How to Talk About the Apocalypse With Your Family

Recent events around the world have kept people awake late into night. Whether your particular paranoia is related to nuclear holocaust, flu pandemic, or genocidal civil warfare, it’s probably time you started practicing how to talk about the apocalypse with your family. Two recent essays show that it isn’t easy if you haven’t tried before.

Carla Herreria’s chronicle of her family’s response the botched incoming-missile warning in Hawai’i, in part, describes how mundane concerns and other human foibles can thwart survival-thinking in an apocalyptic scenario. At the moment of crisis, she and her husband are unable to talk about the apocalypse. As Herreria and her family are trying to flee town and drive up to a mountain safe house, she remembers:

On the last stretch of our drive, we got stuck on a two-way road behind a slow-as-hell tractor going uphill around a blind corner. Jonathan and I argued over whether we should pass it or not.

It’s dangerous to pass this guy up here, he said. We could get into a head-on collision!

But what about the missile? I argued back. We could be too late!

For at least a minute, we had an honest-to-God argument over which way was worse to die. My blood boiled. I couldn’t believe I was defending myself to my partner in the last moments of our lives. For fuck’s sake, we were fighting over a tractor and a two-lane road. But we were petrified, and we were stressed.

Another, less incident-specific essay, describes the ongoing communication between a mother and her child, who has come into intellectual maturity during our moment of existential threat. In the New York Times, Mimi Swartz writes about being mostly unprepared to talk about the apocalypse with her son. For instance, he sends her a text message:

“Literally with every passing day I get A) less worried about paying my student loans and B) more serious about buying a grill guard for the car,” he continued.

Why a grill guard? I had to ask. To be ready to drive through the police state’s police barricades, he explained.

While she does her best to assuage her son’s fears, the conversation forces her to recall when she was a young girl in San Antonio, Texas, during the peak of the Cold War:

What did my parents do then? I don’t remember, a fact that suggests I either didn’t share my fears or they thought it best to continue to live as though Armageddon wasn’t just around the corner.