Fear of death effects individuals differently and during various times and stages in life. It does impact every person. It’s often operating under the surface, causing or playing a part until it is resolved.
Sometimes it can be sparked by a loss or the potential of a loss. Often, it comes up for the first time during later childhood. So, during the preteen years or potentially a couple of years before that, is when children often realize that life is finite. It can surface with a particular occurrence or with curiosity and the individual’s thought process. Sometimes a child reads something that makes them think further into this or ask questions of their parents or the other adults around them. A parent or adult’s response can impact how the child views death and whether they develop an increased fear. That is an important piece to consider: the message that you’re conveying to your children.
As adults, when we think about death, we know intellectually that there’s nothing that we can do to change this reality. We know that we can’t avoid it or get around it. I find the saying “none of us are getting out of here alive” to be an important recognition. It’s important to think about how we want to perceive end of life. It’s a very individual and innermost process to really figure out where you’re at on that spectrum of acceptance.
How you are going to process this thought of death and how you will eventually come to terms with it impacts your experience of life. The negative impacts of fearing death will foremost include anxiety. We know that this awareness is the root of anxiety and the most glaring aspect of life that we cannot control (and everyone is reassured by the feeling of control in at least some areas of life). Fear of death can also negatively impact your life by not allowing you to live life to the fullest. If you’re spending time thinking about this worry and how to avoid it, consider where this is negatively impacting you or those around you. Thirdly, you may be spending time trying to control what you cannot.
There are things that we can do to take care of our health, take care of our bodies, and try to increase our lifespan to the fullest potential. Outside of positive health efforts, there are a lot of things that we can’t control in this area. This can also, unfortunately, include safety and other things in life that can impact us physically. The psychological stress impacts your life expectancy as well. Your mental health, your mindset, and the amount of stress you allow yourself to take in, or the amount of negative energy you allow yourself to absorb, impacts your physical health.
Exploring your thoughts around death can alleviate some of the negative impacts, as I mentioned, until you can come to a place of acceptance and making peace. Making the focus of your time and your energy be on how you can get the most out of life, how you can really live your life, enjoy your life, find and seek out your needs and wants, is a productive use of time and energy. It will greatly increase the feeling of happiness and peace throughout your life.
In college, I remember taking a course on the psychology of death and we processed a lot about grief and loss. We read Elisabeth Kubler Ross’s book: On Death and Dying which identifies five stages that individuals experience after the loss of a loved one: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. That class and her book enhanced my thought process in this area. I think that we go through these stages when resolving our inner fear of death whenever that may occur. All of us have this individual experience and we’ll likely process it in different ways. The hope is that you can get to the same point of that acceptance, peace, and putting your focus on being happy and joyful and pursuing what leads to those end results.