The fear of death

By Fouad Alaa


WHAT IS DEATH? If we look at its formal definition, it is the permanent cessation of an organism. In layman’s terms, death is the end of life. We can all agree the word “death” has a negative connotation, and it would not be surprising to find some people even dreading the notion of death, let alone the thought of it.


The thing is, some people let the fear of death overtake their lives. Thanatophobia, the official name for the phobia of death, is basically the fear of death, or dead things, or anything associated with death. Some people let their fears consume their lives so much that in the end it leaves little space for any happiness to creep into their lives.


There are many reasons why someone would fear death. It could be either because they have witnessed something traumatic like accidents or murders, or it could be from losing someone dear to them.


Some fear the thought of having to go through the pain that comes with death, which is common especially among terminally ill patients. Then there also people who fear what may come after death? Would there be a heaven? A hell? Or would it be just an endless state of nothingness?


If one looks closely at each and every one of the fears mentioned above, the reccurring trend to their fears is basically the fear of the unknown and the loss of control.


Although humans are known for adapting (in most situations), when it comes to the unknown it’s very likely many of us including myself will overthink and worry till we drive ourselves crazy.


As for control, death is the ultimate blow to every person especially to the ones who strive for control. Death is something that cannot be organised, delayed, or denied. Death happens whenever it wants to happen, and because of this it can drive the sanest person to the edge.


However, there are ways to overcoming the fear of death and handling death more healthily:


Acknowledge your fear:


Something a lot of people fail to recognise is that fear is not an emotion that comes naturally, but it is acquired through learning from personal experience and even in some cases through witnessing something upsetting. Granted, death is a grim topic to begin with, but it can be dealt with differently. This basically means that the development of fears in particular, the fear of death, is caused through the experience of, for example, losing a loved one.


Death is part of life:


It cannot be denied that death is part of life, like the famous song “The Circle of Life” from the movie The Lion King, when someone/something dies it gives life to another.




Everything happens for a reason. Granted, this is an overused saying, but everything does happen for a reason. The death of a loved one is one of the hardest things that one can go through. One of the worst ways to lose a loved one is when it is sudden because it leaves no room for one to adjust to it. However, the process of overcoming the fear of death and overall healing is the understanding that when it’s their time to go, it’s just their time to go.


The fear of pain:


I won’t lie, sometimes in the process of dying, you will never know if you would be lucky enough to go without pain. But if you do suffer, know that the pain does not last forever. With death, not only will you be leaving this world filled with its troubles but also you will leave its pain behind.


Believe, have faith, and hope:


Believing in something whether it be religion, science, the universe, or anything in general and having faith in it can do wonders for the human spirit. Not many will agree, but submitting to a higher power (known or unknown) brings a sense of assurance and direction to one’s life ultimately, bringing a purpose and an end-goal. Also, realise that there is hope in this situation. If the idea of the state of nothingness is what worries you the most about death, know that nobody really knows what happens when you die, so have hope and embrace the mystery.


Live and enjoy life:


Finally, the most obvious one: live your life while you’re still here. Instead of constantly worrying about death, don’t miss out on the opportunity of life while you still can. Live it to the fullest, eat a little more, laugh a lot, and love a whole lot more. Embrace the good, the bad, the weird, and everything that life throws at you. Remember, “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time” – Mark Twain.


Featured photo credit: AFP/Relaxnews


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