Carolyn Hax is away. In her absence, we are offering columns from her archive.
Dear Carolyn: My husband died unexpectedly at age 33, just weeks after conceiving our first baby. I’m now at 19 weeks and holding up relatively well, I think. No major meltdowns since those hellish early weeks. I try to remind myself daily that my job right now is to keep my baby healthy, which means sticking to my normal routine of working and taking care of myself and accepting support from friends and family who offer it.
Things are fine now, but I’m terrified there will come some moment when it hits me that I’m alone and everything will fall to pieces. I worry about losing my job, my mind and this pregnancy, though not in that order. I have not shared these worries with anyone, but something tells me you’ll suggest therapy.
A: My condolences, and congratulations – what an intensely difficult time you’re navigating.
Counseling is a natural suggestion, but it’s not the only one, especially since you’re just fearing crisis vs. experiencing one.
I would recommend, however, finding a reputable therapist, even if you don’t actually call. Your child is in utero, you’re in a routine, your emotions are holding steady – it’s an ideal time to prepare for emotional winter.
For every loss you fear, there is a way to prepare. You can have money saved, your résumé updated, any leases or loan documents gathered and accessibly filed, your insurance coverage reviewed and updated, your contingency plans sketched out, your loved ones on speed dial, and the business card for that reputable therapist handy.
You can also do more positive preparations, since they are hopeful, yet practical, and therefore grounding.
I’d recommend this kind of planning for anyone, particularly those who are responsible for others. We’re talking about it here only because you’re fresh off a reminder that nothing in life is certain – not because your position is any more precarious than anyone else’s.
In fact: Since, at any given time, any one of us is a day away from not recognizing life as we knew it just 24 hours before, I believe the people who know this are better equipped, not worse, to shoulder such responsibilities.
You found out, hellishly, how strong you really are.
So make whatever concrete plans will help you sleep better at night, and leave room to take pleasure in the soft kicks and blankies and wardrobes covered in ducks. Believe in these pleasures – and your plans. Believe in those supportive friends and family members, believe in yourself.
Dear Carolyn: I’m trying to figure out what to make of a good friend who knows my brother died recently (my husband told her right after if happened) and has yet to contact me or pay condolences through card, phone, email, text, whatever. It feels like the demise of a friendship and it is adding to my already substantial grief.
– East Coast
A: Some people just turn into complete morons in the face of death; they fear their words won’t help, and say nothing.
Some words get lost – particularly when technology is involved.
Please just tell your friend how upset you are. Find out who or what failed whom. Then don’t blame or punish, just listen, and form your expectations of her accordingly.
I’m sorry – I hope it’s not a loss upon a loss.