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Navigating Death Anxiety: Embracing Life's Uncertainties and Discovering Personal Empowerment

Updated: Aug 27, 2023

Do you guys ever think about dying?

It's not just Barbie who grapples with these big thoughts…

Does an unsettling feeling creep in when contemplating death, the after-life, and all the unknowns surrounding that big question: “what happens when you die”? The reality is: we all die, no sugar-coating this one. Not only do we all die, but we all think about dying; we are one of the only creatures that are conscious of the fact that we are facing mortality – we’re so lucky, I know!

Understanding Death Anxiety

Death anxiety is that sickening unease when considering our existence and how in the-blink-of-an-eye, it could easily end (and definitely will). My greatgrandmother used to say: “The two guarantees in life are death and taxes.” A little morbid, I know, but she has a point, right?

Depending on where we are in our lives, death anxiety can include feeling lonely, feeling helpless, feeling unsatisfied, fearing the unknown, pondering “what-ifs,” harboring regrets, and feeling shaken-up when considering our set of beliefs.

I’m overwhelmed just listing all these dreadful experiences!

This overwhelm can easily lead to a state of immobilization and difficultly living a motivated and active life style.

In this blog post, let's learn more about the intricacies of death anxiety and how to work through these struggles – looking honestly at death anxiety and exploring approaches for navigating life despite not having guarantees or definitive answers.

Fear of the Unknown

To my knowledge, no one has surpassed dying (and if you’re out there please raise your hand and throw us a bone – pun intended). While death anxiety is a complex emotion encompassing a range of thoughts and feelings associated with death, a large component of death anxiety is fear of the unknown. As humans, we really struggle with not knowing. Not knowing is often equated with feelings of insecurity, instability, and a lack of certainty. So, when we are faced with such a large unknowing, like death, it really throws us for a tail spin. We may begin to fear what will happen to us when we die, how we will die, and what we will leave behind.

Many of us try to make sense of death and dying and do so often through religious, spiritual, or philosophical views and practices. Having something to believe in aids in our footing and brings some semblance of ease. For some, it may be easier to think that what happens is part of “God’s plan,” or that our spirit remains long after our physical body perishes.

While these beliefs can aid in security, othertimes, such beliefs can drastically disrupt our realities when we are faced with a contradiction to such beliefs. For example, when a child passes away from cancer. This experience, or what I like to call, an existential crisis, can leave us feeling totally ungrounded and face-to-face with the reality that sometimes things do not make sense, and that our belief systems may only provide so much emotional support for anxieties as large as facing death and demise.

The unknowns are wildly inescapable. We, unfortunately, cannot research our way out of this one!

Conflict with Beliefs

While our beliefs have gotten us through the hard time, othertimes, our beliefs contribute to a spike in death anxiety. For example, we may believe we have “sinned” in having sex before marriage and may fear what this means for us when we’re standing at “Heaven’s Gates.”

Making space for controversy in our views, open dialogue, and reduced judgment can aid in allowing for your views to cultivate naturally.

Not Living a Life Worth Meaning

This one is a bit of a cliché, as you don’t have to save a family from a burning building in order to feel fulfilled in life. In fact, creating meaning may not be on your radar at all and that’s perfectly ok!

However, for some, living a life that has been described as “mundane” or “surface level” can also bring about angst as we age and as we come closer to our pending death. We may reflect on what our purpose has been, has our life been meaningful or “useful”? Or, will anyone even remember me if I were to die?

Thus, making efforts to get in touch with who you are, what is important to you, and how you’d like to live your life, regardless of how much time remains, can aid in further acceptance as we approach our untimely demise.

While death is a natural part of life, it doesn't make it any easier to grapple with. Yet, acknowledging these realizations of our purpose, responsibility, and authorship in our lives, can also be a catalyst for growth and change, helping us to live with greater meaning and purpose.

Regrets and “What-Ifs”

In the same vein of meaning, we may also experience death anxiety when considering regrets or “what-ifs” You may be thinking, what if I accepted that job, what if I stayed with my ex, or what if I studied law instead of accounting? The list of what-ifs is quite endless because there are zillions (is that a real number?) of other paths we could have taken. Every decision we have made, could have been replaced with an alternative decision.

Ok, ok, this post wasn’t supposed to get you more anxious about decision making. All this to say, it is important to trust your own intuition and utilize your values, beliefs, and desires to guide you in your decision making and accepting that there will ALWAYS have been alternative outcomes if you chose differently.

While we may regret not opting for alternative decision as we reflect on our history, some of us harbor regrets for things unfinished or statements unsaid. This can be extremely challenging to accept, as we cannot go back in time (again, if you’re out there, I urge you to please raise your hand)! In some instances we may have the option to confront some of our regrets, but for many of us, we cannot erase the past, undo something, or say something we wish we had.

Facing death anxiety, also means coming to terms with life’s passing time and all the “what-ifs” and “should-haves.”

Appreciating Our Moment

The fear of death can be all-consuming, especially when faced with moments that remind us of our mortality. Whether after an existential crisis, a traumatic incident, a life-changing diagnosis, a near-death experience, a confrontation with our religious beliefs, death anxiety can strike any moment.

Death anxiety is a natural response to the uncertainty of what comes next and during times of pondering what has already occurred. These existential thoughts, and confounding emotions can cloud our ability to appreciate the present. While it's important to acknowledge our mortality, it's equally important to remember that life is a limited resource. By recognizing that our time is precious, we can live in a way that allows us to savor our moment and appreciate what is right in front of us.

Life isn't a rehearsal; it's the real deal.

Living a Connected Life and Being Intentional with Our Choices

To confront our death anxiety is to confront uncertainty – our fears and anxieties become opportunities to redefine our sense of self in a similar light. Identifying what truly matters to us, what our values are, and what makes us feel fulfilled and connected is a crucial first step. It's about recognizing our passions, interests, and the connections we want to build in our lives.

Once we better understand our values and aspirations, we can make choices that align with them, ensuring that we live authentically. This might mean prioritizing our mental and physical health, fostering deep and meaningful relationships, or pursuing a career aligning with our values and goals.

Regardless of the path we choose, living intentionally is about making choices that resonate with who we are and who we want to be. It's about carving out a life worth living for us.

Accepting Our Limitations and Aging Bodies

Yes, we are going to get wrinkles, sunspots, gray hair, cankles, and shit leakage (ew). With each passing year, our bodies may not be as spry as they once were, but that doesn't mean we're out of the game. And it certainly doesn't diminish our worth as individuals.

Rather than dwell on our limitations, how can we focus on what our beautiful bodies are capable of and the amazing functions our organs accomplish in a given minute? Showing ourselves and others love, appreciation, and care allows us to have compassion for ourselves and others, fostering empathy and understanding as we continue to age.

While accepting our osteoporosis and high blood pressure is a great mindset to have, maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle is still important as we journey through the years. Staying engaged in activities that keep our minds sharp and our hearts happy is critical to our overall mental and physical wellness as we continue to climb the aging ladder. Accepting our aging bodies is not about giving up, but about adapting and finding new ways to live our lives with intention and health.

Embracing Humor and Little Moments in Everyday Life

My favorite way to muster through the years: humor. A great way to ease death anxiety is by embracing humor and cherishing small, everyday moments. Laughter has therapeutic power; it can lighten our mood, reduce stress, and help us gain a renewed perspective on life.

And the little moments? They're the spice of life.

Taking time to appreciate the little things in life - a hearty laugh, a beautiful sunset, the scent of fresh coffee - can bring a sense of calm and joy that counteracts feelings of anxiety and fear. So, laugh, dance, savor them like the last piece of chocolate in the box.

Concentrating on these moments allows us to be present and fully engaged in life, reducing our preoccupation with the end. Life, after all, is a collection of moments. By savoring these moments, we can lead a fulfilling life, defined not by the fear of death but by the joy of living.

Practicing Self-Care and Seeking Support

In the face of death anxiety, practicing self-care and reaching out for support are essential. Self-care is about nurturing your physical, mental, and emotional health. It involves activities that enhance your well-being - whether eating nutritious food, regularly exercising, meditating, or spending time with loved ones – ideally, all the above! Engaging in these activities can provide a sense of ownership over your life and diminish that overwhelming sense of anxiety.

Seeking support can take various forms - from opening up to a close friend about your anxieties to seeking professional help through therapists or support groups.

Having an outlet to express your feelings can alleviate the loneliness that often accompanies death anxiety. It's a reminder that you're not alone in your journey; there are people ready and willing to lend a hand, share wisdom, and offer comfort. Support can further aid in exploring how to navigate death anxiety, and how to live life with intention.

Together, self-care and support create a powerful toolset for navigating death anxiety and embracing life.

Recognizing Death Anxiety as Anticipatory: Nothing to Fear Once We Pass

Working through the anxiety of death involves understanding its anticipatory nature. Our anxiety and fear stems from the unknown that death represents rather than death itself. This fear is future-oriented, concerning something that has not yet happened.

It's important to recognize that once we pass away, nothing is left to fear. Death marks the end of our ability to feel fear or anxiety. By acknowledging this, we can see death as a natural part of life rather than something to be terrified of.

Recognizing the anticipatory nature of our fears can help us focus on the present moment and appreciate the variety of experiences life offers instead of dwelling on an uncertain future.

Embracing Empowerment: Living Intentionally Beyond the Grip of Death Anxiety

Tackling their fears and doubts is not just movie magic; it's a mirror of our lives.

Ultimately, death anxiety reminds us of our limited time on this planet. It is a call to action, a reminder to make the most of our time and live a connected life. While death can be frightening, it can also motivate us to make the most of our days and to live with purpose and intention.

You've got the tools now; it’s time to get back to the real world and use them. You can go back to your regular life and forget any of this ever happened. Or, you can shed the heavy, suffocating cloak of perfectionism and anxiety, and dive into self-discovery. Peel those layers of who you think you should be and find who you truly are.

Take the time for a quick breather and begin to make space to explore your passions. Embrace what truly excites you, whether painting, writing, running, baking, or something else. Don't hesitate to venture into new territories, and trust your instincts. When it comes to owning your decisions, embrace the sense of empowerment and independence it brings. Navigating through challenges – even death anxiety – is exhilarating when you author your path.


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Aug 15, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Could read this a zillion times over. such inspirational thought provoking content

& Barbie too !


Aug 15, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Love the connection to Barbie movie!

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