My Death Anxiety and What You Can Learn from It

mocha momentsI am afraid of death. There…I said it! Being honest about it doesn’t make the fear go away though…

From as far back as I can remember – I have been consumed by dying. It’s not always in the forefront of my mind – but it’s there…lounging on a comfortable chair…reminding me …”I’m here.”

There is a name for my fear: thanatophobia. And what I learned more than just a new word was that people with lower ego integrity fear death more.

Ego Integrity is when one comes to terms with his or her life and accepts it.  When one can find meaning or purpose in life, their ego integrity is high. Conversely, when an individual views his or her life as a series of failed and missed opportunities, then they possess a lower ego integrity.

This threw another spoke in the wheel for me.

At first I just flat out feared death, not knowing what will happen after dying was scary. Then I kind of shoved it away and continued living. Through my teens, twenties, thirties…It would pop up occasionally. When a friend unexpectedly died, I had to confront it, but for the most part I just kept hanging on to “I have lots of time left…” I shoved the fear as far back as I could and I continued.

I recently turned 50 and my fear of death has reared its head again but this time with good reason. 🙂 “You’re at the half-way mark”, folks are saying, “it’s your time”, “time is running out” that last one from my well meaning mom who is 86, whose mother lived to 100 – and it came on the heels of her asking me about whether I was accomplishing the goals I set for myself.

Which swung me back to a comment Rich Schefren made a while back in a post Beer, Bombs and Immortality. He said…

This may sound completely off the wall, but sometimes I really believe some people put off decisions because they think doing so will give them some sense of immortality. A sense of security that comes with avoiding the uncertainty of decision making. Like if they can just hold off on deciding, time will somehow glide to a stop. As long as they maintain the status quo, everything will continue on forever just like it has. Don’t cut the red or blue wire and the bomb won’t go off.

It is off the wall but I do connect and on some level I have been holding myself back from doing more and being more. Because of my fear of death, I feel that I can some how slow things down, and live forever (well as long as possible before I die!)

Freud says it’s ludicrous to fear death because we don’t KNOW what it is and so cannot fear it but I fear it and am ready to face this fear FINALLY head on – because it’s not going away and I can no longer run from it.

50th bday batI posted pictures on Facebook taken at my party held the day before my actual birthday. It was a wonderful time and I was thrilled with those who came and were able to celebrate with me. I cried a lot, laughed a lot and cried some more. Good times! On one of the pictures, one of my friends pointed out a bat hovering and she included a link on what does a bat flying into your life mean. Here was part of the explanation that stood out for me and that I wrote out in my journal:

Bat flying into your life signifies that transformation of the ego self is about to occur – the end of a way of life and the start of another. This transition can be very frightening for many even just to think about it. But you will not grow spiritually until you let go these old parts of you that are NOT NEEDED. Facing the darkness before you will help you find the light in rebirth.

To say that this knocked my socks off would be an understatement. I don’t believe in coincidences and DO believe that life is always giving us clues if we but pay attention.

Braveblogging31Fear is a word that we often use as an umbrella for everything we shy away from doing. In many instances we think that if we can just overcome this fear that we’ll be OK.

My death anxiety has taught me that to simply say that I fear death is just the tip of the iceberg. The real reward is in what I’ve learnt having now decided to confront it head on:

 

  • That I don’t fully accept who I am completely
  • That despite many achievements I still don’t fully embrace and honor what I have managed to do so far

But I am beginning to find my place, and beginning to use my voice (especially encouraged by Illana Burk’s Bravery Blogging Project) and I am awake enough now to realize that I have no power in staving off death – because it’s coming – but I do have the power to shape my life going forward, to live more meaningfully, more fully and as my friend Sally-Ann said in a tribute to me on my birthday

May your next 50 be healthy, uncomfortable, joyful and adventurous with your soul spilling all over this earth as a reminder to us all for generations to come that you were once here.

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