Fear of Death
“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.” – Mark Twain
I remember being at my grandparent’s apartment and suddenly bursting into tears.
It suddenly hit me how old they were and at some point, in the near future I would lose them to death. Even though I was being raised as a Christian, the thought of being together in eternal life had not yet registered with me.
My parents and grandparents tried to console me. They told me that my grandparents would be around for a long time and I wasn’t to worry. That turned out to be true. I lost them both about 15 years later. So, I had a good long time with them for quite a while.
The feeling of dying or losing a loved one to death (At least in this life) didn’t stay with me. Lots was happening in my life, going to school, meeting and marrying the love of my life, having children and working in and on my career. I wasn’t thinking much if at all about death or dying.
But now I am fast approaching the end of my seventh decade on this earth.
And the thought that I do not have a lot of time remaining is starting to ring true. Slowly, I am losing some friends and close acquaintances. It brings home the fact that no matter how long we live, it is in respect a fairly short and quick time.
While dying doesn’t scare me, it certainly makes me think about the time I have remaining and what I will do with it. I want to spend more family time, especially with my three young grandchildren. I want to see them grow and to be a part of their early lives. I want to see them go to college, graduate, start great careers and even get married and have kids. Will I be able to do all of those things? Who knows.
“Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Thanatophobia is the medical term for a fear of death.
There are many causes of this anxiety. These could include an early traumatic event related to almost dying or the death of a loved one, including:
The most common objects of phobias are things that can cause harm or death, including things such as snakes, spiders, flying, and heights.
During a panic attack, one may feel a loss of control and an intense fear of dying or impending doom.
Death anxiety may be linked to illness anxiety disorders. With this, a person has intense fear associated with becoming ill and regularly worries about their health.
There are ways to overcome thanatophobia or the fear of death or dying. These include:
- Social support networks – Those with high self-esteem, good health, and a belief that they have led a fulfilling life are less likely to have a fear of death than some others.
A doctor may recommend that a person with thanatophobia receive treatment for their anxiety disorder, phobia, or for a specific underlying cause of their fear.
Treatment involves a form of behavioral or talking therapy. This therapy tries to teach the individual to refocus their fears and to work through them by talking about their concerns.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT works by gently altering a person’s behavioral patterns so that they can form new behaviors and ways of thinking.
A doctor will help a person to come up with practical solutions to overcome their feelings of death. They may work to develop strategies that allow the patient to be calm and unafraid when talking or thinking about death.
- Psychotherapy – Psychotherapies, involve talking through anxieties and fears with a psychologist or psychotherapist. These professionals will help the person to find out the cause of their fear, and come up with strategies to cope with anxieties that occur.
- Exposure therapy – Exposure therapy works by helping a person face their fears, instead of burying how they feel about death or not acknowledging their concerns about this.
A therapist will carry out exposure therapy by very gradually exposing a person to their fear, in a safe environment, until the anxiety response reduces, and the person can confront their thoughts, objects, or feelings without fear.
- Medication – Doctors may prescribe anti-anxiety medication. This may include beta-blockers or antidepressant medication.
While medication can be beneficial by relieving feelings of panic and stress in the short term, long-term use of such medication may not be the ideal solution. Instead, working through fears in therapy is more likely to provide long-term relief.
- Relaxation techniques – Practicing self-care can be powerful for boosting overall mental health, including helping a person to feel more able to cope with his or her anxieties.
When a person is experiencing anxiety, specific relaxation techniques can help clear their mind and de-escalate their fears.
“We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, but to create something that will.” – Chuck Palahniuk
Having a fear of death or of dying happens to many, even those who believe in a life after death.
We are creatures of habit and comfort and embrace what we know while being uncertain or fearing what we do not. I know this because I went through it myself as a child.
But death is a part of our life cycle. Many who came before us, both famous and not are now gone and new generations, including us have followed. And so, on it will go until as believers such as I come to our Judgement Day.
There are many things that keep us awake at night. Things that either we can or cannot control. Death is one of those things that we cannot control. It will happen whether we worry about it or not. What we can control is whether the thought or reality of it bothers us, so much that we lose sleep over it. And by doing so, we miss out on life itself. My suggestion; live life to its fullest and do not let this be something that Keeps You Awake at Night.