Overcoming Fear of Death by Stuart Nicholson

After Halloween is a strange time for us death positive folks. For almost a month, people have been engaging in conversations about death and the afterlife. But after the 31st, the skeletons get put back in the closet and any interest in death becomes morbid again.

I went back home recently and celebrated All Saints Day at my grandmother’s church, where people asked what I was getting up to these days. They were all shocked when I told them that I wanted my certification in end of life counseling. Nearly everyone responded with the  judgmental brush-off of “well I don’t know why you’d want to do that,” and “that’s bit morbid, isn’t it?”

The truth is, we live our lives avoiding our fears, so an interest in them becomes baffling to those who aren’t genuinely interested. Consider snakes and spiders for instance. If you are afraid of them, you’d never dream of holding one or keeping one as a pet. But there are people who find snakes and spiders to be adorable and who love them. It’s the same way with death. Society tends to treat people interested in death as morbid and creepy, up until the time a loved one dies. At that point, working for a funeral home and aiding the family in the care of the body is noble and respectable work.

So I think it’s time we acknowledge our own fears when it comes to death in order to empower ourselves to be prepared for our own eventual mortality.

Some of the fears we have surrounding death come from the unknown that lies ahead. Others center on our insecurities in our lives. Addressing the fear brings a sense of power of over the fear. We know what it is, so we know how to fight it. The six most common death fears are:

            Fear of the pain of the dying process.

 Look at hospice care options or insist not to be put on life-prolonging treatments.

            I don’t want my family to suffer.   

 Of course they’re going to be sad, you’re gone, but you can make sure it’s less stressful on them when you make all of you post-mortem wishes known and work as many of the details out while you can.

There’d be no one to care for my dependents.

Make sure your next of kin or god parent is ready to accept the responsibility of raising a child, if you have one. If you have a pet, find out who of your family and friends want the animal.

            I don’t want all my life’s work to be for nothing.

If you’re a business owner, talk with your employees. Make sure there is someone who can step into your shoes after you die. Make sure your finances are in order. It’s not going to be for nothing as long as there are people to carry on your legacy.

            I haven’t had enough life experiences.

LIVE! Go on a road trip to Massachusetts. Take that week vacation in Cabo. Have another slice of cheesecake. Climb Mt. Everest. Do the things that make you happy. Live and enjoy your life while you have it.

I’m afraid of the afterlife.

There are so many religions that preach life after death. What do you believe? What brings you peace? With all of the hundreds, if not more, religions out there, there is an afterlife waiting for you.

We can always reach out to our fellow person for support when it comes to heavy topics like death and mortality. When we open the dialogue, it becomes much easier to address the issue. Don’t get me wrong, death and fear aren’t easy to talk about. But any conversation can be a healing one.

            So discuss. Talk. I’m excited to hear about your death fears.