You may wake up one morning, and one thought dominates your thoughts: What's the point? What's the point of going to work when I'm inevitably dead? What's the point of doing anything, drawing big or small plans? What's the point when I'm not sure if I'll wake up the next morning or not? The idea can really paralyze you, preventing you from doing anything, let alone enjoying it. You may think it is a fleeting nihilistic fear, but with time it turns into a complete siege, into a tireless monster that pursues you at every step, and even advances you and hinders the course of your days. You get worried, so you go out with your friends and you feel that you are not enjoying enough, because while they are laughing and whispering, this obsession breaks into you again, and the obsession with death, will these people miss me? Will anyone remember me if I die tomorrow?

Sometimes you are not the one who is haunted by the obsession with death, sometimes you may see death anxiety ravages one of your parents, when a person ages and after twenty or thirty years of their work in a job, they suddenly retire, and they feel sudden brutality and severe fear, and attend whispers of death in front of them because they have become in direct confrontation with him by virtue of the excess of time and the intensity of the void, and one of them may tell you: I think a lot about dying, or I feel as if I'm going to die soon. So what to do? And how do you act to help them get rid of the whispers and worries of death? This is what the article will try to answer you and guide you to through scientific and practical steps from psychology.

What you should know

The fear of death has four different sources: loss of self or the loss of another person, loss of control, fear of the unknown (heaven, hell, reckoning), and the pain and suffering of death. Here we address the idea of death per se, not the death of others. The fear of death is natural, our instincts dictate that we survive, to the extent that society rewards those who overcome their fears and instincts and put their lives at risk to save others or fight in war.

Fears of death can be triggered by the loss of a loved one, highlighting how fragile the life we live is and that it could be taken away from us at any moment. In rare cases, near-death experiences (such as a car accident or terminal illness) may awaken and exacerbate anxiety, as well as health or emergency workers, who are exposed to death intensively may be more likely to develop death anxiety due to their close proximity to it. However, death anxiety may develop suddenly without motives or causes.

At first, the anxiety of death begins with a natural and healthy fear and curiosity about the unknown that awaits us, but ignoring it and not dealing with it wisely leads very easily to a vicious circle of anxiety, because what we resist and ignore naturally continues to grow and control our thoughts. Symptoms of death anxiety appear in the form of acute fear that reaches horror when you think about it, as well as avoiding situations or conversations that you feel may lead to talking about it, and some well-known physical symptoms of anxiety appear when thinking about it, such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, stomach pain, nausea and insomnia. Fear of illness and death anxiety often combine, as both are related to the impossibility of dealing with or anticipating the unknown, so the symptoms always come with the expectation of the worst in the case of a simple cold or the like.

Death anxiety is not per se a disorder, but existential fears lie at the heart of a number of anxiety disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic and obsessive-compulsive disorder, and are particularly associated with generalized anxiety disorder, i.e. anxiety that is repeated for no reason with an inability to control it or find justification for it. Thinking about death and worrying about it is not a problem in itself, as the French philosopher François de la Rocheault said: "Two things man cannot face directly: the sun and death." Death anxiety is an acute problem that requires attention or professional intervention when it appears daily and lasts for a long period (more than 6 months), in which case these fears prevent you from enjoying your normal daily life (1).

Recognizing our inevitable mortality profoundly affects our thoughts and feelings, and hence our quality of life and behaviors, anticipating and fearing the end is so painful that we need to limit it and put it in context. All of us, of course, worry about facing that one day we will never exist, find it difficult to understand that life will continue perhaps for thousands and millions of years after us. Psychiatrist Robert Firestone says that we may not tolerate the idea and suppress it completely and develop defenses against it until thinking about it fades away, and this horror may even lead to its denial altogether.

When was the last time you thought about your death? The answer may be that it rarely comes to mind consciously, but on a subconscious level, Firestone points out that recognizing the inevitability of our death without accepting it and dealing with it consciously fuels our anxiety, affects important aspects of our lives, and stimulates many of our actions, decisions, and behaviors. The perception of death develops gradually from childhood, the child's pet dies, notices death in his family, or even recognizes it in movies (as in the movie Finding Nemo). Between three and six, the child understands the fact that the two people on whom his life depends are also exposed to this lightning danger, and eventually the realization that he personally will not be able to escape from it takes root.

At this stage, the world that the child believed to be solid, solid and durable is changing. This awareness and the horror that accompanies it is so overwhelming and resounding that it sees it as inevitable to suppress it. Despite the means of defense with which to resist the idea of death, it remains preserved in his subconscious as it is first, and the ignored and repressed fear continues to affect his childhood, and later on his adolescence and youth (2).

A person may respond to this fear, adapt it and learn through it to live his life in natural ways and give them meanings that convince and satisfy him and take advantage of their opportunities to achieve his goals, but some may fail in this and have an acute anxiety of death, urging them whenever he attends or is provoked to make impulsive decisions that increase in damage with old age and with him responsibility, which may end up ruining their lives and the lives of those around them. One may deny death over time, not pay attention to it for self-protection, lose the compass of your life, attach the utmost importance to issues and issues that do not matter in reality, and fail to properly appreciate what plays a decisive role in your life. Most people live their lives as if they will never end, and that they can spoil their most important experiences.

He may end up losing feelings of excitement or curiosity to live life by building defenses that protect the anxious person from the idea of death, he may become stricter and more in control of his life, thinking that if he controls and controls all its details and aspects, he may be able to write a different ending from the inevitable ending, limiting the scope of his experiences as if he refrains from going through a life that he does not want to leave. These defensive reactions may manifest themselves in images of self-loathing, a mocking tongue about everything and anyone, a refusal to engage in an activity that excites them about themselves and their days, and also less enjoyment of fleeting daily pleasures.

But the means of refuting death may have a positive side in some cases, resulting in the pursuit of symbolic immortality in the imagination of the world through literary, artistic or scientific works. Relentless search for true meaning in life in dedication to family, friends and loved ones, and trying to make a positive impact that changes one's and one's personal little world. One of the negative defences of death is to try to live by having new offspring and leaving a successor for the purpose of perpetuating the name and family, this fatal decision leads to children suffering in their lives from their parents' attempt to turn them into a replica of themselves (3)(4).

What can I do to get rid of the fear of death?

You have every right to worry, to be terrified. Death is terrifying, as is annihilation and ending. One day you'll be here, then the next day you'll disappear. The world will wake up the next day and everything will go well, newspapers will come out, flowers will jig, coffee will be prepared, the system will not be disrupted, and this is horror itself. Are there any reasons that might save you from this fear? May it help you to spend your days aware of the momentary gap between existence and nothingness, and yet live it in peace? Fortunately, yes. Psychology and philosophy help us alleviate this existential crisis, which may be a fleeting idea but absorbs the happiness of all life.

  • First: Understanding the means of denying death

Any negative event or reminder of death, such as illness, accidents, epidemics, or traumatic tragedies in general, worries you about imminence, which in turn further encourages you to build a bulwark of defense against these inevitable emotions that inevitably occur. One of the most famous defenses is denial, the perception that "tragedies happen to others, not to me."

This pattern of magical thinking that we have seen in the past years during the coronavirus pandemic may surprise you. Those who did not follow safety and prevention instructions or home lockdowns did not want to hasten their death, but believed that such a catastrophe would befall others, not them in particular. It is the remnants of the perceptions of absolute superpower that we had in our childhood, it acts as a survival mechanism in times of stress and the clarity of the fragility and weakness of the human body, it expresses the belief that death will happen to others and never to us. This baseless individuality and specificity gives one the feeling of being immune to the fate of ordinary people (2).

  • Second: Replacing denial with health protection means

A positive defense to combat death anxiety is self-esteem and self-esteem, which is the main gateway to psychological security. Self-esteem means being satisfied with it and trying to improve it without cruelty or flogging because you believe that you are worthy. Your awareness of the importance of your role in the lives of those around you and your advantages is essential to alleviate the horror of death, and even after your death you will remain alive in the memories of your family and loved ones, to feel when it comes that you have lived a satisfied life that you value it well. Self-esteem and awareness of its importance will lead you to surround yourself with people who look like you, and you will find among them consolation and solace to resist this existential fear. You'll still be worried about death, but you can change that anxiety and use it as a reminder to live a quiet life.

Saving money and developing logical and flexible future plans can also provide a psychological barrier to death anxiety, as it is associated with a sense of control and security of the future, and thus relative comfort towards its arrival. Hope for the future will give us a different way of thinking about its different possibilities rather than looking definitively at its end.3

  • Third: The practice of accepting death

The doctor and psychologist "Warren Ward" tells about his suffering from skin cancer and his realization from his work as a doctor that his death is imminent, but it was imminent since his school days, because everything he knows about diseases was copied in his studies and projected on his poor body. The doctor acknowledges the difficulty of skin cancer, but luckily for him, the surgery passes peacefully and he recovers from his illness. Ward points out that he is fortunate, on the other hand, that the shock of experience and the absolute certainty of his death is near, sooner or later, cured or not, this acceptance and realization was as important to him as important as the medical advances that led to his survival from the disease.

Awareness of the imminence of death leads to living a fruitful and exciting life, his illness reminded him of death every day, his mortality and the limitations of his days, the shock reminded him that he must live his life in length and breadth every day, because he wants to avoid regretting what he missed later. It is important to try to draw this acceptance and awareness from the experiences of others because we will not all go through an experience in which we are close to death, free us from our anxiety about it and remind us that the most important thing is to live an honest life. As a doctor, Ward understands how fragile our bodies are and close to death at any moment, and as a psychiatrist, he understands how little and superficial life is if it is devoid of purpose and meaning. Realizing our precious short lives and the limitations of life may, ironically, lead us to seek or even create meaning for our lives from the beginning.1

  • Fourth: Identify what you may regret the most and do

In 2011, nurse Bruny Ware published a book called "The Top Five Things One Regrets at Death", interviewed dozens of people who spend their last months in life, and asked them what they regret the most in their lives.

Determining what you may regret later, that is, what you are currently falling short, will help you change the way you think about distant or unknown death to think about the present moment, so that you can live a rich and broad life so that you do not worry about its end during your attempts to exploit it for the last wish and drop in it.

  • Fifth: Reshape your fear

Irvine Yalum, an existential psychiatrist and expert in understanding death anxiety and treatment, wrote a book called "Staring at the Sun: How to Overcome the Horror of Death?" In it, he says that different lives have one thing in common: death, and with different treatment methods, they all end up accepting, because the more we avoid a certain idea or fear, the more anxious we are about it and with it our desire to avoid it, i.e. a vicious circle.

The Russian novelist, Vladimir Napkov, says: "Logic tells us that our existence is nothing but a narrow crack of light between two eternal worlds of darkness." Yalum once asked one of his clients what bothers him most about the idea of death, and he replied, "My absence for the next five billion years," and Yalum asked him if he was bothered by his absence for the past five billion years. This idea in philosophy is called the "symmetry argument." To overcome your fear of death, try to remember what you were before you were born, not what your world and family looked like, but what you were before you were created in the first place. You can't think about yourself before you are born, let alone your nature at the time. The symmetrical part of this argument is that the same applies to the dimension of your death. According to this philosophy, before your birth equals your death, you were and will be absent in both cases. Because of this equality, you should worry about death as much as you worry about life before you ever exist(1).

If you become too afraid of illness and worry about your health, it is recommended to see a professional psychiatrist. Your doctor may use cognitive behavioral psychotherapy with you.

Epicurean philosophy also gives us a different understanding of the nature of death in order to accept it. The approach of this philosophy states that the goal of life is happiness, not only by indulging in pleasures, but by avoiding suffering, and in order to be happy with life we must not worry and wait for its end, and so we must understand our death. The first thing you need to do is try to imagine what death will be, not the afterlife or the death of others, but your own death. Imagine yourself dead, you can't, can you? Because your perception of being dead contradicts survival in the first place. Death is the absence of existence, how would you imagine your existence when you are dead? Nothing can be imagined, nothing can be given an image, color and actual shape, nothing to come close to. This is the first recommendation, the realization that death is not an experience you will go through, and as Epicurus says: "Death represents nothing to us at all" (5).

  • Sixth: Visit a specialist when necessary

As mentioned, death anxiety is not a disorder in itself, but if anxiety and fear intensify and become obstructing the normal functioning of life, especially if you become afraid of diseases and worry about your health excessively, it is recommended to visit a specialist psychiatrist. Your doctor may use cognitive behavioral psychotherapy with you, which may include exposure to detail of the details of death (such as attending funerals), as well as breathing exercises, and trying to come up with flexible ideas about death, such as recognizing that it is a justified and completely normal fear. Therapy also includes ways to explore happy events in life to change your perception of death from being a negative event to being lucky to have the opportunity to live life in the first place.

The doctor may also resort to empathy-based therapy that will encourage you to immerse yourself in the experience of life, understanding that all you have in your hands is only 25,30 to 4,<> days of life, this method of treatment emphasizes that suffering is normal and the course of life is one; we come, grow, weaken, die. Although the ways that each specialist may follow, they all depend on one idea: death is an event that we have to learn to accept, and the key to death anxiety is how we get out of our thoughts and into the realm of life itself (<>).

Tools that will help you

  • Book: The Five Most Important Things One Regrets at Death



  • Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death, Irvin D. Yalom, Jossey-Bass, 2008.
  • The Human Experience: Death Anxiety, Robert W. Firestone, Psychology Today, 2018.
  • How Do People Manage Death Anxiety? Shahram Heshmat, Psychology Today, 2020.
  • Everything dies and it's best we learn to live with that, James Kirby, The Conversation, 2016.
  • How to not fear your death, Sam Dresser, Psyche Guides, 2020.
  • Source : Al Jazeera