Why Does My Grief Feel Worse At Night?

Grief is challenging — all day long. It’s mysterious and unpredictable, almost seeming to sneak up on us when we least expect it. However, there is a time when it regularly appears more intense. Grief feels worse at night. At a time when things typically slow down and quiet down, the pain is more present. Knowing more about this reality empowers you to manage it more effectively.

The night inspires self-reflection. After suffering a loss, this can be a curse. With diligent contemplation and effort, it can become a blessing. Therefore, let’s learn more about why grief is more severe at night… and what to do about it.  

Why Does My Grief Feel Worse At Night?

The most obvious reason relates to any kind of sleep disturbance. This could mean insomnia. More likely, it’s an inability to stay asleep. You can’t turn your mind off and each time you wake up, it kicks right in with thoughts that are not conducive to restorative sleep. Rumination has you turning thoughts over and over again.

Other Reasons Why Grief Feels Worse At Night

Less Resilience 

A trend like that just described above can make grief feel even worse because you’re not getting the rest you need to maintain resilience. On top of that, you’ve been holding it together all day. At night, the sleep issues combine with a lack of energy and it’s tougher to fight off negative thoughts.

No Distractions 

Everyday life can prevent you from fully feeling your loss during the morning and afternoon. It’s there but can’t take centerstage with all you’ve got going on. Later, when work is done and there’s less structure to your thinking, grief demands the spotlight. Meanwhile, everything around you is dark. 

You’re Missing the Person Who Died

There are many ways a person can become your nighttime companion. Among other possibilities, it could’ve been a roommate, child, sibling, parent, or spouse. The evening was probably the time you saw them the most. Hence, it’s the time you feel loneliness more than ever.

Some Ideas For Coping With Nighttime Grief

  • Create New Evening Rituals: Plan phone calls with friends or family. Sign up for a class or other activity. Volunteer one or two nights per week. Find a new hobby that demands your full attention, e.g. reading, puzzles, crafts, etc. Journaling is also a great way to occupy your mind while expressing your feelings. 
  • Maintain a Healthy Pre-Sleep Routine: Do not use devices of any kind in the bedroom. Avoid consuming substances that prevent good sleep (caffeine, alcohol, etc.). Practice some relaxation techniques like meditation or breathing exercises. Basically, signal to your mind and body that it’s time to wind down. 
  • Don’t Use Sleep as an Escape: It’s tempting to go to bed earlier and earlier to avoid feeling what you need to feel. This can spiral into a negative habit so choose a consistent sleep time and wake time and stick to that pattern.
  • Ask For Help: Depending on your situation, you may have someone you live with who can step up and loosen your load. Grief is not a solo act so do not try to “be strong” no matter how many people advise you to do so.

Really…Ask For Help

Let’s return to where we started: Grief is challenging — all day long. When it’s disrupting your nights, it has an even greater negative impact. Emotions like guilt or shame may be taking control. Exhaustion could have feeling lost or hopeless. But a good therapist can guide you through these difficult times. You can learn new skills and develop fresh perspectives that will ease the sorrow. 

Creative Arts Therapy Source offers in-person therapy on Long Island. Online therapy is available across New York & New Jersey.