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Mr. FL
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Date Joined Nov 2009
Total Posts : 19
   Posted 11/14/2009 12:55 PM (GMT -7)   
I looked at some of the messages here. This looks like as good a place as any to discuss my problem. As you can see from the subject line, it's fear of death.

I do sometimes have trouble with this while going to sleep, like langfoec, but for the time being that seems to be under control ( like some folks, I listen to music and this distracts me). Still, I do have what seems like a quiet beast lurking in the background.

It was slightly comforting to find that there is someone with a similar experience with fear of death--author Julian Barnes, who wrote the fairly recent Nothing to be Afraid of. The title is something of a pun--his fear, like mine, is that upon death there is nothing, and that is what is so frightening.

Yes, I do have a therapist. My therapist said that participating in an online discussion would be a good idea. I thought so too. So here it is. Hope we can help each other.

Frank (not my real name)

Mr. FL
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Date Joined Nov 2009
Total Posts : 19
   Posted 11/14/2009 1:33 PM (GMT -7)   
Followup just to be clear--by no means am I recommending that book to anyone. This is not an advertisement. In fact, as far as relieving anxiety, it's not particularly useful. It just happens to describe the way I feel myself.

Frank

Willowrose
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Date Joined Oct 2009
Total Posts : 699
   Posted 11/14/2009 2:45 PM (GMT -7)   
Frank,

Glad you found this site. The people here are supportive and understanding. I hope it will be the resource you anticipate.

I am curious about what you said regarding the anxiety being associated with a fear that there is nothing more upon death. Do you think you would feel more comfortable with the prospect of dying if you knew there was something else waiting for you? I only ask because my own anxiety around dying has mostly to do with the process of death itself, and the sorrow of leaving those I love, and not with what is or may be "on the other side." In some ways the idea that there is something else is more scary because I don't know what that would be like. And the prospect of moving on into another world with consciousness of the one I left behind is very disturbing to me. I find the thought of death as the end of it all more predictable and thus less threatening. These ponderings, of course, leave out any secular considerations one may have. I know you're not recommending it, but the book sounds interesting. If I ever spent any time considering death from that perspective, it was a long time ago. Now that I am closer to it, another look could be enriching. I hope you will find what you need here, and good luck with your quest for an answer.

Rose
I have Lyme; it doesn't have me.


Mr. FL
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Date Joined Nov 2009
Total Posts : 19
   Posted 11/14/2009 3:17 PM (GMT -7)   
Rose,

Thanks for your welcome and reply. You raise a good point, that after death there could be something that is worse than nothing, and now that you mention it, of course there must be many people who worry about this. My situation is that I seem to have been raised to believe that there is nothing after death, and that is what scares me. Could there be something worse? Or for that matter, better? I'd like to think so, but I seem to be unable to accept religious answers. Which is Barnes's problem also. Why that is, I don't know. Yet, anyway.

Frank

stkitt
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Date Joined Apr 2007
Total Posts : 32602
   Posted 11/14/2009 4:42 PM (GMT -7)   
Hello Mr. Fl and welcome to HealingWell and the A & P Forum.


Many people are curious about death which is normal as long as you do not let it turn into a phobia that runs your life. Often people fear death as they have experienced the loss of a loved one at a young age and they are traumatized.



Death is only a part of life. I know we hear that all the time, but if you think of it that way, it's not as terrifying.



My best advice for this evening, live life to the fullest.



Again a warm welcome to HW.



Kitt

loverain
Regular Member


Date Joined Apr 2009
Total Posts : 218
   Posted 11/14/2009 6:58 PM (GMT -7)   
Frank,
As a Christian I do believe in life after death.  I've lost four sisters within three years...the last three passed in the space of one year.  I think I will be reunited with them and with my Mom and Dad and all my loved ones who have passed when I leave this world.  It comforts me to think of being with them once again.  I am not ready to leave this world yet...but I am not afraid to leave when the time comes.
 
I'm trying to understand why you would be afraid of death if you think it will be the end of you and there is nothing afterwards.  If there is nothing you will not know it as you will have ceased to be in every way shape and form...so what is to be afraid of?  You will not know anything once you have died if this is the way it is for you.
 
I agree with Kitt...we must live life to the fullest.  I, for one, am doing just that even though I have anxiety to contend with amongst other not so fun things to deal with.  I do sympathize with you and the fear you have...I hope you will find a way to deal with it.
Joni

Willowrose
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Date Joined Oct 2009
Total Posts : 699
   Posted 11/14/2009 7:29 PM (GMT -7)   
Frank,

In my thoughts about death, I have struggled to understand a world without me in it. That sounds grandiose, but I don't mean it that way. It's just that my thoughts about the world include me because I am doing the thinking. It's all in my frame of reference. I know intellectually that the world existed before I was in it, and that it will go on after I am gone, but on some visceral level, it confuses me. It would be helpful to know what becomes of "me" when I die, whether I am energy of the universe that will rejoin other energy, whether I am a spirit who will inhabit another vessel in time, whether I am a child of God awaiting a return to my lost loved ones, or whether I am nothing more than a consequence of biology who will be entirely gone when my body dies. It's interesting to think about, but any answer necessitates a certain amount of faith. If you can't find that faith, and you need an answer, I can understand how that would be anxiety producing.

When I confront anxiety, and I do so frequently, what helps me most is to remind myself to live in the moment. To enable me to do so I have to accept that there are things I can know, and things I can only believe. For example, I am very sick. I believe I will get better, but I don't know that. I don't like the uncertainty of not being able to know things that are important to me, but that's a reality I can't change. I think it's really good that you are exploring this; I just hope that you can get to a place where you can do so in a way that doesn't cause you anxiety. And I hope you can put it aside when it becomes overwhelming so that it doesn't color your todays.

Rose
I have Lyme; it doesn't have me.


Mr. FL
New Member


Date Joined Nov 2009
Total Posts : 19
   Posted 11/14/2009 10:03 PM (GMT -7)   
Thank you all for your thoughtful comments.

Kitt, your point is well taken. And in fact, somewhere I once heard someone say "Life is for the living", and that statement has helped me tremendously many times.

Joni, I suppose it makes a big difference that you are religious and I am not. Let's see if I can explain further. So why does it bother me (and others, like Barnes) if there is nothing after death? It seems painfully obvious to me. I am sad when anyone I know dies, especially sad if they die at a young age. So why isn't it natural to be fearful of being sad for my own death as well? I suppose that because you believe in afterlife, the death of your loved ones bothers you less? If so, perhaps you are correct, and I envy you for having that additional insight that escapes me. But if I am correct--well that is what I am afraid of. I would be happy to be proven wrong.

Frank

Mr. FL
New Member


Date Joined Nov 2009
Total Posts : 19
   Posted 11/15/2009 8:34 PM (GMT -7)   
Rose,

Your last post required some deeper thinking.

There was a time when I recognized that after death, one's body decays, and becomes nutrients for other organisms, and so goes on. This used to satisfy me when I was younger, but these days I don't find it to be enough.

As for the rest, most of the time I do manage to live in the moment, with plenty of distractions of everyday life. It's those quiet and peaceful times, usually at night, when those panicky thoughts can emerge.

By the way, Kitt, you have me pegged. I am one of those people who lost a relative when I was a preschooler. It wasn't someone I knew well, but it did make me aware of death. Maybe if the grownups had said "Don't worry, he's going to Heaven", then things would be different. But what I was told was more like "it's like going to sleep with no dreams". Ever since then, when I think of sleep, I think of death.

Frank

Willowrose
Veteran Member


Date Joined Oct 2009
Total Posts : 699
   Posted 11/16/2009 10:22 PM (GMT -7)   
Frank,

I am sorry you had that experience as a child. Having someone tell you in your formative years that death is like going to sleep with no dreams must have been confusing. Sleep is a healthy time of healing and rejuvination for the body and mind; death is another thing entirely. You now know the likelihood of your dying while sleeping is astronomically small, but it sounds like that impression from long ago remains. Sometimes when I'm feeling anxiety about something, thinking about what I want the reality to be helps me to better understand what is bothering me. Regarding what is after death, have you thought about what you would like the answer to be? What answer would ease your mind about sleeping?

I am glad to hear that most of the time you do not have these panicky thoughts. I hope that as you consider this further on your own and with your therapist you will find a way to overcome the feelings of panic and anxiety so that this exploration you're doing is driven more by a desire to know than by a need to know.

Rose
I have Lyme; it doesn't have me.


Mr. FL
New Member


Date Joined Nov 2009
Total Posts : 19
   Posted 11/16/2009 10:38 PM (GMT -7)   
Rose,

I really appreciate your post; it seems like you understand where I'm coming from. To answer your question, what would I want death to be? I can think of a couple of answers. One is to not die, i.e. immortality, though that does also have some disadvantages. I've also read Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian Weiss, which talks a particular version of reincarnation. That seems OK but I find it hard to believe. The Christian version of afterlife is also appealing, but again I find it hard to believe.

I usually don't fear that I might die in my sleep. I did go through a time when I had surgery scheduled, and I was convinced that I would not wake up after anesthesia. I had to research a lot and convince myself that the chances of survival were really very good, and made it through.

Frank

Willowrose
Veteran Member


Date Joined Oct 2009
Total Posts : 699
   Posted 11/19/2009 2:18 PM (GMT -7)   
Frank,

It is good to hear that you were able to work your way through a fear of anesthesia by doing research. I always find that information calms my fears. If that is also true for you, I can see how a lack of definitive scientific information about the possibility and parameters of an afterlife would pose a problem. When you talk in your posts about what you want death to be, you seem to want proof. That leaves me wondering what is the bigger issue for you, the prospect that it may all end when you die, or the prospect of not being able to know with certainty what will happen when you die. Or something else. I only bring that up because in my own experience, understanding the question as closely as possible has in itself been an answer of sorts.

Rose
I have Lyme; it doesn't have me.


Cyrano
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Date Joined Dec 2008
Total Posts : 16
   Posted 11/19/2009 4:03 PM (GMT -7)   
I think that it is rational to fear eternal nothingness, assuming that the human mind can at least grasp what eternal nothingness entails. There is nothing in the hard sciences which points to the plausibility of an afterlife, in any form. If one is scientifically-inclined, one is basically backed into an empirical corner and must assume that death is eternal nothingness. Since that's the case for me and many non-religious individuals, it seems that death is quite fearful because eternal nothingness entails that one can no longer experience or perceive anything. Never returning to consciousness has profound implications when it is reflected upon. It implies that we live 7-10 decades and then never experience anything again. I personally don't welcome anything that would remove my awareness...forever. If one does welcome it, it seems that one needs a justification for such a stance. Welcoming eternal nothingness cannot be the rational, default position.

What justifications have philosophers entertained? Well, there's torture and prolonged pain. However, pain can eventually end and one could continue to live. Medical technologies are constantly advancing. Death removes that potentiality, so I'm not convinced that a person in pain can rationally choose death.

Basically, I think that a non-religious person should focus on a potentiality that will allow for the continuation of their life, either through anti-aging technologies or even cryonics. Focusing on such things alleviates most if not all of the fear of death, because such technologies are not fabricated or impossibly organized. In other words, they are the rationalist's substitute for faith. Without them, it seems that one is forced into a corner, that corner being the realization that eternal nothingness is imminent.

Mr. FL
New Member


Date Joined Nov 2009
Total Posts : 19
   Posted 11/20/2009 9:21 AM (GMT -7)   
Cyrano,

Sounds like you and I see this death thing pretty much the same. Rose, did Cyrano's post make sense to you?

Cyrao, have you also read Julian Barnes? If not, you might find it interesting. He doesn't have a solution, of course, but he does go into a lot of detail, and at least makes it amusing.

Years ago I read a lengthy newspaper feature about a man who spent his life searching for a scientific means to attain iimmortality. This was some decades ago, and he was becoming elderly and held little hope for success. I'm sure he is dead now. That's what happens to all of us, yet if we dwell on it, we waste the short life that we have.

The other day I heard Cabaret on the radio. Hadn't really paid attention to the lyrics before. "Start by admitting from cradle to tomb isn't that long a stay."

I hope we can continue this discussion.

Thanks,

Frank

Cyrano
New Member


Date Joined Dec 2008
Total Posts : 16
   Posted 11/20/2009 6:21 PM (GMT -7)   
Frank,

Yes, I would be happy to talk more with you about the subject.

Cyrano

Willowrose
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Date Joined Oct 2009
Total Posts : 699
   Posted 11/20/2009 8:39 PM (GMT -7)   
Frank,

I like your reference to the lyrics of Cabaret. It’s interesting to read what you and Cyrano are thinking about. I see parallels between eternal nothingness as Cyrano wrote about it and the confusion I feel when I struggle with the concept of “no me” when, necessarily, any understanding I could have of that concept involves “me.” I can’t step outside my frame of reference to understand something beyond it without either the presentation of more information (in which case my frame of reference is expanded), or faith. If, as a rationalist, you discard faith; are your fears diminished by a focus on “a potentiality that will allow for the continuation of … life?” Put another way, if you can’t find comfort in the belief that there is an afterlife or another life, is there comfort in the conviction that scientific advances will facilitate a longer life or a renewed life?

Is Julian Barnes the author or the name of the book? It sounds interesting.

Rose
I have Lyme; it doesn't have me.


Mr. FL
New Member


Date Joined Nov 2009
Total Posts : 19
   Posted 11/20/2009 9:19 PM (GMT -7)   
Julian Barnes is the author of the book, Nothing to be Afraid of. In this fairly short book, he references many European philosophers, with an emphasis on French and British, I think, he being British himself.

It sounds like Cyrano is focussing on the possibility of scientific advancements to extend life. I don't know if he would call that "comforting", but I will let him can speak for himself.

I wrote my earlier post a little hastily. I was trying to say in the example I gave that maybe I don't have hope that science will give a solution in time to help me. Maybe, but maybe not. The older I get (I'm in my 50's), the more there is the sense of time is running out. On the other hand, I do have a little hope that maybe there will be some scientific evidence of an afterlife, like reincarnation. A little, but not a lot. There are a lot of scams out there, as Penn and Teller could tell you, and Houdini did before them.

Rose, you mentioned that you are very ill. I have been treated for cancer (that's what the surgery was for), and so far I'm doing well. But that is certainly the type of thing that makes to confront your mortality. It's interesting that you struggle to comprehend a world without you. I'm not sure if you were asking for help on that, but if you were, I suggest getting to know people who are much older than you. If you know them well enough, parents or other relatives perhaps, then you may approach an understanding of the world before you were born. On the other hand, you could get to know people younger than you, and find out if they also have trouble understanding the world before they were born.

Frank

Naps With Cats
Regular Member


Date Joined Jun 2009
Total Posts : 66
   Posted 11/20/2009 9:23 PM (GMT -7)   
I realize this is a totally different take than has been mentioned and hope it's okay that I enter into the existing conversation.
 
Ever since I planned to suicide, lowest, darkest abyss I'd ever been - completely lost all faith in higher power that whole time and saw nothing in my future at all, then looked into the eyes of one of my cats that really communited well with me - just connecting - I forced myself to a hospital, I've lost all fear of death and up until recently (a little trauma going on) I hadn't thought about dying at all. My only fear was if I was going to be in pain before dying as a boyfriend of mine died in my arms from Melanoma and even on all the Morphine and stuff he was on, I saw his pain.
 
My message is that I don't even care what happens after I die anymore.  I know what I would like, and that's what I concentrate on when those thoughts enter, and that would be to go to animal heaven and not be around any humans at all, ever, ever again.  (Just my wish). 
 
I just fear pain which is why I already have given my Health Care Directive to my brother and Will to my sister.  The Healthcare Directive stating give me whatever pain medication I need to keep me out of pain even if it hastens my death (in case of an accident or something).  If I'm going to go, I'm going to go without pain as I've lived much of my life in pain.
 
That's just my little addition.  I (obviously) belong to the Depression group, too - lol.
 
Julie O'
 


Cyrano
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Date Joined Dec 2008
Total Posts : 16
   Posted 11/20/2009 10:05 PM (GMT -7)   
Frank and Willow,

I haven't read Julian Barnes' work. I'll have to research him. I don't think that one has to or necessarily wastes one's life by pursuing a route which will extend one's longevity. In fact, many life extension advocates actually live more enjoyable lives because their healthy habits allow them to visit the doctor less and stave off seasonal illnesses. Obviously, chronic, genetic, or other serious diseases change that scenario to a small or great extent. However, as a whole, one can enjoy life to a great extent while still keeping one's eye on a technological method to reverse aging or avoid death. Obsessions are not healthy, but I'm certainly not advocating an obsession with avoiding death. I simply think it's perfectly rational to look forward to continued life and to embrace an optimism which is likely to grow in concordance with the expanding medical research.

Willow, I do think it is possible to think of a "not-me" universe. One cannot perceive what that would be like or assign a certain feeling applicable to a "not-me" universe, but I think eternal nothingness is conceptually conceivable. Just think of it as a dreamless sleep as Socrates entertained. Although, sleep is only sleep because people wake up from it.

-Cyrano

Cyrano
New Member


Date Joined Dec 2008
Total Posts : 16
   Posted 11/20/2009 10:09 PM (GMT -7)   
Frank,

I'm not quite sure what you mean by the possibility of scientific evidence supporting an afterlife? Afterlife conceptions belong in the realm of faith, do they not?

-Cyrano

Willowrose
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Date Joined Oct 2009
Total Posts : 699
   Posted 11/21/2009 12:51 AM (GMT -7)   
Julie - Thank you for adding another perspective to the conversation. I think not caring what happens when we die makes sense. We can't know what will happen. We are left either believing in something more, wondering if there is something more, deciding there is nothing more, or deciding not to believe or wonder. And sometimes struggling in the trenches of life doesn't leave the time, energy, or desire to spend time thinking about death. Your story about the defining moment in your life where a meaningful encounter with your cat compelled you to get the help you needed really touched me, and was to me a reminder that not thinking about death is itself a worthy goal. It sounds like you've had a hard time; I hope that turns around for you. I share your love for animals, and the experience of finding comfort in the unconditional love from my pets. By the way, I love your forum name, "Naps With Cats."

Rose
I have Lyme; it doesn't have me.


Naps With Cats
Regular Member


Date Joined Jun 2009
Total Posts : 66
   Posted 11/21/2009 8:45 AM (GMT -7)   
Hey Willowrose,
 
It's definitely one less worry!  So happy to hear for your love of cats, they are
my breath.
 
Mr. FL, do you happen to have any pets?  I ask because I'm curious of what kind of bond you have with them if you do have pets.  Also, they can take your mind off of EVERYthing!  Especially when they're being little whooper-snappers!!
 
(I have 10 cats, 5 of which are very special needs and it's a lot of joyous work that takes my mind off of a lot of things going on at the moment.  (I was a volunteer/foster/adopt-a-pet-er which is how I ended up with so many - I had to quit volunteering because of this because I see I can't volunteer and leave cats suffering there).
 
I don't like to get too deep into things myself (except when I have the runaway thoughts or a sudden PTSD flash that throws me into fear and crying and the like), but overall, a happy, stress-free life with my cats is all I wish for. 
 
Julie O'
 

Mr. FL
New Member


Date Joined Nov 2009
Total Posts : 19
   Posted 11/21/2009 10:02 PM (GMT -7)   
Cyrano,

I guess you've pointed out that I'm not completely, totally rational. Specifically what I was thinking of was Brian Weiss's books. He is an MD who uses hypnosis to bring out memories of past lives in people. Maybe because he's an MD, his depiction of reincarnation is more scientifically plausible than many. For example, that the lives people remember are usually nobodies, ordinary people, rather than the famous. Still, the sceptic in me says that this could be (i) an intelligently created scam, or (ii) an honest description of some detailed fantasies.

Naps, I have a wife and teenagers, does that count smilewinkgrin ? We also have a guinea pig in the house, and several goldfish. All get along well. I raised many guinea pigs when I was young and always liked them. For that matter, I also like dogs, cats, and birds, but never had them as members of the household. But, back to the family, it is wonderful having them around. On one hand, they keep my anxiety lower, on the other hand, they are part of the reason I enjoy life and would miss it.

Frank

Naps With Cats
Regular Member


Date Joined Jun 2009
Total Posts : 66
   Posted 11/21/2009 10:31 PM (GMT -7)   
Mr. FL:
 
Guinea Pig and Goldfish count as pets!  lol  Wait!  Take that back, they are ALL family!  :o)
 
By the way, I have read and still have Many Lives, Many Masters an kept it because I do want to read it again.  I found it facinating!!
 
[Off Topic]:  Have you read "The Minds of Billy Milligan" by Daniel Keys?  It's about a mutiple personality guy (true story) with, like, 33 or so personalities.  Amazing book!


 

Post Edited (Naps With Cats) : 11/22/2009 8:51:59 AM (GMT-7)


vestabula
Veteran Member


Date Joined Nov 2008
Total Posts : 2855
   Posted 11/22/2009 8:46 AM (GMT -7)   

Hi Frank 'not your real name'!

Personally, I'm not afraid of death...just dying.  Like so many we see loved ones fade away and it's not a pretty sight.  However, if there's nothing, I won't care and if there is...what a wonderful surprise!  Unfortuntately the old 'he/she 'died peacefully in their sleep' is something I have never witnessed.  My grandfather was a minister...my grandmother a missionary and their strong belief in the hereafter allowed them to die with a sense of emotional comfort that makes me envious.

Donna


fibro, menieres disease, RLS, anxiety disorder, disc compression, scoliosis, spinal stenosis TMJ  Meds: valium Advil

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