Fear should be seen as a friend, rather than a foe. Understanding fear and overcoming fear of death is important if we want to continue living. This requires courage and as Franklin D Roosevelt aptly stated, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.”
The key overcoming fear of death is acceptance, and then looking beyond it. People who say they do not fear death either do not understand it or are simply lying. Even from a Christian perspective, the Lord felt fear in the garden of Gethsemane. He had to work around it and keep what was important in perspective.
Fear and the fear of dying is a part of the human condition. It pushes us to see what we are capable of. YOU may be surprised to find out that fear can be overcome and that you have far more courage than you ever thought possible. It only requires a different perspective to see the bigger picture!
There are three elements to overcoming fear of death that are worth discussing, however, these cannot be understood without a clear definition of fear.
Fear can be defined as “an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm.” It is directed towards a tangible threat. It is an unpleasant feeling. No one enjoys being afraid.
Intense fear is a powerful emotion that has the ability to cause physical symptoms such as sweating, rapid heart rate, and tremors. These are all in response to the release of our “fright and flight” hormone, adrenaline. This strong physical response to fear has sometimes saved lives in seemingly miraculous events. In his article, Jeff Wise comments on this phenomenon and how the body prepares for action in response to acute stress.
Fear makes the impossible a bit more possible. It may be argued that manageable fear is possibly good for us, but if neglected fear can also be debilitating and immobilised many people. Overcoming fear of death is important, and should not be avoided. In the article by Noam Shpancer , he advises that “the only way out is through”.
This means that the fear of dying can be overcome by walking through this fear.
The fear of death can be broken down into three aspects, these are:
• A fear of theoretical death
• Abnormal fear and Death Anxiety
• Common Fear of death
We cannot avoid death or the inevitable threat of death, thus overcoming the fear of death in our daily life is better than avoiding it.
Fear is a response to a perceived threat, thus, it is not possible to be afraid of something that does not really exist. Theoretical is defined as elements that are based on theory rather than experience or practice. Theoretical elements and fearing the unknown does not pose a real threat, so it is easier to be brave. This means that we needn’t be afraid of things that are not real, at the moment.
For example, we may say that we are not afraid of lions, because there are none in the room with us. However, this would change if you were in an enclosure with a hungry lion. The same applies to any potential threat in the comfort of our living room such as fire, heights or snow. It is only when these things become real and pose a threat that people fear what might happen next.
One gets to say “I am not afraid of dying” when death is a far and improbable event, but it becomes more real the closer we become. We needn’t be afraid of death when it is not real yet.
Anxiety is the feeling unease about something with an uncertain outcome. Unlike fear that is directed to a real threat, anxiety disorders around death are is much worse as it is related to an imagined threat. Our imaginations can be powerful and unkind. Continuously thinking about the same sad or dark thoughts can be damaging to our mental health and make overcoming fear of death and dying difficult.
The best way to illustrate death anxiety is to use the example of a coffin. A coffin is a box of wood, with a lid. It has a useful function of helping in the transportation of a deceased person as opposed to placing an unsecured body on the back of a utility vehicle.
A coffin is not dangerous; it cannot hurt you and is perfectly safe to touch as with any other piece of wood or box. Realistically, a coffin should be completely safe and non-threatening.
However, when we add to this idea to the power of imagination thoughts can go awry. Constant thought about this piece of wood creates far more fear than necessary. We may imagine ourselves or someone we love laying in the coffin, or in a funeral home. Additionally, we may imagine the coffin filled with dirt and worms while we are buried alive or being trapped and heading for cremation.
All of these thoughts are not real and have not happened, yet they are easily imagined. If these cause an unpleasant emotional experience, then you may have coffin anxiety.
We all have anxiety in some way or another because we are creative beings with a fantastic imagination that sometimes turns against us. Feeling anxious is beneficial as it motivates and enables us to plan towards overcoming future potential threats.
However, if our imaginations run away from us, it can lead to debilitating anxiety and limits us from doing anything. Anyone with a phobia knows how real our imagination can become. If your fear of death prevents you from living life, it is important to get professional help. Life is for enjoying until it inevitably comes to an end.
Death anxiety and related depressive disorders should not limit us from the pleasure of living. Nevertheless, we have to address the reality of death and find ways to overcoming fear of death.
A fear of dying indicates that we are aware of our physical reality and the implications that come with death. When life is ending, whether it is ourselves of the death of a loved one, there are many things we tend worry—with the foremost often being the concern and fear about how our surviving loved ones will cope without us.
Summoning the courage to overcoming our fear of dying may be one of the most challenging things we ever do, but it is one of the best things too. Overcoming fear frees up space in our minds and hearts with peace, courage and the understanding that death occurs every day.
Life is cyclical. As with childbirth that has a beginning and an end, dying too has a beginning and an end. When life is ending, and living becomes more difficult, there is specialised medical care to provide pain and symptom relief. Palliative Care is a dedicated medical speciality aimed at managing and minimising suffering the end of life.
We cannot avoid death. To fear death is normal and “the only way out is through”. There is a time that comes when we need to make peace and surrender to this final part of life. We may be surrounded by loved ones, but we all die alone, there is no one on this journey with us when life ends.
For those with faith and religious beliefs, there is a promise of God walking this journey with us, relieving our fears. We are reminded that He is always with us, thus bringing comfort in the final hour of life.
The fear of dying is something we all have in common, yet makes us feel alone. Fear comes in many forms. Some may be afraid of bodies, graves, funeral parlours, where others are afraid of what comes after death and what will happen to their loved ones. No matter the fear felt, it is important to understand and come to terms with this fear.
It is normal to fear death. There are many things at stake when life is ending, and we want to shine a light on this. As a society, we are keen to avoid thinking about the end of life that we forget to live. Although there is no clear-cut way of dealing with the thought of mortality, we must do it if we are to lead productive lives.
At Dying to understand we are trying to make life and death matters easier. We would love to have feedback and know what you fear about death, how you manage your fear of death and if possible let us know how we can help. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Don’t let dying be a plane crash disaster. Talking about dying has never killed anyone! If you or someone you know has an incurable illness, it is recommended to have discussions about the fear of dying early.
Looking for more information on the fear of dying? Stickman is an everyday guy who is here to help confront the issues of death and dying.
Dying To Understand is a not-for-profit Charity. Click Below for our Green Page Directory for more Death and Dying Resources.
When it comes to dying, we can never be too prepared. Death has a way of being permanent and anything left undone remains undone. There is a lot to do, but don’t get overwhelmed. Make a list of things that need to be done or organised, and use our tool to help make sure you’ve got it all covered.
When it comes to death and dying, expressing your views via legally supported documentation is essential. Usually, these legal documents take the form of testaments and wills, a power of attorney, estate planning and other matters your lawyer may consider. Whatever you do, try to avoid doing it yourself as it won’t survive if the vultures come, as they do, after death. Money spent on good legal documents and advice turns out to be cheap in comparison to drawn-out court cases when someone contests a will.
Stay in control even when you are not. When your health is fading, and death is nearer, medical care will undoubtedly increase and your wishes associated with this care are important.
Important things to consider to support the dying process are advanced directives, resuscitation instructions and, most importantly, exploring the benefits of palliative care. It’s important, for living and for dying, to be informed.
Even though you cannot take it with you when you die, you do want to ensure that your assets are protected. Seeking financial advice about estate planning before dying is essential. Why pay unnecessary tax and fees if you can avoid it. Seeking professional help to ensure your estate and other assets are safe and directed where you want, is of utmost importance for both you and your family or friends.
After death comes the funeral or the farewell. Most people think of funerals or cremations negatively. They are not bad, they are events that play an essential function in society and are an important part in the dying process in that they honour the life lived, deal with grief and, most importantly, dispose of the deceased body.