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Carolyn Hax: Pregnant woman faces unexpected death of husband

By Carolyn Hax
August 23, 2015

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.


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 versus 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 resume 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, and believe in yourself.

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