Very little is certain in our lives. We know that we were born. And we know that, eventually, we are all going to die. What we do with the time in between is up to us. Most people are able to integrate this knowledge in a way that allows them to still live their lives. Some would say it is actually this awareness of our own mortality that propels humans to create and innovate as much as we do. This knowledge of death is not usually something that we think about all the time, it is just a background awareness that colors our understanding of life.
But for some people, this awareness of mortality is not just a mild undercurrent. People with a true phobia live in constant fear of death. This fear inhibits them, keeping from living fully for fear of accident, injury, or illness. Or they might just be overwhelmed by a vague fear of the unknown. But we are not meant to spend all of our precious days fearing our inevitable end. Here are a few ways to work with a fear of death so that it does not interfere with your ability to live.
Turn Fear Into an Ally
Fear can crush us, or we can use it to help us. Fear can be a guidepost, a way of letting you know there is something important for you to look at. Your fear of dying can help you see how precious life is to you. You can let the knowledge that you will inevitably die propel you to create all that you are here to create, to love your family and friends fiercely and exuberantly, to live as boldly and fully as possible.
Recognizing and accepting that we will die helps us put things in perspective. The little arguments and inconveniences of life do not seem to matter as much when we remember that our time here is limited and our energy is precious. Our purpose and mission in life can become clearer when we recognize the importance of acting on them as soon as possible. We are more likely to get off the couch and have the life experiences we want when we keep in mind that this moment is all we have for certain.
This is one of the most effective ways of dealing with any irrational fear. If you are feeling fear but are not actually in immediate danger, relax. Focus on breathing deeply and releasing tension from the body. When you start to feel fear arise practice yoga or another mind-body-breath practice, something that gets you to move your body while breathing deeply.
Fear sets off stress-loops in the nervous system, which make us feel more anxious and fearful. Calming the nervous system through deep breathing and other relaxation techniques can mitigate the physiological effects of feeling fear, and even help us release it.
Occasionally feeling a passing moment of fear is normal, and part of the human condition. But if you are overwhelmed with the fear of death frequently, or this fear interferes with your ability to live your life, you may want to see a therapist or counselor.
Many things can elevate a normal fear of death into a full-blown phobia, including the loss of a loved one, an automobile collision, or other traumatic event. Sometimes we can process out the feelings and stress these situations cause on our own, but sometimes the insight and guidance of a professional is necessary to help us see the light again.
The Power of Choice
The truth is that we cannot make fear go away. Ignoring or refusing to acknowledge fear just makes it stronger. Like love, if fear is present there is little we can do to stop it. We can release it through acknowledgment, meditation, relaxation, and other mind-body-spirit techniques. But we cannot just pretend its not there.
But we get to choose how we respond to our fear. We can let the fear of death keep us locked up in our homes, unable to interact with the dangerous world. Or we can choose to be courageous in the face of our fear. We can feel fear and choose to live our lives fully regardless. We can let it empower us, strengthening our resolve and choosing to follow our hearts, in spite of the fear.
Fear is a part of life. Fear lets us know what matters to us. It keeps us focused on the beauty of life, and ensures that we protect our precious bodies and families. But an overwhelming fear of death can interfere with our ability to live. Then we are dead before we die, allowing the very thing we fear to come true prematurely.
If your fear of death is inhibiting your ability to live, it is time to work with it. Acknowledge the fear, and let it be an ally. Learn to relax your body and mind around the fear. Get professional help if you cannot find ease with the fear on your own. And let fear catalyze you to live every moment of this life while you can.