By: OpenWhenGone.
Published: September 05. 2023.
Last Updated: September 14. 2023

Accept and Live With the Idea of Dying

The existential fear of dying is an experience that unites us all, and yet it's something we rarely talk about openly. Whether you're in perfect health or grappling with an illness, the thought of mortality can invoke a deep sense of dread and unease. However, confronting this fear head-on can lead to profound insights and, paradoxically, a more fulfilling life. In this article, we explore the importance of acknowledging the fear of death and how doing so can open doors to deeper levels of happiness and contentment.


Why We Fear Death

The fear of death (in intense situations it may be found as the not so memorable word "thanatophobia") originates from our basic survival instincts. From an evolutionary standpoint, the fear of dying is essential to keep us alive. However, in our complex human society, this primitive fear often becomes overwhelming, affecting our quality of life. These fears happen to most of us, yet many feel alone with their worries - however, the common aspects are often shared by most people. By examining why we fear death, we can better prepare ourselves to face it, making room for a richer, more meaningful existence.

For many, the fear of death is closely tied to the fear of the unknown. Death represents a journey into uncharted territory, a step into a realm that no one fully understands. Different cultures, religions, and philosophies offer varied interpretations of what comes after death, but the lack of definitive answers adds to the unease. This uncertainty can be deeply unsettling, as humans generally like to have a sense of control or at least understanding of what's to come.

Another aspect is the fear of suffering; Is it painful? Will I sense the moment it happens? Do I think clearly when the time arrives? Can my relatives see if I'm in pain? This naturally leads to the emotional ramifications it will have on those left behind. Worrying about how our departure will affect our family, friends, and even pets is a significant concern that adds another layer to the fear of dying. This concern for others amplifies our anxiety, tying us to the world in a way that makes the prospect of leaving it all behind even more unsettling.

On a more philosophical level, contemplating death forces us to confront existential questions about the meaning and purpose of life. These can include thoughts about legacy, the point of human experience, and concerns about wasted time or opportunities. Such introspective considerations can be disconcerting and elevate our fear of dying.

Finally, our cultural background can also influence our perception of death. In Western societies, death is often seen as a 'taboo' subject, something to be feared and avoided. In contrast, some Eastern philosophies treat death as a natural part of life's cycle, an event not to be feared but understood as a component of human existence. These differing cultural attitudes can significantly shape how we view and fear death.

Why Death Should Not Be Feared

What Science and Testimonies Say
The subject of what happens when we die has been the focus of religious, philosophical, and more recently, scientific inquiry for centuries. While we can't claim with absolute certainty what lies beyond, a wealth of Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) and ongoing research in the fields of neuroscience and psychology provide glimpses into what the process might entail.

  • A Sense of Peace: A recurring theme in NDE accounts is an overwhelming feeling of peace and serenity. Many report a sensation of being enveloped in warmth and light.
  • Life Review: Individuals often recount a rapid "life review," where moments from their lives flash before them. This is generally described as an illuminating and non-judgmental process, offering profound insights into one's life journey.
  • The Presence of Loved Ones: Another common feature is the experience of being greeted by, or feeling the presence of, loved ones who have passed on, suggesting a sense of continuity and connection beyond physical life.
  • Elevation of Consciousness: Many describe a state of heightened awareness, where questions about life, existence, and the cosmos are answered in ways beyond ordinary human comprehension.

These are just a few statements of what dying may feel like, and how it's not an unpleasant experience for those who encountered it and returned. We have a full article on this, if interested.

The Wisdom of Ancient Traditions
For centuries, various spiritual and philosophical traditions have explored the topic of death and what follows. For example:

  • Buddhism: In Buddhist philosophy, death is not the end but a transition in a continuum of life and rebirth. The process is natural and essential for spiritual growth.
  • Hinduism: Similarly, Hinduism embraces the concept of reincarnation, where the soul is immortal and takes on various forms in its journey toward enlightenment.
  • Western Philosophies: From Socrates to modern existentialists, many Western thinkers have argued that understanding and accepting death enriches our lives, allowing us to live more authentically.

The list can be made much longer, and likewise more detailed since variations of different beliefs exist. It's all about finding one's own true belief.

Why Dying Should Not Be Scary While the fear of dying is natural, a deeper understanding of it can neutralize its terrifying grip. Through the perspectives of those who've had near-death experiences, as well as the wisdom embedded in various spiritual philosophies and scientific research, we can see that death need not be a dreadful abyss but can be a transformative experience - a passage rather than an end.

  • The Cycle of Life: If we look at death as a natural part of life, akin to birth, its ominous aura diminishes. Just as we don't remember being born, perhaps dying is also a transition we're inherently equipped to undergo.
  • Release from Suffering: For those living with chronic pain, terminal illness, or extreme old age, death can be a release. It offers an end to physical suffering and the promise of something new, whether it's rebirth, an afterlife, or eternal peace.
  • A New Adventure: If the countless testimonies and religious philosophies are to be believed, death is not an end but a beginning - another step in our journey of existence.
  • Unity with the Cosmos: Some spiritual philosophies and even scientific theories suggest that death brings about a return to a universal consciousness, a rejoining with the cosmos in a fundamental way.

The dialogue around death and dying is changing, becoming less taboo and more openly discussed. In embracing this final phase of our human experience as a passage into another form of existence or consciousness, we can not only live without fear but also enrich the lives we lead here and now.

Acknowledge - Don't Suppress

Fear, by its nature, can be paralyzing. When it comes to the existential dread of dying, many of us have a tendency to suppress or ignore these feelings, thinking that by doing so, they'll magically disappear. The problem is, ignoring fear doesn't eradicate it; it merely pushes it into the darker corners of our subconscious, where it continues to wield influence over our behavior and well-being.

The Power of Acknowledgment
Acknowledging our fears empowers us to take control of them. Doing so involves several steps: Identification: Recognize the fear when it surfaces. Don't push it away, and don't judge yourself for having it. Expression: Find a safe space to express this fear. This could be a journal, a trusted friend, or a mental health professional. Analysis: Consider why this fear exists. Are there specific triggers? Understanding the roots can offer insights into managing it effectively. Action: Once acknowledged and understood, fears can be addressed through concrete actions such as informed decision-making, seeking emotional support, or through mindfulness practices.

Emotional Resilience through Acceptance
Acknowledging fear does not mean resigning to it; it means accepting its existence as a part of the human experience. This acceptance is liberating. It allows us to approach fear with emotional resilience, viewing it as a challenge to overcome rather than an insurmountable obstacle. This emotional freedom enables us to focus on enriching our lives through positive actions and relationships.

An Ongoing Process
It's essential to note that acknowledgment is not a one-time fix but an ongoing process. Your fears may evolve, new concerns may arise, and that's okay. The objective is to make acknowledgment a regular practice, thereby equipping yourself with the emotional tools to live life to its fullest, despite the fears that may accompany it.

Practical Steps for Living Fully

Living with the idea of dying can be a crippling experience. However, taking practical steps can shift your mindset and help you live a life that is full, enriching, and true to your values. Below are listed some practical strategies to combat the fear of death while enhancing your life's quality.

Engage in Meaningful Conversations

  • Open Up to Trusted Individuals: If you're grappling with the fear of mortality, speak to someone you can trust. Sharing your thoughts and fears helps to lighten the emotional burden and provides an opportunity for valuable input from others.
  • Participate in Support Groups: Sometimes, speaking to others who are also dealing with similar fears can offer a unique perspective and coping mechanisms.
  • Foster Deep Connections: Fear often thrives in isolation. By building deep and meaningful relationships, you establish a support network that can help you during challenging times.

Practice Mindfulness

  • Start with Simple Meditation: Just a few minutes of quiet, focused breathing can significantly reduce stress and anxiety. There are numerous guided meditations available online that are designed specifically for coping with fear and anxiety.
  • Mindful Walking: This practice involves paying close attention to each step you take and your surrounding environment. It brings you back to the present, away from existential dread. When in peace, thoughts are easier to process and worries may seem less intimidating.
  • Engage Fully in Activities: Whether you are reading, cooking, or spending time with family, be entirely present. This wholehearted engagement leaves no room for fear.

Seek Professional Help if Needed

  • Consult a Psychologist or Psychiatrist: For those who find their fear of death crippling, speaking to a mental health professional can offer specialized coping strategies.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This form of therapy is often effective in treating various forms of anxiety, including existential fear.
  • Join Therapeutic Workshops: Sometimes, engaging in group therapy or workshops that focus on life skills and coping mechanisms can be incredibly beneficial.

Create a Bucket List

  • Prioritize Experiences: Instead of materialistic goals, focus more on experiences that will enrich your life. Whether it's traveling to a new country, learning a new skill, or taking up a hobby, make it count.
  • Set Achievable Targets: Your bucket list shouldn't be a source of stress. Make sure to include activities that are realistic and achievable within your means and time.
  • Celebrate Milestones: Each time you tick an activity off your bucket list, take a moment to celebrate. Acknowledge the efforts you've made to live life more fully.

Other Strategies

  • Physical Exercise: Physical activity releases endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. They can also act as a form of meditation, helping you to focus on the present.
  • Engage in Art and Creativity: Painting, writing, or any form of creative expression can be therapeutic and offers an excellent outlet for emotions.
  • Give Back: Often, the act of helping others can put our fears into perspective. Consider volunteering or engaging in community service.

By implementing these practical steps, you can start living a life that is more fulfilling and less encumbered by the fear of death. Of course, this alone won't be enough, but see them as tools for easing the mind while processing thoughts and acknowledging mortality. Consciously deciding to enrich your life with meaningful actions can change the narrative from merely existing to truly living. By addressing your fears and actively seeking ways to overcome them, you allow yourself the freedom to enjoy the beauty and richness that life has to offer.

In the End...

Living with the idea of dying may not be easy, but it's a universal human experience. The key is to convert that fear into motivation for leading a more meaningful life. By acknowledging our mortality, we free ourselves to focus on what truly matters and embrace each moment as a gift. Remember, it's not the years in your life that count, but the life in your years.

So, as you ponder your existence and the inevitable journey that lies ahead, let the fear become the force that propels you into a life rich with purpose, love, and experience. It may take time, and there may always be harder periods, but the mindset of acknowledging mortality, and living happily with the idea of death, will find a base in everyone; Until then, a focus on living is key.

We update our articles regularly. If you wish to add your story or tips here, or perhaps in a full article, feel free to reach out to us. Your experiences will help others who may be in need of guidance. Thank you for reading.