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 fear throughout their lives.  Typically, the young do not consider it, and the passing of loved ones constantly reminds the old of it. 

It is the amount that is the question.  To help shed some light on this issue, begin 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 death-related fears, there might 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 does not lend itself to self-diagnosis.

b. Manipulation Basics.

There is a high probability that the fear of death results from manipulation.   This may be the most significant 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 humanity.  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 by 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, social media, and entertainment venues.   This manipulation is so pervasive that it has its own section on this website.   This section shows techniques for spotting it, various fallacies, 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 essential 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 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, 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 were seriously injured or killed?  Were you hospitalized during the period 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 period.  This time, add questions regarding funerals.  Do you recall attending a funeral during this period?  Did it 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 you can, it suggests that you’re on the right track.  It’s a good time to seek professional help if you find the memories make you seriously anxious. 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 death, follow the earlier steps.  If your first thought relates to an animal’s death, it may be associated with running over an animal or the loss of a pet.  It is commonplace for grieving pet owners to carry burdensome guilt irrationally. 

Studies have shown that many pet owners suffer from PTSD-type depression after losing a pet. One of the fastest ways to reduce this depression is to get another pet. Neither you nor the new pet disrespects the loss of your lost pet. If you believe feeling better is disrespectful to your deceased pet, you allow 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 robust 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 made in a factory, like cell phones. This societal influence causes the “superego” to generate a guilt trip.
However, the human race is genetically designed to eat meat. It is a normal 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 cause 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.  They could pull the line and ring the bell if the person was not dead.  If you are afraid of coffins, chances are that they are related to being buried alive.

Take this simple test to determine whether the fear is of your death or of being buried alive. 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 signal sleep apnea and the fear of death. Did you choke on some food? Were you locked in a closet or packed room or paralyzed by 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. 

Concerning death, an overprotective parent often isolates 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 hear 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 overly protective for a parent to withhold a viewing of the deceased for a child under 10.  That is the decision of the parent. 

There are many books and publications dealing with over-protection.  Dr. Benjamin Spock advised parents 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 significantly influence death and the afterlife.  It is an excellent source of Joy.  This is discussed in more detail in the section discussing Religions.

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

There may be a religious connection if the fear of death involves a supernatural or underworld demonic creature. This is so common that it has its own named phobia called Daemonophobia. A consultation with mainstream religious leaders may be helpful whenever a suspected spiritual connection arises.

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 a 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.