I Like Imagining My Husband’s Death

Jennifer Barnett
5 min readFeb 1, 2022

It’s good practice

No husbands were harmed in the telling of this story.

I like to think about what would happen if my husband dies. I do this because my husband dying is my worst nightmare, something I’m terrified of but know is inevitable, but the prospect of his death is so utterly paralyzing to me I think about it every day as a way to slowly inoculate myself so I’m ready when the time comes.

I mostly think about him dying suddenly, on a random Tuesday with no warning. He’s riding home from the pub on his bike and falls into traffic. His plane goes down. He’s snowboarding in the backcountry and gets buried in an avalanche. He slips on the ice and hits his head.

No one saw it coming. I just spoke to him yesterday, people would say.

I cycle through the stages of grief. I skip over Shock and Disbelief because I know what they will feel like. Denial and Bargaining play not a part in the imagined death of my husband. I will spend lots of time on Guilt but it’s largely attributed to the act of imagining the death, not the death itself.

Anger is quickest on the scene, appearing when I realize I have no idea how to access our life insurance or bank accounts because he insists on changing the passwords all the time and the passwords are a million random characters long. I used to write them on the back of my journal along with the names of the accounts but he saw it one day and was like, what, and I was like, it’s my system, and he was like, that is not okay, so I stopped keeping track of the passwords and now I don’t know where they are. I think about the passwords every time he leaves on a business trip. What are the goddamn passwords I yell at him moments before his Uber arrives. You know where to find them he says. I absolutely do not, I insist.

Depression becomes interlinked with Acceptance, as they are one in the same for me during my husband’s imaginary death. I envision my life once my husband is dead. I’m in an apartment in NYC alone, I’ve gotten rid of almost everything we own except for my green velvet sofa and the chandelier my husband bought me the first Christmas we were dating, he picked it out himself at Anthropologie — we’d only been together for a few months. I’d never mentioned it, he saw it, knew I liked sparkly things, bought it, and installed it for me in my shitty…



Jennifer Barnett

Former managing editor of The Atlantic, Teen Vogue, Redbook, and Elle. Now I’m writing. Expat in Amsterdam.