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June 5, 2019 Beyond The Dash

5 Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Death

Strategies for facing end-of-life issues without anxiety

5 Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Death
While fear of death is a common, you can become more comfortable with it. With time, emotional work and an open mind, it's possible to overcome this phobia. (Getty Images)

Fear of death is one of the most common phobias. Every one of us will, at some point, leave this earth. Regardless of your beliefs, no one can really say what the experience of dying will be like. This unknown can be profoundly distressing to some individuals.

How can people who fear death overcome this phobia?

1. Get centered in your values

Whether or not you are religious, simply knowing your personal position on death and the existence of an afterlife can help reduce death anxiety. Having a sense of your own values, fears and expectations can help alleviate anxiety. Fear of death is often a manifestation of fear of the unknown. Even if you aren't certain of your stance on whether or not there is an afterlife, or what will happen after you pass away, reflecting on your beliefs, answering philosophical questions and exploring spirituality may help you feel more secure overall.

Prayer, meditation, religious and scientific study, and engaging in candid conversations about death are all ways people cement their beliefs. Whatever you believe, having a personal system of viewing and processing the world may make life more meaningful (and less anxiety-inducing) for you.

2. Engage with death when the opportunity arises

Dealing with loss and moving through the grieving process is a painful experience. The way you process your emotions in the throes of extreme grief may end up dictating your relationship with death in the future. It's important to fully explore the thoughts, feelings and questions that arise.

While grieving, you may want to go to a local death cafe, read up on the death positivity movement, and take opportunities to deeply explore death through your own personal lens. As with many difficult topics, regular and informed exposure to death discussions may slowly take some pain out of it. It's easier said than done, but worth the emotional work.

3. Make your own end-of-life plans

Sometimes fear of death is related to feelings of powerlessness. Making your own memorial plans and leaving instructions behind will ensure your wishes are met. Knowing how things will proceed in the immediate aftermath of your death is reassuring for some people. Making decisions about your funeral and memorialization may not be easy, especially if death-related topics are disturbing to you. Remember that once your advance planning is done, it's done: you should not need to revisit your plans again, unless you need to make a change to them.

4. Honor those who have died

Fear of being forgotten, or having a meaningless life, is another element of death anxiety. By participating in death rituals and memorialization of people who you've known, you honor those who've died. It's also a way to remind yourself that life matters, your time on earth matters, and that those who live well are usually remembered well.

No matter how much time has passed, it's never too late to remember a loved one who has passed. A retrospective obituary, memorial bench, deathiversary celebration of life or other personal way of remembering them is a good reminder that life is meaningful. By taking the time to honor the dead, we learn what is important about life. Having this greater understanding is imperative to easing death anxiety.

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5. Seek out a qualified counselor

If you are suffering from severe thanatophobia, the tips above may not be sufficient. A qualified counselor can help guide you through your fears. If you are suffering from symptoms of thanatophobia, like panic attacks, sweating, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, nausea and persistent dread, it may be time to find a counselor you click with.

The takeaway

Fear of death is relatively normal one, and expected in most people. You don't need to dwell on funerals, loss and existential matters, but it is healthy to challenge this kind of fear. By moving past the fear, you can live a happier life.

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