Are you consumed with thoughts about dying, dead people or objects? Have you got Death Anxiety?
Do you have consistent thoughts about dying and are you constantly trying to avoid them?
Death is an underlying, ongoing fear for many of us but as a rule, we don’t discuss or talk about it. Why? Because it reminds us of our mortality and the reality that one day we must all die. Most of us have passing thoughts about dying which are perfectly normal. However, a large majority of people are consumed by thoughts of death and dying, and for them, it can bring about extreme anxiety. This is known as Death Anxiety and it can make you feel jittery, jumpy and even horror-struck. Death Anxiety & thoughts about dying are usually suffered in silence and cause an inner turmoil and fear for the person in question. Read on to find out about the two different types of Death Anxiety.
There are 2 types of Death Anxiety
Thanato V Necro
One is the type of Anxiety caused by thoughts of Death, which is also defined as a feeling of dread, apprehension, or concern. It can also be when someone thinks of the process of Death or of how life ends. The scientific name for this type of Death Anxiety is Thanatophobia.
The second type is a fear of dead or dying beings or corpses and these can be human or non-human. Also of things associated with them, such as tombstones, graves, or graveyards. The scientific name for this is Necrophobia.
As you can see both of these types of Death Anxiety contain the words Phobia at the end of them and this gives a good indication of just how infirm they are to some people.
Thanato is a combining prefix form of a word from ancient Greek meaning Death. Necro is also a Greek prefix which relates to Death and dead tissue. Necro is also the prefix to Philia (meaning love) which is the sexual attraction to corpses.
To learn more about phobias, click this link https://tinyurl.com/y2932gn2
Pushing up the daisies – Not a lot of fun
Whether it’s our own experience or that of a loved one, it’s never easy to contemplate the end of life. However, most people have thoughts about death at some point in their lives, including me. I was Afraid of Dying and things associated with Death from a very young age (about 5) until I was well into my forties. I was 4 when I first remember my mum saying she was going to ‘put her head in the gas oven’ if we didn’t behave. She said it often when us kids were naughty. She also talked about when she’d be ‘Pushing up the Daises’. I never really understood the full impact of what she was saying but I somehow knew it was connected with death. Not a lot of fun!
Although I was a healthy child, I still had a Death Anxiety & thoughts about dying and believed that I would die soon. Worse than that, I thought that certain members of my family would die too. These were mainly my mum, my favourite aunt, and my eldest sister. I had other siblings but these three were my most beloved, the closest to me, and my main caregivers.
Mum – No thoughts about dying.
From as far back as EVER my mum was ill and yet bizarrely she had no fear of dying or death. When I was just 2 years old I spent 18 months in a children’s home while my mum was recovering from a major operation in a convalescent home. From then on I remember ambulances regularly arriving at our house to take my mum to hospital. It was a way of life; mum was always sick. Then when I was 14, in a brief sentence, my dad tells me “your mum is dying, she has only 6 months left to live”. I was then sent out of the room and that was that! Never again was this mentioned, not by anyone, ever! But not a day went by when I didn’t have anxiety about my mum and thoughts about her dying. Death Anxiety had gripped me.
My mum was the funniest person I’ve ever met. She was strong, witty, and fearless with a sense of humour to die for (scuse the pun). Never did I hear her complain or moan about her endless pain or her poor health and each time she neared death, she beat it yet again and came back fighting fit. She never talked about her near death experiences nor did she ever mention any thoughts about dying. Well, not unless it was a gas oven jobby.
This was beginning to take it’s toll on me and by the time I reached 16, I had some very weird feelings. I felt scared and isolated but worse of all, I didn’t know why. My head was always fuzzy and everything felt surreal. I had no real sense of who I was or what my place was in the world. The crazy thoughts & strange feelings I had were disorientating.
Death Anxiety: The Mother of all fears
I don’t believe Death Anxiety comes out of no-where. And while a lot of doctors put it down to a GAD (general anxiety disorder), I disagree. In contrast, I don’t think GP’s ever explore it enough with their patients. I also believe a lot of psychologists are usually looking for some different, underlying, psychological reason. This could be because a lot of practitioners are uneasy themselves about the subject and therefore, they make such assumptions.
In my experience I think that until we can look death in the face ourselves, we can neither embrace it nor can we give guidance. Thoughts of death really are The Mother of all fears and thinking of our mortality can terrorise us. However, I believe Death Anxiety cannot take a firm root in the heart of a person who is truly satisfied with their life. When someone has suffered a traumatic experience in there earlier life, they need to explore what happened and the circumstances. Before a person can overcome their fears they need to discover what initially triggered the Death Anxiety.
What’s the point of living
It’s not easy to feel happiness when you are constantly worrying about the uncertainties of death. It becomes like a fear of living a good life because what’s the point if it’s going to be taken away from us? So, can you can face it head on and understand it? If yes, the worrying and fear ceases. The more you embrace ‘life’ the less frightened you will feel about giving it up when the time comes.
As a Therapist I have seen many people with Death Anxiety, including many children. It becomes apparent quite quickly where this has manifested from, especially with children. Once the type of anxiety and where it comes from is established, the work can begin.
A baby and more Death Anxiety
When my daughter was born, my mind became engulfed with thoughts of ‘she’s bound to get ill and die‘ and ‘what if I die, who will look after her?’ When she was sleeping I was always checking to see if she was still breathing. Thoughts about dying, death and illness consumed me. What was going on? Fear gripped me and I didn’t know what to do. Who would understand when I didn’t have a clue myself.
Dear GP … I’m afraid of Death. Huh?
After many years of head float-y, disengaging, disorientating feelings I decided to go and see my GP. By now I was afraid of loud noises, I.e ambulance sirens, telephones ringing, shouting, crying and much more. To this day, I still don’t like them. I was far too embarrassed to tell the doctor any of this because I felt silly, besides, I thought he would think I was mad and in a way, I was! That was a pointless exercise that brought about more anxiety than I needed. If you think you may have Death Anxiety, speak up. Now!
Curtains for my precious: Grief V Relief.
Devastation! Almost 20 years later, when I was 40, my mum passed away. She was very sick and had a horrible death.
Sadness engulfed me beyond belief and I sobbed uncontrollably for days. I was numb and felt very confused and lonely. I thought that the world would automatically know how I was feeling and be nice to me but alas, no one knew a thing. The horrible dread that had been hanging over me for most of my life had become a reality.
However, alongside all of the grief there was a sort of relief. This was bizarre! I didn’t have to worry anymore that she would die because my mum was dead! I no longer had Death Anxiety or thoughts about dying, however, in it’s place there was a different type of pain and this was of loss and isolation. There was an emptiness and a raw burning sensation running through my veins. Although it was horrid it was somehow more manageable.
Furthermore, I understood these new feelings and where they were coming from, I also knew why they were there. There was no confusion; I was grieving the loss of my beloved mum. It sounds crazy but I felt a strange comfort in all of this and so I decided I would make friends with this new feeling. After all, it couldn’t hurt me anymore and besides I felt safe. I did my best to embrace my sadness and love it rather than to push it away. Consequently, after a while, my head felt lighter, my body felt looser and my mind felt at ease. I had an inner peace that I’d never experienced before.
One foot in the grave – no-more.
I decided it was time to take the reigns to try and understand myself and the meaning of my life (or death for that matter). Firstly, I realised that I had not been living on my own terms and that I had been existing mechanically; like a robot. My thoughts of dying and my Death Anxiety had taken over my life and I felt like I had no control. I had deprived myself of the most important thing I could possibly desire and that was life itself.
I was never very kind to myself and therefore, needed to explore my self destructive behaviour. And because I was always edgy and on my guard with people it led me to be argumentative and protective. When people were kind to me I thought I was being tricked and so it was difficult to trust anyone. I was vulnerable and this made me defensive. I needed help; in the shape of some self awareness. I had to trust myself and believe that life was Okay. I decided to get to work on my Death Anxiety & thoughts about dying.
Follow this link to read more about me in my present day situation. https://www.thehovecounsellor.co.uk/about/
Keeping Death Alive.
I started out by working on what exactly bothered me about my own death. It wasn’t easy as many things popped into my mind. First I had to work out the things that didn’t bother me like “how will I be disposed of” and “where will I be laid to rest“ There are many things that are unimportant to me about dying but once I had weeded them out I was able to look more directly at what was most fearful to me. Being deprived of my loved ones sent my heart racing and gave me sweaty palms so I knew this was the first thing to explore. In a state of not being and losing my legacy were also a big worry to me. They still are but I’m not fearful of them.
We’re in this demise together
We are all part of a great cycle that we are in together and we have to go through the same thresholds; Conception, birth, and death. There are many other fears that can run circles around in a persons head and It feels scary. It makes us anxious and can have a big impact on a person that’s trying to live a healthy day to day existence. However, a good start is to face the reality of death and study it.
Thoughts about death and dying can come from many situations and as I demonstrated earlier, it is clear where my Death Anxiety manifested from. This could be you. Maybe you have a fear of dying but you’re not sure which type you have or where it started.
Remember you are not alone with your fears because nearly every one has had thoughts about Dying in some way or another. From the moment we are born we are united in the same process which is to die. Therefore, we share the same concerns and while some people fear it more than others, there is also some degree of fear that is healthy. If you didn’t have any fear of death at all you would put yourself in significant danger.
Is life passing you by?
Whilst I do not put my life in deliberate danger, I don’t worry nor get anxious about Death or dying anymore. Although I am aware of the terrible illnesses around, I try to remain calm in the face of death.
My family are of the greatest importance in my life and their well being takes precedence over everything. It goes without saying that I love them dearly and of course I don’t want pain or debilitation for any of them. No person or animal on this earth should suffer in any way but I’m aware that it’s out of my control, therefore, I try to accept things as being what they are. Worrying purely serves to assist.
I am not Superwoman nor do I have all the answers but I am overdue this freedom of Death Anxiety and thoughts about dying by more than 25 years and so now my purpose in this life is to exist and just be.
In conclusion, I realised that keeping death Alive is the awakening of how to Live.