can ease my daughter's heartache, but I have learned from this. Bag of tricks or not, I will continue to do what moms everywhere do. I will try to make things better.


Jenny said...

Great ideas! I hope her sleeping improves

Shan said...

I can only imagine how hard it must have been for you and Diva... my best friend has been experiencing some seriously tough times after the loss of her husband in July and her mom in January. They actually avoided telling her granddaughter until this weekend because she's been having such a hard time with losing her Papa...

Anyway, good for you for finding some tools that fit your daughter's style and needs. That's better than trying... that's *succeeding*!

greygillfish said...

How heartbreaking it is to see your child dealing with such grief. I am glad to hear you have found advice and solutions to fix the issues. I hope the diva continues to sleep well with her new blanket.