Home alone … at night

Tracey Columns

Dear Tracey,

My husband died six months ago. It’s been awful. I hate living alone but at least I have our dog. She is great company. I can get through the days. It’s the nights that are bad, mostly because I am so frightened to be living alone. For fifty years I had my husband by my side. Now, every noise makes me jump. I’m not sleeping.

When I talk to my kids about this they keep telling me I have nothing to worry about, that my house is in a safe and in a well-lit neighborhood. I’ve known my neighbors for years. During the day, I think they’re probably right. We have lived here for over forty years and there’s never been a problem. But when that sun goes down, all I can think of are terrible things. I know it’s not normal but I can’t stop myself.

I love my home and even though I’m 75, I’m sure not ready for some retirement place. I just need to feel safe in my own home.

Single and scared

Dear Reader,

I am so sorry for your loss. Yes, life must feel downright terrible for you these days. Not only are you broken-hearted and grieving your husband of fifty years but you’re having to make adjustments in your life on every level.

Have you ever noticed how so many things seem worse when the sun goes down? I’m not surprised your logic fails you when it gets dark. Naturally, your kids try to reassure you with rational explanations, each one of them perfectly true. But when you’re all alone in the dark and missing your dear husband, it’s easy for your imagination to get the best of you.

Begin with some practical security measures:

1) If your dog doesn’t bark, it’s time he or she learns! It’s not difficult to teach a dog to bark on command and this alone is a great deterrent.

2) Have someone you trust make sure all of your doors and windows lock securely. Do your exterior lights work? Is garden greenery pruned back from windows and doors?

3) You probably already do this but close your curtains at night. No need to advertise the fact that you now live alone.

4) Get a cordless or cell phone and keep it by your side at night. You’ll feel safer knowing help is just a 911 call away. (I’ve heard of some people who also keep their car keys on their night stands. If a strange noise frightens them at night, they activate the car alarm and instantly, the neighborhood is alive with a very loud car alarm!)

5) Consider investing in a security system. I know, this may feel too complicated but the additional security you’ll feel will outweigh the learning curve. At least wear a medical alert system when you are home alone. Not only is this good for anyone living alone at 75, but it also offers another layer of security.

Making your home more secure will help but please consider the emotional undercurrent that may be adding to these fears. When your husband was at your side you felt safe, secure in so many different ways. With his passing, you lost, among other things, that sense of security.

Recognize that it’s going to take time for you to feel secure in your new life. The evenings may be the time you need to reach out and talk to friends and family to help ease this transition. You may want to consider talking to your doctor about a sleep medication for the next few months.

In the meantime, don’t judge yourself too harshly for being afraid and please, do whatever you need to do to feel better at night.