In life they say, nothing is certain but death and taxes. Well, Death for sure! Fact is, we all will one day face death and die. Some 100 Billion of us already have! And someday, as terrifying as it might sound, you will too! This inevitable prospect of dying is terrifying to a great many of us. In fact, though we seldom speak of it, most of us — are Scared to Death of Dying!
FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN
It’s the mystery, the unknown of death that most people fear. The fact that no one knows what happens after we die. The fact that our most consoling answers come from religion and not from science. And the fact that at some point, we all must climb aboard the frightening death-ride and go wherever it takes us.
Even, if that place — is nowhere!
In a way, how cruel it seems to be able to conceive of ones own death, yet remain in the shadows of its unknown finality. In Nature, one looks deep enough and evolution presents a logical reasoning for almost everything. Yet, knowing that one day we will die? How does this benefit our species?
Look, nobody wants to die, nobody physically or mentally healthy anyway and just the fact that knowing someday we are going to be forced to do so can really creep us out. So much so, that most of us ignore death (ours most of all) as much as we can. This is one of the ways that a lot of us mentally cope with our eventual demise — simply by refusing to address it at all!
I’m reminded of a Quote or a written narrative from something I’ve read awhile ago. It had a startling effect on me at the time. Startling in its clarity, to the extent that I had to stop and reread the passage again.
“Man begins dying at the moment of his Birth.”
“Most of us live in denial of Doctor Death’s patient courtship.”
“Until late in life and deep in sickness.”
“We become aware of him, sitting beside our bed.”
A little creepy but true enough, the eventuality of our own death we consciously set aside but it’s always there hiding in the shadows. Yet, subconsciously, there are reminders everywhere that death is part of the deal with living. Reminders of our own mortality, are never far away.
There are constant reminders: on T.V., the news, hospitals and funerals. The endless wailing sirens, from city ambulance and paramedics rushing to potentially save someone’s life. And the pandemic? Well, that’s almost like death itself knocking on your door, asking you to roll the dice and come on out and play.
Yet, even the ever-rising pandemic numbers eventually blur out of focus for most of us. Relegated instead to the list of background noise we’ve become accustomed to on a daily basis. Perhaps its human nature that protects us in this way, pushing down our fears deep into our subconscious where it can do us no harm.
Imagine life without this protective filter? Constantly overwhelmed by our fears, always aware and in the forefront of our consciousness. Every single daily reminder of death, making us pause and ponder the reality we’re living in. The jolt of awareness that in fact, death and dying are, and have always been, all around us. Constant, and never ending. And, that our own death inches closer, with each passing day.
Most of the time our inherent fear-protection, does its job and does it well. But there are exceptions. Sometimes, death simply insists upon itself, as when a beloved one or family member is taken from us in a crippling emotional time of loss, grief, and reflection. Forcing us face to face with our own sense of mortality.
This sudden reminder of death, can for some, be overwhelming. Grief can become entangled with fear, and left unattended, can lead to obsession with ones own death. A phobia even, of dying!
And, since science has no satisfactory conclusions of death, satisfactory to our emotional needs that is, many turn to those who promise everlasting life! Theology, including the religious teachings of faith in the afterlife!
DEATH AND THE RELIGIOUS
There are some 4,200 different religions in the world today, albeit 6 or 7 that truly dominate. Each one insisting they know what happens to you after you die. Almost every religion offers an explanation for what happens after death. Complete with assurances, that dying isn’t the end.
Then again, some argue that religion may also have the perverse opposite effect by increasing the amount of time that we do spend thinking about our demise. Consciously being reminded that “One day you will die” can conflict with one’s built-in terror defense system. Religious assurances or not.
These constant reminders of death in religion, bear fruit of the rituals of death they insist upon. Transition and mourning rites, house of worship services, viewings, grave side funerals, wakes, funeral processions, and on and on and on…
From Egyptian tombs and the mighty pyramids, built to enshrine pharaohs and kings. Whose mummified remains were entombed, along with everything needed to sustain and assist their afterlife journey to eternity…
To today’s many and different cultural ceremonies and rites, by an equal number of religions and beliefs. Each proposing a closure of the final stages of the part of life that is death. And, to assure believers, that the dead is now on their way — to a better place!
Yet, our fear of death cannot be lain solely at the feet of religious dogma. After all, the fear of dying is pretty much inherent and universal in all of us. Very few of us go through life without experiencing this fear at least one time or another. Even those like me, who are not bound to religious belief or preclusions of an afterlife.
DEATH AND THE ATHEIST
Atheism (the absence of religious belief) though not a religion in itself, is a growing trend in a lot of independent-thinking modernized societies. Preferring to abandon old cultural and religious ideals about death, dying and an afterlife, instead reaching an acceptance that when life is over, its over!
And that what happens next, is anyone’s guess? Pure speculation!
Also, that spending precious living-time for fears of dying, is nonsensical, and seeing that our death is unavoidable and inevitable — accepting and living with this fact, is a logical goal! Easier said than done, you may say? No, not really. After all, It works for me!
Acceptance I find, is the key! Logic and reasoning, the mold. Everybody dies, there’s no choice not to! According to the World Death Clock statistics, over 150,000 of us die everyday. That’s over 6,000 an hour or 1.80 of us every single second of every single day!
Combine that, with the fact that nobody has ever come back from the dead, not even one out of the estimated 100 billion that’s already died before us… and with not being bound by any religious afterlife convictions… what happens after we die is therefore logically —a big fat Nobody Knows!
Something good? Something Bad? Just cease to exist? Who knows? The only way your going to find out is when it eventually happens to you! Case closed, and let’s move on with living our lives to the fullest!
That’s the acceptance of being an Atheist! That’s how we, handle our inherent fear of dying. Nobody truly knows, or even can know, what happens after death. You’ll just have to wait to find out!
WHAT TO DO?
So, what’s the best way to handle our fear of dying? What should we do? Perhaps, the what to do, is to do what best works for you! If you are of Faith? Seek comfort in your religion. If faith in the afterlife eases your mind and quells your fears of dying, then perhaps that is the right answer for you?
For many, religious faith in an afterlife goes a long way in helping to alleviate personal fears of dying. Sometimes, may even go on to eliminate them totally from one’s troubled mind.
I have experienced this first hand in the passing of a good friend. His calm composure and total acceptance while waiting on his deathbed was truly inspiring. He was totally at peace, unafraid he said due to his strong faith! So, in his case, his religious faith gave him the strength to face his death with a peaceful, even comforting passing.
On the other hand, if your fears are constant and overwhelming? Don’t wait, get professional help as millions have already. Again, I speak from experience. I have personally witnessed the success of counseled fear-alleviation with another friend of mine, who’s death of a loved one once crippled him with thoughts of his own mortality.
Then there’s Acceptance. Putting your mind at ease by simply accepting the unchangeable facts. This comes with an open mind, a willingness to reevaluate long-held beliefs, and an unbiased look at all the evidence of death and dying. In other words, the applied logic of reasoning and rationalization. In the end, an open minded session or two of critical thinking — may just be all you need.
Because, in reality, all living things must die. Their atoms eventually dissipating to form other, perhaps living, organisms. You yourself are constructed in this way. Perhaps your nose containing atoms from a T-Rex dinosaur, or your lips with atoms from Cleopatra herself.
You Will one day be gone! But what made you — will live on forever!
“Death is only the end, if you assume the story is just about you” — Welcome to Night Vale (podcast)
The fear of dying is a personal perspective, tainted in contrast to human nature. We know one day we will die — yet our will to survive is stronger? Thus is the conundrum of our own mortality. Each of us handling this, in our own way.
Some, seek the comfort in the religious teachings of an afterlife. As in my story about the peaceful passing of my religious friend. Others, Atheists and Agnostics for example, use Acceptance and the knowledge of science to tamp down their fear.
Still others, simply try to ignore the eventuality of their demise until that time grows near. However, what is common to all, is a choice, a personal choice of how to continue living knowing death will one day come knocking on your door.
My advice, is to spend some thought on how you would like to face that day. Prepare it in your mind, then leave it there locked in a safe place until the day you need it. Then go out and live your life, to its fullest!
“Life asked Death —
Why Do People Love Me,
But Hate You?
Death Responded —
Because You Are A Beautiful Lie,
And I’m A Painful Truth.
What are your thoughts about dying? Does death worry you? Frighten you in its finality?
How do you handle — the fear of dying?