A brood comb

….philosophical and other notes….

Overcoming the fear of death

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on July 31, 2006

I have been thinking of writing on this topic for some time, and got to it today inspired by the post No Need to Panic? over at Ideally Speaking

There was period in my life when I was a kid, when I thought about the issue of dying every day. At the time it seemed to me that in light of that question the daily things are unimportant, and I wondered why nobody else is preoccupied with thinking about the issue of death. The realization of the certainty of the death, the realization that inevitably there will come the day when I will die, was coming to me every night I went to bed. I was wishing I never realized this immanence, but once I did, I felt that it is nonsense merely pretending that it wasn’t there, or occupying my thoughts with other activities  – I will die! even if I don’t think of the issue.
There was several things that affected my thinking of death since, but I’m not sure I’m OK with the idea of death now, or I just can’t present to my self its inevitability as graphically as when I was kid. I like to think that the former is the case, but there will come the day when I will know for sure.
Anyway, what I hope is that somone with same fears might find this following thoughts comforting and helpful…

1. In high school I read somewhere (I think Bhagavat Gita) that there can be two cases connected to the issue if the self is basic/fundamental thing (connected to the feel that we directly exist as self – that there is nothing else more basic in which ‘self’ is grounded)…
Either that fundamentality/being-basic of the self is an illusion , in which case it will disappear with death, but in which case also we don’t have anything to worry about, because, after all it is just illusion. Or… the self (or part of it) is properly basic, in which case we don’t have to care, as it would still exist after death.

2. Later I also found that valuing other things over my life, removes even this need for rational approach to the question. Taking for example moral duties as more important puts the issue of death in different perspective. It might be religious duties, but also any other moral duties – being moral being over a being concerned with its existence.
I remember while watching the movie The Last Samurai that I was thinking  that they succeeded to depict this power of will to value duty and honor over own existence in the life of the Samurai culture, so you might want to check it out as example of this (if you haven’t seen it already).

3. Love is always fine ally against fear of any kind. The sense that one is part of the society, that the love among the people (and God for those which are religious) is bigger and transcends one’s own existence, reduces the moment of death to death for others. So, to say… the tear in the eye of those who knew you, is more you then the cold body left after death. On Flickr, I found this picture coupled with a quote that, I think, capture this feel better then my explanation.

He who has gone, so we but cherish his    memory,abides with us, more potent, nay, more present than the living man.- Antoine de Saint-Exupery

4.OK, i have to mention religion. Life after death certainly dispels the fear of death, as if we believe that we will not die, there is nothing to be afraid of. But the religion is not very comforting in that respect, while removing the fear of death, if you have sinned and are believer (as I am), it only replaces it with the fear of likely possibility of eternal fire.  In personal communication some people  have accused me that I’m religious just a way to cope with the issue of death. I answered that personally, I would be much more at comfort if my existence just ceases (given the previous reasons), then to be confronted with possibility of eternal punishment.

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10 Responses to “Overcoming the fear of death”

  1. Jerry Pelletier said

    Tanasije,
    I only wish I could stop thinking of death.When I was a kid It hit me at night also. i am now 52 and panic sets in every night.I am thinking of going for professional help.I can”t go on any more with panic attacks almost every night.

    take care Jerry

  2. Hi Jerry, thanks for the comment.

    Yeah, I guess it doesn’t make sense to bother with same problem every night, when you can get help.

    But, now that I’m writing on this, let me put one more thought on the issue…

    I think I eventually accepted my finitude not as something which comes “outside” of my being, but as something which is internal to it – something which is in my nature, same as change is (Not that I have died so far though. *smile*).
    Maybe I quote Hegel too much, but here is another quote on this from Science Of Logic:

    The finite not only alters, like something in general, but it ceases to be; and its ceasing to be is not merely a possibility, so that it could be without ceasing to be, but the being as such of finite things is to have the germ of decease as their being-within-self: the hour of their birth is the hour of their death.

  3. Clark said

    ” Life after death certainly dispels the fear of death,”

    I’m not sure that’s true. It might, if anything, increase it. It certainly changes how we think about it though.

  4. Clark, I find your comment very interesting…
    I was thinking about the argument that if there is “life after death”, there is no death in the traditional sense at all, so one can’t be afraid by the idea of “ceasing to exist”.
    I understand that you are saying that even with this changed belief there might be now some other things to be afraid of. Is that right? Can you explain more (maybe by example)?

  5. When I was young, I was ambivalent about death, with only a certain fear of the moments surrounding it (pain and all of that). In fact, I had a premonition that I would die before I was 20, and in fact I survived a significant vehicular accident 11 days before my 20th birthday.

    When I got older and had a family, I began to dread death because of the pain it would inevitably bring my family. I used to be a military pilot and have lost quite a few friends in accidents and other means, so the reality of death was great.

    Lately I have found comfort in the idea that there is life after death. The concept that I have come to accept as most likely is described in the book listed at our website. Suffice to say that it brings an intuitively and theoretically valid reality to a spiritual component of life. It resonates with a part of me and gives me confidence that there is more than this one life.

    Jim

  6. Aujan said

    We’re all human and therefore we all have fears. Some of us fear death, others fear being alone, and others fear social situations. If you can think of it, there’s someone somewhere that’s afraid of it. But fear is a normal part of life! There are times, though, when fear can hinder us and stop us from enjoying life and experiencing new joys. When your fear starts to limit what you do in life, you need to conquer that fear. I get more inspirational tips lately from http://www.bestsum.com

    Very nice post! :-)

  7. matthew said

    hey my name is Matthew I am 18 years old and the fear of death has hit me like a rock. I feel the more you know the more you worry. I really want to believe in religion, so sorry if I offend anyone but I feel it is very unbelievable. our thoughts are only a system of the brain. When people think its a chemical reaction that occurs in our brains. i have panic attacks some times at night i don’t know what to believe

  8. Richard said

    I to have this new undying fear of death. I have literally thought of it for the last 4 days straight, with highs and lows of depression in tow. I guess the only thing that there is to take solace in is that when we die, we don’t know it because the chemical processes that make up our self awareness and cognition stop. There for our “self” ceases to exist. I would compare this to the fact that most people cannot remember their first years, not due to death of course, but due to the lack of development (i.e. we have yet to project this concept of our “self”). So how can you fear that which you will not know?

  9. Brian Aikey said

    Hey everyone, I’d like to mention my surprise at this (just humorous note I’m on my iPod xP). And to be honest I’m surprised how many people have this problem too. I always thought I was a minor case due to my ADHD and stress problems, but now I believe it IS a problem if so many others have it too. I find it ironic we all/most have the same scenario; in the morning were fine, at night we have panic attacks :(. Sucks for me is that I’m 17 and been having this problem for 3 years now. My big issue is fear of the sun supernovaing for the most part Xo but even then there’s other issues. I always planned on getting hypno therapy and such to fix this (whacky idea but only one I got) but the wait is killing me and yes I dread using that phrase as well. Well that’s all for now, and hi to any readers :D

  10. Adam said

    I have been struck with an intense, overwhelming fear of death and ceasing to exist forever, for eternity – – –

    For most of my adult life. I experience an intense existential angst that goes right down into the pit of my stomach and deep into my bones. I have never been able to shake it, and it shadows all experiences in my waking life, even happy moments. But I have come to an awakening that, I will never know what happens at death with total certainty. So I can either cry about it, or laugh about it, both reactions are equal. So I might as well laugh about it. People never seem to think about this, but to me it seems to be obvious, we should all care about where we are going. People are so blissfully ignorant, like people on a train that have no idea where the train is going. But to liberate yourself from Ego and treat everyone with love and respect, because worldly possessions are irrelevant compared to treating each other with love and belonging. Love yourself and Love Everyone! Nothing Matters!!

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