What To Do If You Are Afraid of Losing Your Partner
2020 has been an incredible year of loss. Every other day there seems to be a “R.I.P.” Announcement. I watched the Kobe Bryant tribute through tears as his lifelong love and wife Vanessa honored her husband and their daughter Gigi from the stage. I remember being rocked to my core last year when the news of LaShawn Daniels, Grammy-Award winning songwriter passed. I have continued to follow his wife April on social media and still cannot wrap my head around the loss. I sobbed uncontrollably when I found out that Nipsey Hussle had been shot to death and immediately felt and thought about Lauren London. Wealth does not make us immortal. Being a good person does not shield us from the unpredictable nature of life. We are all susceptible to death and because we are human we will likely experience grief when we lose someone we love.
Fear is not a bad emotion. It is actually a part of our wiring as a species that is deeply connected to our survival mechanisms and instincts. Fear — no matter where it comes from — is our bodies internal warning system. Fear literally interrupts our biological systems that usually hum along uninterrupted to let us know that there is something that we need to pay attention to. It is not something to be disparaged and it certainly should not be ignored. Fear, like other emotions works for and with us when we process it and when possible do something about it. The antidote to fear is safety. We have to ask ourselves when we fear, what can I do to feel safer? I can honestly say that I’ve reached a point in my life where I don’t fear death — not my own and not the deaths of those that I love. I don’t WANT to die anytime soon as there is so much more I’d like to experience and do with the time that I have left, but I’m not afraid of death. Here are some tips to help you process the fear that you may be having of losing your partner:
(1) Get your affairs in order. From life insurance to a will it is important that you and your partner have a documented plan for what to do in the event that the other partner transitions. So many people have had to resort to GoFundMe to fundraise for funerals and while effective it often adds additional stress on loved ones who instead of grieving have to struggle to find resources. Also, check to make sure everything is accurate at least once a year — especially when it comes to designating beneficiaries. Death and funerals can sometimes bring out the worst in people. When I was much younger, I’ll never forget my grandmother telling me that she had already paid for her burial plot. The optimist in me was sad, but the realist in me admired her courage and her resolve to face the inevitable.
(2) Respect and honor the time that you do have together. Waking up to your partner everyday is a privilege that you have to treat as such. When a loved one passes away, you never really hear people say “I wish we had spent LESS time together.” As you are scheduling your time and managing your life, be sure that how you spend your time is a reflection of your values and priorities with your loved ones being at (or near) the top of the list. Regularly express and show your gratitude and love for the other person. If you have a terrible fight and your partner passes for any reason, you will have to live with that fight replaying for the rest of your life, and the regret of not “making up” or leaving things on better terms. Make it your policy to fight with love and to clear up any issues that may arise.
(3) Get regular health screenings and check ups. While I know that navigating health challenges can be hard when income is a factor (I have personally navigating not having health insurance for over 5 years), it is important to try to practice preventative care. Especially as we age, we need to get screened for serious illnesses. In most cases, early detection provides the best opportunity to alleviate or treat most health challenges. Pick a day, perhaps on or near your birthday each year to make your annual appointments for a full physical. When you notice something wrong, you can always go to the Emergency Room regardless of whether you have health insurance or not. You can always figure out the financial component later. Fear accelerates in the unknown and can move over to the being irrational. We are some creative creatures! The more that you know about you and your partner’s health, the better you will feel about managing your life together.
(4) Have the hard but necessary conversations. Have the hard conversations about wishes and preferences when it comes to transitioning. What are your fears? Your hopes? Your desires? Communicating about these things forces us to face them. Not to mention, it will prevent any fallout between relatives and loved ones because everyone will know what you wished.
(5) Situate your relationship within the larger context of your partner’s life, your community, the world and the cosmos. While your relationship is a component of your experience here on the earth, it cannot and it should not be EVERYTHING. That is unhealthy. This applies to not only romantic relationships but familial relationships and friendships as well. Be sure to develop healthy relationships outside of your partnership. Encourage your partner to do the same. If and when something happens, you will need your “village” and these external relationships to help you move forward with your life. Life will be incredibly difficult if it revolves around a single person and for whatever reason that person can’t be a part of your life.
(6) Connect to people who have experienced what you have experienced. When I suffered from my first miscarriage at 5 months during my first pregnancy it was devastating. Besides my faith, the only thing that helped me to address the pain was connecting to other women who had also miscarried. I got involved with this organization called Fertility for Colored Girls, and actually served as their keynote speaker for their annual fundraising event one year. We were able to raise thousands of dollars and gifted a round of IVF to a woman in need. I was able to find hope, and light in the middle of a very dark period of my life. If you have suffered the loss of a romantic partner (or are in danger of experiencing a loss) now is the time to connect with others who have been through what you are going through or who are currently going through what you’re going through.
(7) Work on your financial affairs. I can only imagine how devastating losing a partner is for people who lose a partner that is the primary income earner in the household. Our economy is rough and there are many people who struggle even with multiple income earners in the household. Prepare for the “rainy days” by saving and investing money so that if and when you need to take a break from work, or you need to take over financial elements in your household, you have the funds to do so. Grief is a very unpredictable, stressful and hard experience. Financial stress, familial stress and other factors have the ability to make grief an even harder experience.
I am not someone who has figured it all yet. Kobe’s death really impacted me although I didn’t know him personally. I don’t even have children yet, just my fur pup, but Kobe’s death made me think about my own life, the lives of my loved ones and especially the life of my partner. I started to feel fear that moved closer to being irrational and the way that I’ve always combatted excessive emotions is to plan and to address the emotion head on. If you have some tips about how to address the fear of losing a partner, or you’ve experienced it directly, I send my love and condolences and also encourage you to leave additional tips or recommendations in the comments.