The fear of losing a loved one is known as death anxiety. It can be a normal fear when you fall in love with someone who is either your own age or older than you.
For people in age gap relationships, this fear of losing your older partner may be debilitating. So, this article is meant to offer some practical tips to work through these feelings.
Tips to Manage Death Anxiety
1. Try to understand and appreciate the fear of loss
Upon doing research on this topic, it appears as if the fear of losing someone you love can come from childhood trauma, including parental neglect. The fear that you have as an adult may come from a fear of abandonment that developed in childhood.
There is actually a name for the fear of losing someone and it is thanatophobia. This can be the fear of losing a partner, a child, or anyone that you love. Some studies suggest that the fear of losing someone peaks in both men and women in their 20s, but can re-occur in women in their 50s.
2. Don’t be afraid to love your partner
Don’t let the fear of losing your partner keep you from fully loving him or her. Remember that each day is a gift and nobody knows what the future brings. In other words, don’t let anxiety hold you back from living your life to its fullest.
Fall in love, follow your dreams, live in the moment, etc.
3. Plan for the future as much as possible
Part of managing anxiety about being alone in the future is to plan for the future. Save money when you can and take other measures so that you feel confident that you’ll be okay on your own someday.
Be sure to take care of the basics including having an estate plan, a will, health insurance. Be sure to check out our other episode on planning for the future (episode 8).
4. Try to work on your self-confidence, self-reliance, and coping mechanisms
Healthy coping mechanisms when you have anxious thoughts can include slowing down, taking deep breaths, thinking through your feelings, journaling, appreciating what you’re going through, and learning to calm your thoughts.
One thing that helped me was to recognize that my anxiety about loss wasn’t going to prevent it or even help me. So, I had to focus my energy on other things to feel better.
5. Develop a support network
It’s always a good idea to have friends and people you trust outside of your relationship. Even if it’s a therapist or colleague, try to make sure you have people you can rely on.
One way to do this is to be a good friend to others and to join groups with similar interests. This can be tough when you have work or family obligations, but it’s a part of planning for the future.
6. Ask for help
Above all, don’t be shy about asking for help if you’re feeling overly anxious. You don’t have to go through this alone.
- “How to Cope with the Fear of Losing Someone You Love” article from Better Help
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As always, we want to remind you that we are not offering professional advice. The content on this website is meant as purely informational. Please consult a therapist, attorney, financial advisor, or other appropriate professional to help with your individual situation.
Thank you both so much for writing this piece and for creating this site.
I’ve been having multiple panic attacks a day for several weeks and a boatload of general anxiety too. I think my PTSD was triggered recently and sadly, one of the ways my anxiety has shown itself is in this crippling, and as you said, debilitating fear of losing my most loving partner Cameron, who is 27 years older than me.
I have had this horrible fear of losing those that I loved since childhood (your first note hit home, hard) and its become something now that’s preventing me from living in the moment with him. It is so hard to find support in the general community and even within my family for our relationship despite its health, power, and abundance of love. Even my past therapist was critical based on our age gap alone. So it makes this internal struggle all that much harder to cope with.
I thank you dearly for sharing your experience, as it makes me feel that I am not alone in this pain and reminds me that there is so much more to this life together than that pain. I *can* have hope, live for us, and dream of a life together.
Thank you again,
Hi Lizzie, thanks for sharing this and I do hope that this fear of loss gets easier with time. If you think therapy would help, I would definitely interview a few others and make sure to find one that is fully supportive of your relationship. My last therapist was also in an age gap relationship and that made it even easier for us to relate. Stay strong and keep in touch! You aren’t alone and so please reach out to the community for extra love and support.
I’m in the same situation. He has 4 kids (3 adults, one 13 yo) and was still married when we got to know each other. The love was and still is so deep. Im 28 and he is 56.
However we can’t fight. But we do talk about very hard things and show emotions. He is scared of buying a house together in case we split up, and I’m scared to start living in his house (since his ex wife lived there with him te first 8 months of our relationship) because I want to buy our new place together.
But I do want kids and he doesn’t want any anymore.
In the same time I obviously have to accept all the things that come with his kids and knowing that I can’t have my own and losing myself in his family made me decide after several panic attacks and almost constantly feeling stressed and fear (beside my great love for him, we still got along great and the intimacy is also still great) for more than 8 weeks, to break up today.
I’m soooo confused though. I’m don’t want to let him go. Besides the “practical part” about the house and kids we and our lives get along so well.
I’ve had issues with commitment and opening up for romantic partners in the past (this is my first ever love, i’m 28) and I’m extremely scared I’ve let the love of my life go because of my fear of commitment.
But my mind says it’s better like this.
What do you guys think?
He also suggested therapy together yesterday and I really wanted that, however I can’t deal with the panic anymore. I need a release NOW.
But I also still love him so much.
He also said if I would be pregnant (by nature in stead of IVF, could be but small chance because of early sterilization (is later undone for his last child)) it would be okay but he doesn’t want to have to decide mentally and have a kid for the third time with another woman because he thinks it’s not the right thing to do at his age. And he’s scared I’m still going to leave him and he has another relationship bound by kids. And I can’t blame him since we just broke up, but in my opinion because of that.
This is such a tough situation! I’m sorry you have to go through this. One way to manage this is to be together, but to live separately. Since his youngest is still quite young, it might make sense to let more time go by so the child can get a little older. Then, when his youngest is out of the house and you are still together, than you can make more longer-term plans. You don’t have to figure out your entire future right now. I know it’s hard because you want to settle down and maybe have your own kids, but it’s harder to do that when you’re with someone who has a child under 18. It’s just a thought. If he is truly the love of your life, then you two can be a committed couple who lives separately for the next 5 years, and then you can make longer-term plans after that. I guess my advice would be to take it a bit slower in terms of the long-term planning since he has the commitment of raising his child right now.
Hi Carrie! Thank you for your response. That’s actually not a strange idea. The breakup didn’t even last a day haha…. But I’m back at my place for a couple of days now and this mental space make things much easier. We talked a lot and it seems to grow back in the right direction. I have faith again. But also, indeed, I would like to loosen up about the settling down. Just need to try to stay true my core and what’s meant to be, will be.
Thank you for your response!
I just found your website and suddenly feel so much better knowing that I am not alone. My partner is 29 1/2 years older than me. I’m 49 and he’s 79. We’ve known each other for 10 years and just started dating a few months ago. He is the love of my life, but I’m terrified of loosing him because he has diabetes and is not exactly the most health conscious person. It’s kind of scary. Looking forward to reading more of your posts. Thank you for doing this. It helps to know that others out there have taken the plunge.
Hi Cindy, I’m really glad you found our site. Your ages are almost exactly the same as Alan and me. Hoping you find some ways to work through your fears and you have many years of happiness together. XO.
Hello, so glad to have stumbled onto your website. Wondering if you might have thoughts regarding the other perspective of this, if the older partner is afraid or worrying about leaving the younger (passing away). My partner has recently brought up a fear of leaving me and my son alone when he’s gone. He doesn’t have much, just a beautiful man inside and out. I am the one with more assets, so I try to assure him I will be fine in that way when he’s gone. If he’s first lol. Wondering if there’s anything we should discuss that you might have already gone over in your own relationship more from the older partners perspective and having to more than likely leave the younger partner behind. I want to help him not worry so much, and just looking for tips or thoughts that perhaps I haven’t considered to help him worry less about that situation that could arise one day. If it helps he is 75 years old to my 36. You both seem like awesome people! I look forward to checking out the rest of the website 🙂
thanks for the note! Alan and I discussed this more in the actual podcast. I think Alan has gotten some peace on this topic because we actually talk about it. He knows that I am aware of the likelihood that he will go before me and that I have my own life that I will continue to lead. I think communication is key to helping your partner feel more comfortable.