coping with fear of death

woman sitting on rock with fear of death

The fear of death can affect us all at some point in our lives. Whether it is the fear of one’s own mortality, or that of others, overcoming the fear of death requires work on oneself, sometimes with the help of a therapist.

Why are we afraid of death?

The fear of death is an ancestral fear that sends us back to our own purpose and that of others. No one knows in advance when and how he will die. It is this fear of the unknown and this lack of control over our mortal destiny that creates anxiety that is sometimes so pervasive that it prevents us from living.

Inherent in life, death is our inevitable destiny for all. Whether by the death of a loved one or illness, awareness of the purpose of life generally appears around the age of 7 years. Even though the fear of death concerns us all, it invades us to different degrees.

Can the fear of death give meaning to life?

When you are very afraid of death, it is often that you forget the meaning of your own life. Being aware of what we bring to others, of what brings us and what we wish to transmit in turn allows us to create an illusion of immortality and therefore to fully enjoy life.

Thinking about your own death is therefore an opportunity to accept letting go of what you do not control but also to regain control of what you want for yourself and your loved ones.

Causes of the fear of death

Thanatophobia is an unusual or abnormal fear of personally dying and/or being dead that impacts the otherwise “normal” or healthy functioning of the person possessing this fear that might appear disproportionate to an outsider relative to the actual risk or threat the individual faces.

Fearing the loss of your life is both natural and generally beneficial but typically doesn’t rise to the level of thanatophobia unless your fear also affects your otherwise normal lifestyle and/or your response might appear disproportionate to an outsider relative to the actual risk or threat you face.

Generally, any intense, irrational fear concerning an object or situation that rises to the level of a phobia is psychological in nature. Many people dislike finding a spider in their home, for example, but unless your fear of these creatures induces you to actually leave your home after discovering one crawling on a wall or forces you to avoid forests, parks, or other areas that harbor spiders at all costs, etc., then your fear of spiders generally doesn’t constitute arachnophobia.

While the causes of any phobia are complex, thanatophobia (and our fear of death in general) can arise from any/all of the following concerns people usually feel about their personal mortality, to name but a few:

  • Fearing a sudden or prolonged death.
  • Fearing a painful or gruesome death.
  • Fearing the unknown or “What lies beyond?”
  • Fearing for the well being of loved ones/survivors in the future.
  • Fears rooted in past painful or negative life experiences.

What to do to overcome the fear of death?

The fear of death can be so intense that it paralyzes and prevents you from projecting yourself healthily into life. This painful awareness can however be overcome thanks to:

• An analysis and taking a step back on his fear (traumatic event, death of a loved one, illness …);

• A rationalization of death anxieties which are not based on something real;

• Work to accept this inevitable deadline and what it means;

• Taking control of your life and what you want to do with it;

• Relaxation activities such as meditation, yoga, sophrology or self-hypnosis for example;

• Leisure activities in which one experiences pleasure;

• Personal and professional goals.

Even if it is not possible to completely transcend this fear, being aware of it allows us to fully experience the present moment by filling each day with all the joy possible in all areas of life.