Fear of Death

Those who fear death most    are those who enjoy life least. – Edward Abbey

If you have a fear of death, you are not alone.  Everyone owns a little of that throughout their lives.  Typically, the young do not consider it and the old are increasingly reminded of it with the passing of loved ones. 

The amount of fear is the real question.  To help shed some light on this fear begin with looking for the triggers.  

a. Hereditary, Biological, & Environmental Causes for Fear of Death.

Because of the enormous breadth, it is recommended to have a medical examination to eliminate some physio-chemical causes. For example, levels of serotonin, dopamine, and other bio-chemicals associated with neurotransmitters may trigger this fear.  If a parent or grandparent had/has fears associated with death, there may be a genetic connection.  Environmental chemicals may have an influence as well as radiation differences that change with elevation. 

Studies of identical twins separated at birth and subjected to different environments have shown many interesting similarities. [Kendler KS, Prescott CA, Myers J, Neale MC. (2003) The structure of genetic and environmental risk factors for common psychiatric and substance use disorders in men and women. Archives of General Psychiatry. 60:929–937.] 

This is a complicated and technical topic and requires some expertise.  Determining these causes do not lend itself to self-diagnosis.

b. Manipulation Basics.

There is a high probability that the fear of death is the result of manipulation.   This may be the largest component in today’s society.   The media, entertainment, and quasi-political industry have pushed emotional limits to the breaking point.  We are constantly bombarded with death scenarios.  There is an entire section devoted to manipulation and the details are explained in that section.

There are too many examples of manipulation to list, but a few recent ones include:  Nuclear annihilation was around every corner.  Hollywood gave us a nuclear meltdown to the center of the earth (which, coincidentally, is a scientific impossibility).  Pesticides like DDT were going to wipe out mankind.  Carbon Dioxide is going to cause a fireball earth.  And now we have pestilence from a viral pandemic (historically, no animal species has ever been annihilated from a virus).

  • All of these doom and gloom scenarios are false.
  • All of these doom and gloom scenarios are false.

  • All of these doom and gloom scenarios are false.

  • All of these doom and gloom scenarios are false.

They are meant to influence the human “superego” and create a gigantic guilt trip.  This in turn forces us to watch more television, more social media, and more entertainment venues.   This manipulation is so pervasive that it has its own section in this website.   This section shows techniques on how to spot it, various fallacies used, and how to cut through the propaganda.

c. Graveyards, Tombstones, Funerals.

Because some might become uncomfortable when viewing Tombstones, photo snapshots have not been inserted. 

Does driving by a graveyard, funeral home, funeral procession, or looking at photos of funerals cause you to think of dying?  If, so, it is important to note what popped into your head at that instant.  Timing is important. 

Learn more on the importance of first impressions in the Read More link below.

If your first thoughts were of your death, then the next thing is to try and remember when you began having these fears.  Narrow this period down to a 1-to-5-year span if you can.  Recalling where you were when that happened would be even more helpful. 

Next, try and remember if you witnessed or perceived (does not have to be real) any life-threatening or near-death traumas.  Were you in an accident where you or a friend was seriously injured or killed?  Perhaps you were hospitalized during period of time for an injury or sickness?  Maybe you were assaulted or the victim of a serious violent crime?  Did you witness a fellow soldier killed or seriously injured?  The list of potential reasons may be long. 

Were your first thoughts directed at someone else’s death like a friend or family member?   Again, narrow down the time period.  This time add questions regarding funerals.  Do you recall attending a funeral during this period?  Did the funeral make you incredibly sad?  Think back and recall if something happened during the funeral or the funeral procession?  Did you feel that someone was trying to communicate with you?  If so, can you remember what they said?  If these recollections are stressful, it signals that you may be on the right track.  At the same time, if you do find the memories produce some anxiety, it may be a good time to think about some professional help. Leading the rest of your life filled with stress is not worth it.  

d. Dead Animals.

Fear of dead animals is called Necrophobia.  Does seeing a dead animal or a movie of dead animals invoke anxiety? 

If your first thought is about your own death, follow the steps discussed earlier.  If your first thought relates to an animal’s death, then it may be associated with running over an animal, or the loss of a pet.  It is commonplace for grieving pet owners to irrationally carry a burdensome guilt. 

There are studies showing that many pet owners suffer a PTSD-type depression after the loss of a pet.  One of the fastest ways to reduce this depression is to get another pet.  Neither you nor the new pet is disrespecting the memory of you lost pet.  If you believe that feeling better is disrespectful to your deceased pet, you are allowing your false negative thoughts to rule your actions.   

Sometimes seeing dead animals triggers a guilt trip associated with humans eating meat.  Over the last 30 years, the media and entertainment industry have been engaged in a strong anti-meat crusade.  The killing of animals for food has been almost entirely removed from public view.  This leaves each subsequent generation believing that meat is manufactured in a factory, like cell phones.  This societal influence causes the “superego” to generate a guilt trip. 

The human race is genetically designed to eat meat.  It is a normal and natural aspect of our biology.  It is not a sin against nature to consume what our natural biology requires.  If animals stopped eating animals, it would result in the collapse of our ecosystem in less than 20 years.   Without predators, mice would consume most of the food sources in the world in a few years, and there are thousands of similar examples.  

e. Coffins.

This is a complicated issue.  It deals with both death and the fear of being buried alive.  They are different fears yet connected.  The fear of being buried alive was so common that they used to market “safety coffins.”  These coffins involved the use of a bell installed on the headstone with a string that ended in the casket.  That way if the person was not dead, they could pull the string and ring the bell.  If you are afraid of coffins, chances are that it is related to being buried alive or suffocation.

To determine whether the fear is of your death or of being buried alive take this simple test.  Look at a photo of a coffin.  If the first image that popped into your head was gasping for air, you most likely narrowed the root cause to being buried alive.  

Did you have a near drowning incident or witness one?  Getting stuck in a cave might be a trigger.  Gasping for air in the middle of the night might be a signal of sleep apnea and the fear of death.  

  Did you choke on some food?   Were you locked in a closet or tight room or paralyzed by a trauma or disease?  There are many potential traumas for you to explore. 

f. Overprotective Parents.

If there is no trauma and no manipulation, there is the possibility that an overprotective parent may be involved in triggering the fear. 

With respect to death, an overprotective parent will often isolate the child from visiting a dying friend, parent, or grandparent.  Death is a fundamental part of life.  Shielding them from that will likely cause fears and problems later.  Children should be told about an important death as soon as convenient and the words death or died should be used. 

They will be hearing those terms at school or from friends. Candy-coating the words will not protect them.  Crying or grieving does not hurt the child.  The child should be allowed to attend the funeral. 

On the other hand, it is not being overly protective for a parent to withhold a viewing of the deceased for a child under 10.  That is a decision for the parent. 

There are many books and publications dealing with over-protection.  Dr. Benjamin Spock’s advice to parents was to “loosen up, back off, and let the child go.”  Just love them, feed them when they are hungry, and don’t put them on a schedule.  He sold 50 million copies of his book in 39 languages. 

g. Religious Influences.

There is no question that spiritual beliefs play a calming influence over death and the afterlife.  It is a great source of Joy.  This is discussed in more detail on the section of discussing Religions.

  However, certain aspects of religions can impart a certain amount of fear.  These normally manifest themselves in the form of demons and devils, such as displayed in Dante’s Inferno.  Gargoyles are demons that adorn the roofs of many religious temples.  

If the fear of death involves a supernatural or underworld demonic creature, there may be a religious connection present.  This is so common that it has its own named phobia called Daemonophobia.  Whenever there is a suspected religious connection, a consultation with mainstream religious leaders may be helpful.  

Most of the time the trigger to these fears deals with manipulation by the entertainment industry or people who do not believe in God.

h. Personality Type Connection.

There is some evidence that a personality type may have a propensity to a particular fear.  For example, some believe that Type B personalities may be most affected by death.  That personality type is based on interrelationships. And death is the ultimate terminator of that relationship.  D-types might come in second, followed by A-types. 

i. Famous People with the Fear of Death.

A few famous people that have been known to have this fear include Sarah Michele Gellar, Emma Stone, Meryl Strep, Tom Cruise, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Madonna, Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt, Martin Luther King, Babe Ruth, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and a long list of other people.  

Those who feared being buried alive include Edgar Allan Poe, Hans Christian Andersen, Frederic Chopin, George Washington, Alfred Nobel, Auguste Renoir, etc. 

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