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John W. Travis, M.D. & Regina Sara Ryan
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Accepting Death

Many people claim that they don't fear death. When questioned further, they are quick to add:

. . . but I don't like to think of the sorrow it will cause my family or children."
". . . but I'm not ready for it to happen for a long while yet."
". . . but I want to go quickly."
". . . but I don't want to be laid out in a funeral parlor."

As reasonable as they sound, these statements imply a fear of sorts. Few people express no uneasiness at all about the subject of death.

Looking squarely at any of our fears about death, and being able to talk about them, can supply us with meaningful information about what holds us back from the full experience of life.

If you fear death because you fear the unknown, chances are this is the way you approach life - with fear, avoiding change, minimizing risk, keeping yourself secure in known routines.

To face death consciously, you must face life consciously - embracing your fears, kissing your monsters.

What do you fear about death?

  • The unknown that follows
  • The humiliation of giving up control
  • The loss of bodily functions
  • The separation from family and friends
  • The pain
  • The sorrow and hardship to family and friends
  • The surprise, not knowing the time or place
  • The sense of incompleteness, that you didn't do all you intended to do
  • The sense of meaninglessness, that you never found out your purpose in being
  • The unendingness of eternity
  • The experience of nothingness

Now look back over the fears of death that you have identified. Ask yourself: How do these fears reflect the ways I live, or fail to live, my life right now? What do fears of death tell me about my real fears of life?

Then have a dialogue with yourself about each fear in turn.

I have been able to function as a catalyst, trying to bring to our awareness that we can only truly live and enjoy and appreciate life if we realize at all times that we are finite. Needless to say I have learned these lessons from my dying patients - who in their suffering and dying realized that we have only NOW - "so have it fully and find what turns you on, because no one can do this for you!" —Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

<< Previous Death and Rebirth | Back to Finding Meaning | Next >> Dying with Dignity
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