Fear of Death: It is an “unknown”
Are you afraid of death and dying? Are you so afraid of death that you are afraid to live? Because we are anxious about the “Unknown,” we fear death and dying even though we all must face this ultimate transition as a resolution to our lives. Death has also become the “enemy” of our youth oriented society. Aging is not accepted or tolerated by our media and by the high technology that drives our world. (But that is a topic for another article.)
Many people fear doing new or unfamiliar things because they fear, at a deeper level, the ultimate anxiety that failure to do something new “successfully” will bring on death. Strange to think or feel this way, but look around and you will see a world filled with people who are “Stuck” in their lives because they fear attempting some new direction or activity. Have you ever heard the statement, “It is not worth doing unless you can do it well?” How can you do it well unless you try something and fail, maybe many times, until you can begin to figure it out and then master it. Very few of us ever learned to ride a bicycle or to swim without making mistakes that lead to success. But people fear new relationships or career paths or travel or searching their deepest thoughts because they fear the unknown. It may be easier to take the path most traveled but it removes adventure and learning through making mistakes from our lives. The safe path is not always the “right” path. We paint ourselves into corners by fearing the alternatives.
So this dilemma leads us to an important lesson in life. How can we choose to live fully without exploring the experience of death and dying? How can we be familiar and release our fear of dying, without really dying? A question for the ages… No easy answer here, but consider doing some research. I read the book “Life After Life” by Moody and Ken Ring’s research in his books “Life at Death” and “Heading Toward Omega” where these authors explored the death and dying experience by interview survivors of a near-death experience. The accounts by these survivors were profound. By reading this research, I began to release the fears of uncertainty regarding the experience of the dying process. It may not be so scary! In fact, many people who were resuscitated, and brought back to life, claimed a feeling of disappointment when they had to return to their bodies and had to continue living. They felt that death embraced them in a sense of “unconditional love and acceptance” that they did not know in their lives. These survivors consistently repeated that this experience had “Changed their lives” by removing the fear of dying. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was another scientist who sat with many people who were facing the ultimate transition. She wrote about having a different attitude toward death in many of her books including, “On Death and Dying.”
We must all face the experience of dying, when “our time comes.” Why not know something about this transition? Why fear the unknown and have this fear get in the way of living? I am not sure that our religions have good answers for us because often there are political or financial factors that play into the answers that our religions provide for us, but these may be a place to begin our quests. For me, many important experiences, and perhaps some answers, came from the practice of mediation and also, the group processes of sharing information with other seekers on the path.
Good luck in your search. Please take good care of yourself. Find your passion and do not fear get in the way of pursuing it.
Contact the Stress Education Center at www.dstress.com for information and support. Consider a train-the-trainer program to give you tools to others control their fear and anxiety of death and dying.