How my death phobia has helped me live a better life.

I’m scared of dying

As readers of this blog will know I am scared of dying.  Not just a fleeting thought about dying every now and then, but proper panic attack, hot sweats scared.

It’s an actual phobia as well. I’ve not worked out yet whether or not this makes me feel better about it but it certainly makes me feel like I’m not alone.

I suffer with thanatophobia – the death phobia. I talked about how my fear of dying as I approach 40 has become stronger over on my blog  but actually since then a number of things have happened which have impacted on me in different ways;

People are around me have got really sick

A few people I know have either had a direct experience of a serious illness, or know someone who has experienced a serious illness which has then impacted on me in two ways;  one is guilt.

 I feel guilty a) that these terrible things haven’t happened to me when these people seem to fit and healthy  (I am deemed an  unhealthy weight and have a lifelong battle with managing it)  and b) I feel bad  that I am so worried about dying when they have far more reason to worry about it than I do. Wow can you just feel the anxiety hitting you over the head here??!

Our family dog just upped and died without any warning

One minute he was fine, the next minute he died. He wasn’t old, he wasn’t sick. Apparently it happens sometimes. It  was a terrible shock and in our family our pets are such a part of us that my Mum and Dad whose dog he was were really in shock, as were we.  

It just happened and it made me feel like life is so impermanent. That it can be taken away from us at any moment. This did not help with the phobia, as you can probably imagine!

Similarly another friend told me of a relative of theirs who one minute was fine and 24 hours later had died from a stroke without any previous signs that this might happen. It feels like life is so fragile, so delicate it can come up and hit anyone over the head without warning.

Death feels like it’s everywhere.

Now is that because I’m so aware of it at the moment or is it always everywhere, creeping it’s little black feet all over our lives, weaving in and out of homes and families and leaving a trail of footprints?

I don’t know the answer to this. I certainly know that I’ve been having to use mindfulness; breathing, meditation, listening to music to interrupt my thoughts to help calm down my panic. I usually feel panic at night-time, but recently it’s crept into my day time thoughts as well, particularly since the news of our dog, and people’s illnesses.

I have spent time letting it overwhelm me, feeling the palpitations of my heart (at least I knew it was still beating) getting stronger and stronger. At times I have not known how I will get through the feelings that threaten to consume me. 

Then I remembered I can be mindful, and started remember all my mindfulness techniques (deep breathing, grounding myself physically in the moment by what I can feel underneath and around me, accepting I’m scared but that it’s OK to be scared, meditating, bringing myself back from thoughts to my senses)  That’s definitely helped.

Mindfulness has made a difference

Since I started practicing those techniques, and I’ve heard of the news of friends and family’s ill health something strange has happened. I’ve started feeling more grateful for the life I have.

OK so I am spending every day in a battle to eat less which I end up pretty much losing and I have the odd ache and pain mostly in relation to working too hard, but actually I get up every day, I am free, I am loved, I get to see the sun set, I get to breathe clear, fresh air. I get to experience another day, full of possibility.  

Each night I get scared I say my little prayer to the universe – please give me another day of life. Each day I remember my worry about dying, I give thanks for the beautiful day I am experiencing. I feel more grateful for the life I am living, even if that life isn’t always easy.

So my phobia has had a positive effect in that I have found gratitude.

We can so easily take our life for granted can’t we? Grumbling about the little things; the bus was late, we can’t afford the latest gadget, someone isn’t talking to us, we can’t afford to go out at the weekend. I think we miss the point.

Every breath we have, every hour of life is such a gift. I know I  take it for granted sometimes. I think we all owe it to ourselves and those we love who are fighting for theirs, and those who lost their battle to live, to live a big life.

What does it mean to lead a good life?

It doesn’t mean make loads of money, buy a big house and a fast car (necessarily). It means to be the best we can be.

To embrace the new, the challenges, to be kind to one another, to appreciate the small things; the sun rising and setting, the autumn air on our face, the green in spring, the kindness of a smile from a stranger.

I never want to take those things for granted again. So why I’d rather not have a fear of dying, I’m also grateful I’ve experienced it, because it’s given me joy in living.

2 Replies to “How my death phobia has helped me live a better life.”

  1. That’s an interesting blog Jo, at least your fear has lead to something positive , realising the need to be grateful for the life you do have. You seem to be doing all the right things to combat your fear although I can well imagine it can make you feel very anxious at times.
    I don’t so much have a fear of dying but of the way I will die . I do take the view , however, that it’s a natural part of life and something we all have in common and everyone will experience at some stage. We all hope for a nice passing but when I hear of how some people suffer I think that death can actually be a blessing at times.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *