Death is scary because it’s unknown, dark, and sad. You are normal and healthy if you’re scared to die! But if you let your fear of dying ruin the gift of life, you’ve already started to die. In this article I share a few ideas on how to get over your fear of dying. I also describe why I accepted my death when I was only 27 years old.
I was scared of dying until I was diagnosed with a chronic disease (ulcerative colitis). It forced me to accept and make peace with my own death, which made my life more enjoyable, peaceful and valuable. I learned how to “rest in peace” even now, while I’m still alive.
In Dying To Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing, Anita Moorjani describes how Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, chemotherapy, and her near-death experience (NDE) changed her perspective of life, dying, and death. I shared some of her insights in my article below. When you’re scared to die, it can be helpful and comforting to learn more about what it feels like to actually face your own death. The more you learn the more comfortable you’ll be about accepting your death.
Below, I share Anita’s perspective on dying and how accepting your own death can make you a happier, healthier person.
“Even though I seemed to be fighting my disease, I believed that cancer was a death sentence,” writes Anita in Dying To Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing.
“I went through the motions of doing everything I could, but in the back of my mind, I still believed that I wasn’t going to make it. And I was very, very scared of death.” She thought she would die from cancer – and she was terrified at the thought! But then everything changed.
I’m 47 years old and I’m ready to die. I don’t WANT to die, but I’m comfortable with the idea of dying. These reasons to accept your own death may reduce your fear of dying and increase your passion for life.
6 Ways to Deal With Your Fear of Dying
I’m not saying you should end your life. On the contrary, I’m encouraging you to cherish life while accepting that death is a natural part of a full, healthy life! I think we’re scared to die because it’s such a mystery – it’s a land people travel to and never (or rarely) return from.
But what if death is better than life? What if the people who have passed are happier and more whole than they’ve ever been? Our life here on earth isn’t all sunshine and roses…but maybe death is.
1. Realize that surrender to death brings peace and healing
“When I was in that state of clarity in the other realm [during her near-death experience], I instinctively understood that I was dying because of all my fears,” writes Anita in Dying to Be Me. “When I relinquished my hold on physical life, I didn’t feel I needed to do anything in particular to enter the other realm, such as pray, chant, use mantras, forgiveness, or any other technique. Moving on was closer to doing absolutely nothing. It seemed more like saying to no one in particular: ‘Okay, I have nothing more to give. I surrender. Take me. Do what you will with me. Have your way.”
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I think this type of surrender is healthier than fighting death, disease, dread of the unknown. We who are sick need to learn how to live in harmony with disease, not fight it! This surrender brings healing, acceptance, and peace.
Accepting your death makes every day sweeter and more precious.
2. Learn why you’re scared of accepting your death
Fear of death is one of the most common fears we have. Most humans are scared to die (but animals aren’t, are they?). And yet, we don’t know what happens after death! How can we be afraid of something we know nothing about? That’s what I don’t understand.
And yet, it’s our very ignorance that keeps us afraid. We fear what we don’t know, and we know almost nothing about death.
What helped me accept my own death is realizing that life after death could be more amazing, liberating, peaceful, and joyful than life on earth! Our dead loved ones may be beckoning us, trying to tell us that death is amazing. Maybe life on earth is the dumps – even with its bits of glory and beauty. Maybe we’re happier, lighter, and bouncier after we die…and we don’t even know it, so we’re scared to die.
What holds you back from accepting your death?
3. Let go of the meaningless, soul-killing parts of life
I’m more afraid of being sucked into the superficial, meaningless, trivial parts of life than I am of dying! I know someone who vacuums her house every day, and someone else who has to buy a new pair shoes every month. Since I accepted my own death, I stopped caring about the superficial, unimportant stuff that we tend to caught up in. I focus on staying happy, healthy, and in remission from ulcerative colitis.
Here’s what Anita says in Dying to Be Me: “I’ll never again take on a job I don’t enjoy just for the money. My criteria for work and for doing things in general are so different now. My life and my time here are much more valuable to me.” If that doesn’t help you with accepting your death, what will?
Are you struggling to accept the death of a loved one? Read How to Recover From Loss and Survive Grief.
4. Study the research that shows death brings life to the fullest
“Death is a very powerful motivation,” says Laura E.R. Blackie, a Ph.D. student at the University of Essex. “People seem aware that their life is limited. That can be one of the best gifts that we have in life, motivating us to embrace life and embrace goals that are important to us.”
She researched how death affects how you act, and how accepting your death affects the quality of your life while you’re alive.
If you think about death abstractly, you’re more likely to fear it. But if you think about and accept your own death, you’re more likely to life your life more fully. Thinking about your mortality in a more personal and authentic manner may make you pursue what you really value in life.
5. Learn what it feels like to be close to death
I found a fascinating new study on what it’s like to be close to dying. The researchers found good news! The actual emotional impact of dying is more positive and less negative than people expect. We think dying is all about pain and suffering, and we worry that we’ll face the end of our lives alone.
But the truth is that people who are close to death actually use more positive words (such as love, joy, happiness, and peace) than negative ones.
“When we imagine our emotions as we approach death, we think mostly of sadness and terror,” says psychological scientist Kurt Gray of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “But it turns out, dying is less sad and terrifying — and happier — than you think.”
Part of their study involved researching blog posts from individuals who were terminally ill, as well as inmates on death row. They used considerably more positive emotion words and fewer negative emotion words than did those written by participants who simply imagined they were dying. Studying the patients’ blog posts over time, the researchers also found that the dying person’s use of positive emotion words actually increased as they neared death, while their use of negative emotion words did not.
The research paper is called Emotions Expressed by the Dying are Unexpectedly Positive, published in Psychological Science.
6. Remember that accepting your death makes you strong, fearless, and courageous
When death holds no horror, there isn’t much else to be afraid of! You can take risks, be yourself, and do things you wouldn’t normally do. If you’re not scared to die, you’re also not scared to live.
What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail? Where would you go if you knew you’d be safe? Who would you talk to if you weren’t afraid of the response?
I accepted my own death when I was in Israel. After I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, I went to Jerusalem to meet my father for the first time. I spent many hours in a church in the Old City, praying and making peace with my life, disease, and death. I called my dad, which I was always scared to do. I met his family, and even traveled to Egypt by myself.
Death is no longer the worst thing that can happen to me. Getting to the end of my life and having regrets is!
If you’re scared of the feelings associated with death and grief, read What to Do When Grieving Feels Scary and Overwhelming.
Help Accepting Your Own Death
Read Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife by Dr Eben Alexander. He’s a highly trained neurosurgeon who had a near-death experience after his brain was attacked by a rare illness.
The part of his brain that controls thought and emotion shut down completely. For seven days Dr Alexander lay in a coma. Then, as his doctors considered stopping treatment, his eyes popped open. He had come back.
Dr Alexander’s recovery is a medical miracle. But the real miracle of his story lies elsewhere. While his body lay in coma, Alexander journeyed beyond this world and encountered an angelic being who guided him into the deepest realms of super-physical existence. There he met, and spoke with, the Divine source of the universe itself. Reading his story can help with accepting your death – or the death of someone who has already passed.
If you know someone who is dying, you might be interested in Thoughtful Gifts for Someone Who is Dying.
How do you feel about accepting your death? Are you scared to die? Share your thoughts below. Writing about how you feel can bring clarity, insight, and comfort. You feel lighter, more free, and happy if you share your story — and your fears of death.
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