Spoiler alert: Grief is never over ‘Just Like That’

Chris Noth, left, and Sarah Jessica Parker attend the premiere of HBO's "And Just Like That." (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

The premiere of the Sex and the City reboot And Just Like That has fans in a state of shock and dismay. In the 38th minute of what HBOMAX is calling the new SATC chapter, Carrie Bradshaw’s longtime paramour Big dies of a heart attack in the shower after completing his thousandth Peloton ride. Carrie rushes to his side but to no avail. It’s too late. 

Just as soon as the episode aired, the internet lit up with talkbacks decrying that Carrie didn’t do enough to try to save Big’s life, with everyone from InStyle editor-in-chief Laura Brown to actor Jonah Hill chiming in. E! News even turned to UCLA cardiologist Dr. Sion Roy for a professional opinion. W editor-in-chief Sara Moonves more aptly tweeted, “I’m actually not ready to talk about it.” 

I wish I could have taken all this for the usual fan fodder, but deep down, I knew that the episode was genuinely triggering people—and I knew that it especially had the power to trigger those who’ve suffered sudden loss or trauma. 

It certainly did for me. 

In fact, I had to call my sister and tell her not to watch the episode, because I was so worried it would reignite the pain of our father’s death. 

I was 11 and my sister was 9 when our father died right before our eyes. We had just finished watching Jaws on television. After brushing my teeth and getting into PJs, I did my fun bedtime ritual of tucking him into bed. “I love you dad,” I said. “I love you too honey,” he replied. 

They were the last words we ever spoke to each other. 

Minutes later, my dad suffered a massive and sudden heart attack. We desperately tried to save his life—my mom and sister administered CPR, I called 9-1-1 and ran to the neighbors for help—but it was no use. Later, doctors informed us that no matter what we would have done, he would have died anyway. His heart had been 90 percent blocked. Like Carrie, we were helpless to change our fates.

Even after years of dealing with this memory head-on, years of developing safe coping mechanisms, seeking and finding professional help, getting training, learning techniques, and knowing what to do to feel okay, I was blindsided by the show’s scene and its aftermath, forced to re-confront old feelings—and I was driven to protect my baby sister. She had recently experienced the premature loss of her baby during pregnancy, and I was worried that watching this would put her over the edge.

Don’t get me wrong—I was sorry to lose Big too. I’m a fan. But the reactions starkly reminded me how badly we need to foster greater sensitivity in our culture, even when we’re just “gossiping about fictional characters on the internet.” We never know how our remarks are being taken, and by whom. I felt betrayed by the glibness of some of the comments—often sarcastic, half-hearted attempts at humor, and I’m not alone. 

Worn down by the pandemic and all the changes it has wrought, we need to make empathy a genuine practice. It is not too much to say that we’re in the middle of a collective trauma now—and this is probably not the time for cruel jokes. 

Most of all, I worry about those who lived through something like Carrie did, but who never got the help they needed. When you’re triggered, you need to give yourself the authentic power to feel all of it, and that’s no small thing where trauma is concerned. There are concrete actions you can take to help the process. Here are just a few. 

Get professional help. Call your therapist, psychiatrist, doctor, or hotline. Don’t ever invalidate your feelings.   

Turn off the noise. Ironically enough, for me, the tidal wave of talkbacks were much harder to process than the actual episode. When you feel the inklings of reliving trauma, get off social media—it’s jet-fuel for inner shame.

Let the moment pass. Learning to calm your body and ride through painful emotions is one of life’s most important survival skills. Deep breath work and guided meditation don’t just help the moment, they help you grow. 

Reach out to a friend. Obvious as it sounds, the worst thing you can do with trauma when you are triggered is stew in your own juices. Don’t be alone with it—you deserve the support of loved ones, this is what they’re there for. 

Take it from me, trolls: Carrie Bradshaw was in shock. Deep, unfathomable shock that I pray you never know. There was nothing more she should have done, or would have done, or could have done, and you need to stop judging her character for “not doing enough.” In fact, don’t judge anyone until you walk a mile in their shoes, Manolo Blahniks or otherwise. 

What happened to our family will haunt me forever. And if there were a real Carrie out there, it would likely haunt her forever too. 

Ashley Bernardi is an entrepreneur, mother, trauma survivor, and author of the book Authentic Power: Give Yourself Permission to Feel. She resides in Northern Virginia with her husband and three children.