Every single individual is unique, yet we all share one thing in common: death. We will all die at some point, but it’s up to each of us to overcome our fear of death, preplan and live our life to its fullest potential. For some, though, it is extremely difficult to accept this reality and openly discuss issues surrounding end-of-life, death and dying. In fact, most people don’t want to think or talk about death until it’s necessary, which can leave them woefully unprepared for the inevitable. Fortunately, there are countless solutions available to help us overcome this fear of death, and by doing so we can preplan to better prepare for our own passing and live our best life until then. This, in turn, will set a positive example for our own loved ones and the generations to come about the value of preplanning and prearranging.
What Is Fear of Death?
Fear of death comes in many forms, some more severe than others. The two most common and more severe forms include thanatophobia and necrophobia. Both are general, death-related anxiety disorders that can affect people of all ages and interfere with a person’s daily life and how they deal with death. In order to understand thanatophobia, it’s also important to discuss necrophobia because people often confuse the two.
Necrophobia is the fear of the dead and encompasses related associations like bodies, graves and funeral parlors, whereas thanatophobia is the fear of your own death. Necrophobia typically develops in children who have experienced a traumatic life event, such as a family member’s death.
A person diagnosed with necrophobia becomes extremely fixated on death to a point where it becomes mentally unhealthy. It’s crucial to seek treatment from a licensed mental health professional if you or someone you know suffers from necrophobia. Not seeking treatment can lead to other mental health issues like agoraphobia (fear of certain spaces or situations) and insomnia (difficulty falling or staying asleep).
Thanatophobia is the extreme fear of your own death. While thanatophobia and necrophobia share many similarities, the two have a distinct difference: people who struggle with thanatophobia may not fear others’ bodies, graves or funerals because their fear is centered around the possibility of their own death. This anxiety disorder can stem from experiencing a traumatic life event, but other risk factors include age, having a parent near death, poor personal health or chronic illness.
Thanatophobia affects individuals physically, mentally and emotionally. Common symptoms include:
Sensitivity to temperature changes
Avoidance of family, friends and places
These symptoms can severely alter a person’s mental state and way of life, so it’s important to seek resources or professional help to reduce symptoms and overcome this fear.
How to Overcome Fear of Death
The increasing awareness of mental health across our society means more solutions have become available to those who suffer from mental illnesses. If you struggle with fear of death specifically, there are several steps you can take to overcome your fear:
1. Talk to a Professional
You should never face your fear of death alone. Seeking the help of a licensed mental health professional can help you identify the root of your fear and set you up for success. Online platforms like BetterHelp do a great job of connecting individuals with the right professional who will lead them on a path to living a better and happier life.
2. Take Control of Your Life
Don’t let your fear control you. Instead, focus on what you can control in life like your everyday routine, who you interact with and your health. You can even take the next step and face death head on by preplanning and prepaying for your own funeral. This can ensure that your funeral service truly reflects your life and how you want your loved ones to remember you.
Other ways you can take control of your life include focusing on building and nurturing relationships that matter to you, setting regular goals for yourself and identifying what you need to do to reach those goals and sharing your goals with others so you can hold yourself more accountable.
3. Find a Support System
It may take months or years to overcome your fear of death, so finding a support system can help lift you up when you find yourself having a difficult day. Reach out to a licensed professional, your family and friends or an online support forum. You don’t need to struggle alone – chances are someone is going through a similar experience as you.
4. Take Care of Yourself
Taking time for yourself can make a huge difference in your mental state and outlook on life. Don’t spend too much time worrying about your death; instead, fill each day with joy by practicing self-care, doing what you enjoy and trying new experiences.
5. Reflect on Your Life
Finally, set aside time each day or week to reflect on your life. This time will allow you to look inward at how you’re progressing toward overcoming your fear of death and living your best life. Common methods of self-reflection include prayer, journaling, meditation and yoga.
Death is simply a part of life. By embracing it head on and taking the appropriate steps to overcome our fear of death, we can begin experiencing life more fully. If you or a loved one struggle with fear of death, know that you are not alone, and help is available to those who seek it.
At The Love Always Project, we believe that by accepting, embracing, and planning for death, we can ease the pain of friends and family while providing a final chance for connection. Access additional resources to help you and your loved ones prepare. Learn more about our mission and join the movement.