Posted by: carolyn / through a widow's eyes | March 22, 2011

the shelter of sleeping naked




I used to sleep naked.

Before, when I was married, when we would bed down for the night, we shared a place where the only thing to rouse us before daybreak might be a plaintive call from the little girl, or the twitch of a dreaming dog. Possible, but unlikely. So when retired to our little room and our sweet bed, we shared the shelter of our aloneness, just us two. Bed was our place to shed, literally, all the cares of the day.

So we slept naked. Not to be arousing, necessarily, or aroused, but simply to lie, skin to skin, familiar, beloved; to hold and be held, so secure, during that delicious drift down into sleep. There, I was so sheltered and safe that it felt natural and normal to sleep naked. “In the nude” sounds like one is painting a picture, taking some kind of thoughtful action, with the intention to arrange and display. “Naked” sounds like what it is: in removing un-needed covering, one is laid bare, undisguised, leaving just the essence of what is.

When my husband got sick, I stopped sleeping naked. He did too, mostly. T-shirts and underwear became the outfits of our evenings. Then, I never knew when I might need to be suddenly and completely awake and responsible. It did not happen often, that sudden jolt of adrenaline that comes from an unexpected sound or the abrupt glare of the bedroom light. But when it did happen, I needed to be ready, whatever the cause. Because never for anything good was a light suddenly switched on, in darkest hours of night.

We humans have what’s called the fight or flight response. And my innate reaction is first and always flight, fly away, run from that which is scary or difficult. But I would stay and fight. I could do no less, as he was fighting for his life all those months. Insert obligatory cancer-battle-language here.

And now, now that he’s gone, and the not-so-little girl is living her own life, I still sleep in some semblance of clothing, always. Nothing is likely to happen, surely. I am unlikely to be summoned from bed’s cocoon in the middle of the night unless it’s by my own restless ramblings and inchoate thoughts.

But never since he’s been gone have I been back to that place of absolute safety and solace, where by taking off layers of clothing one declares this an inviolate moment, a time of utter relaxation and repose.

How I miss sleeping naked.



  1. Until I read your piece I had not realized what a luxury it is to be able to sleep naked – and how much I, too, have missed that repose. As always, Carrie, thank you.


  2. Luxury is the perfect word, Valerie. Thank you my friend.


  3. Carolyn, I love how raw your writing can be at times. This was such a sad reality for me, for us, as well. Once Michael got sick with his cancer, he was always so cold. He began covering up with layers of clothing as well. I would at least slip my arm under his t-shirt, so that I could still have that skin to skin intimacy that I so loved. And me, one who rarely wore much, if anything, to sleep in before that, now find myself clothed in bed as well. When I check on my young son at night, I often see that all of his clothing has been thrown across the room. I wonder how he keeps warm at night. I also stop and marvel at the inocence he still has about what the night could bring.

    Where my mind is drifting right now is how naked I feel as I walk around the earth these days. I feel like everyone should be able to see how naked with continued pain, and sorrow, I am.

    Thanks for writing this.



  4. Dan, I love you. Thanks for this. I’d forgotten til you said it that Jeff was always so cold as well, and that in addition to needing clothes, he also used a heated mattress pad whose heat drove me right out of the bedroom many nights. Even farther away…

    I think this is why any of us write this stuff, to draw out the poison that will kill us otherwise, and to show that we are not always as well as we may appear. And of course, for me anyway, always to remind people whose lives are as they should be that they still have “the innocence about what the night could bring.”


  5. Simply beautiful. It brought back very real images of our sleeping naked, skin to skin. How I miss that. Now it’s PJ’s under the duvet, with two dogs on top of the duvet. Our bedroom was always our sanctuary x

    Thanks for sharing this, it affected me deeply


  6. I too have had this…when my hubby got sick everything nites he slept in his recliner because he was afraid of keeping me awake at nite…and when he was in bed…he t-shirt and underware….this all makes perfect sense to me know..and i love and miss him more…


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