Tuesday, December 4, 2007

"My survivor partner suffers from nightmares. I feel helpless. What can I do to help?"

Nightmares by definition are scary. It is much worse if you are confronting painful things from your past within your dreams. Nightmares are equally as frightening if you are a partner of a survivor watching your loved one suffer. I remember one sleepless night that I ended up in tears because I couldn't wake my partner from what seemed to be an awful nightmare. I felt helpless.

Almost all survivors will have nightmares while healing. In fact, the nightmares will probably go away and come back many times. Typically, they will become the most extreme when they are dealing with self-blame or any sort of inner child work. There are some things that you can do to help or that you can mention to your partner so they can help themselves.

  • Encourage your partner to go to bed when they are sleepy. Laying awake for hours before sleeping will not be relaxing especially if they stay up alone.
  • Leaving a light on in the bedroom will help remind them where they are when they wake up.
  • Avoid bulky bedding or anything that causes static electricity.
  • Drinking warm milk or cocoa before bed is relaxing. Of course, avoiding caffeine is helpful.
  • Keeping the house cooler reduces how active the brain is during sleeping. ( This was the most helpful thing that I have ever been able to contribute)
  • Soothing music helps if it is played at a low volume. Be careful not to leave a radio station on that eventually switches to news programs. This can be a trigger for some survivors. White noise such as a fan is also an option.
  • Sleeping with a stuffed animal helps a lot of survivors. This goes back to comforting the inner child. If your partner is thinking of getting a stuffed animal don't laugh or judge them. Often this can be just the thing that turns sleepless nights full of worry into a full nights rest.

Some survivors are able to talk about what they dreamt after they are awake. If your partner shares this with you...just listen. Talking about them takes away their power. You ARE helping just by listening.



Angela Shelton said...

Thanks Jen! Good suggestions. I slept with stuffed animals for a long time. ;)

KerryAnne said...

Also one thing you can do is ask them ahead of time what will help best. Sometimes even touching someone can make things worse. It really depends on your partner.