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Fear Of Death

One day, like a slap across the face, it hit me. I acknowledged my own mortality.

This was five years ago when two loved ones passed away. Before that, I saw SO MANY people die. I work in the medical field for goodness sake. People drop like flies! It never bothered me before. This time, however, something rewired my brain and I have never been the same. I have been completely obsessed with thoughts about dying and what happens afterward.

The first person who passed was my ex-husband (divorced 8 months so lots of guilt too) and I couldn't help but think, wow, I will never get to see him again. He will never get to see his children again. I thought about how young he was. I thought about his precious life and every part of his delicate body and how his parents must have taken such good care of him as a baby and how he was protected growing up and how hard he studied in school and how many hours he spent doing homework and just all of these crazy thoughts went through my head about this young man, this person I had spent half of my life with, and then he was just gone at 39-years-old. Gone FOREVER. Forever and ever and ever. And that forever never ends!!!!! And when you think about forever hard enough, it puts a chill up your spine. Then my step-dad died right afterward from brain cancer.

So that is what started my fear and obsession with death. I have thought about it every single day and every night. It affects everything I do. I think everything is stupid and petty because we are just going to die anyway. I can't have an argument with anybody because I am afraid they will die with it unresolved. I don't like to spend money fixing up my house because I think, what for? I'm going to die. Instead, I keep going and taking out more and more life insurance. Whenever I see other people enjoying themselves at a restaurant or event, I think to myself they are so lucky that they can be so innocent to the thoughts and fears of death and that they can just have fun. Sometimes, when my husband takes me out, I find myself momentarily having a nice time until my thoughts come and haunt me. I think about death even when I am driving to and from work. I just always think about it.

I haven't seen a therapist because I feel like it's stupid because I'm going to die anyhow! What can a therapist do? I already take some medication. I find that most religious people do not fear death, and those who fear it tend not to have religion in their lives. While I am not agnostic, I do have a hard time following my religion and "believing". I think heaven and hell seems "fairy-tale". But I enjoy my religion and I have raised my boys religious. I just don't believe in afterlife, but I sure WANT to. That makes death WAY HARDER!

Thanks for listening.
Rlmlm Rlmlm 41-45, F 3 Responses Feb 20, 2013

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I completely understand I hae te same fear it eats me alive It is worse at night it will put me in a severe panic attack and it consumes my everyday thoughts I hate it!Maybe it's because I will soon be a funeral director or embalmer but it actually helps a little seeing death .....idk it's ****** most of my fears have to do with afterlife or is death really it and if so what does it feel like to be dead and gone ugh sends chills down my spine I just hope I find some help or it's gunna kill me !

I understand completely where you're coming from and how you're feeling. I've been suffering with panic attacks about death for some years now-although I never went and sought medical help for it. I think it started it my early teen years when I realized that yes, I am going to die one day...and I can't stop it. What frightens me is the materialistic facts, mostly. I imagine my body decomposing, lifeless...I think about my existence ceasing. All that I am and will be, will eventually be meaningless.
I fear not knowing where we go or what happens. I was raised Catholic, but I never believed. I think that our rational and skeptic mind is our demise. I would love to have faith, but I can't. Now, especially, since my mother's suicide (story on here, if one cares to read), I find it harder and harder to try to believe in anything. The truth is, I (we) work myself (ourselves) up (literally have to move, move, move! or I'll freak out) for something that we can't escape...and maybe that realization is our true fear. Hope we find our answers one day...sooner before later would be best.

Look up work being conducted by Sam Harris in regard to neurology and how we are getting closer to understanding how the brain works. I became interested in neurology after my uncle fell from a ladder (I had just bought him) and landed on his head. He was in the hospital for several months. When I would call him he seemed to have no idea who I was although he would talk. When I visited him in person you could see that he knew who I was from his facial expressions but he acted unsure. In visiting with him I began to recognize that "he" was still in there, but there were parts of what made him him missing or at least inaccessible. I say inaccessible because as I observed my uncle more and more it seemed as though his brain or let's say his CPU used to know where the folders were for every application but they were no longer where they should be or missing files.

The fall that damaged my uncles brain changed who my uncle was so much that I find it hard to imagine that there is any part of who we are left once the brain dies.

While i feel terrible that you are going through this, it is such a relief to finally Get in touch with somebody who understands. I have brought it up to various family members and friends and they don't get it.

Do you ever have an entire day go by where you don't think about dying? I don't think I have an hour go by where I don't think about it anymore. It is terrible. But I am not a freak about it. I work, hang out with my kids, function, appear happy and all that. It is just something that lurks in the back of my brain. I hate it.

Sometimes it makes me do things differently than I think I would if death wasn't in my mind. For instance, I will let my kid skip school and take him to a movie because I think you only live once and there might not be a tomorrow. Or I will take my kids or friend to a really expensive dinner for no reason with the same thought in the back of my mind. Or once in a while I will sometimes even drink alcohol to try to stop thinking about it. It is messed up.

Tonight, I had an amazing date night with my husband. We went to a fancy restaurant, saw a great movie, spent intimate time together, and now I am sitting here awake at two in the morning obsessing about death while he is sleeping like a baby. I took a sleeping pill and Benadryl an hour ago and my mind is so powerful that I don't even feel drowsy. It is that same idea that we live this "cycle" of life and then it is over. The end. We build a life for ourself. We start as a child and work so hard for it. Everybody helps us. Our parents, teachers, doctors, counselors, etc. because each and every one of is is so important!!!!!! We take so much time and effort, money and training to prepare for our lives. And then....... What happens??????? We DIE!!!!! Then what?????? Exactly. And once you die, it is forever and ever and ever and ever. We are so accustomed to everything having a beginning and an end, but once you die there is no end because you are dead forever. If that makes any sense at all. I don't know. I think I am just going to make anybody reading this crazy. I should probably say goodnight.

Oh, I understand. The thought of forever itself is frightening. I sometimes allow myself to go into a fantasy where I try to imagine living in "Heaven" for eternity. Even that scares me. Eternity...where does it stop? What will we do? I think my mother's sudden, and very early death (36yrs old) has made this much worse.
As for the date night, the great time, and him sleeping like a baby, I totally agree! I have the same issues in my relationship and daily life. Everyone I talk to is either too afraid to contemplate the idea, so they blow it off and make some blaze comment like: "it's natural, it happens to all of us." Well, yes...I am fully aware of that, I just don't see how others can brush it off.
For you, is it the idea of who you are, what you have done, and what you've been ending that is the most frightening, or the fact that your body will eventually decompose and you'll be nothing more than "dust in the wind?" For me, they are equally scary...somehow, I can't imagine an "afterlife" without my physical being. For example: My mother's eyes, hands, and hairline. Those have for some reason, remained so etched in my memory that I can't even fathom those features not being there anymore without having a panic attack!
I'm ranting too...I guess I need to vent and talk..write.
As for your other comment, I do agree completely. After seeing what unprepared death does to the people left behind, I think I'd want to at least relieve the stress of arranging my funeral in addition to mourning me (assuming someone will mourn, of course). I'm planning on joining the Air Force, making a will and all that will be mandatory.
Again, thank you for writing back. Makes me feel less alone.

It sounds like thoughts of dying are ruining the time that you have to live. I understand that these thoughts are going to be with you regardless of what a random stranger may say about them. Obviously I don't have all of the answers but I did want to comment on your current state of anxiety relating to your fears.

I am an atheist which simply means that I don't believe in god. As far as an afterlife is concerned I am struggling a bit between knowing that injuries to the brain can alter our personalities and the possibility that we are more than just mass.

I personally believe that when we die it is as it was prior to our birth. Do you remember where you were or what you were doing prior to being? To me the absolute end seems like the most peaceful result to this chaotic existence. I don't long for heaven as depicted by any religion. Who is to say what the perfect paradise for anyone would entail? While having 72 virgins in the afterlife sounds super, I am willing to bet my eternity that it was created by men that valued virgins as currency.

Some people that lean towards nothingness after death use it as motivation to live this life to the fullest as it is the only life that you will have. I say that whatever belief you hold about what is on the other side you should cherish the time that you are here. I have to believe that contemplating life after death or nothing after death is a drain on you living peacefully. Regardless of whatever may be, it is going to happen and no amount of worrying about it is going to help.

Thank you for sharing. I hope that you will be able to silence the thoughts that bring you unease.

Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful response. I really appreciate it. I didn't really think anybody would even read my post let alone write back, but I feel so glad that you did. Thanks again.

It was my pleasure.