Fear of death? How does one attempt to overcome this fear?

I am here at work…well, killing time and thinking…and looking all over your site…to see what people, religious people in particular, think about death.

Of course, it’s something we can’t escape…we will all face it-some sooner than later. I recall one of my greatest fears when I started to realize that there was no omnipresent being that guided our destiny…was-well…this life is all we have. That’s it. That’s all.
What a sobering thought.

The type of job I have lends me to witness death…well, more than I desire, for sure…and-some people are so afraid to face it…they would rather see a loved one suffer-suffer terribly because of that fear…the fear of the unknown…of what lies beyond.
Now, me…I don’t know quite what to think. I tend to think that when we die…well, that’s all…but I do wonder. I wonder if our soul lives on. I don’t know.

However…what do you say to someone who is religious, is looking death in the face, and is afraid? What do you say? What do you do? I’d venture to say that I would be pretty cruel if I were to tell someone who is religious that I thought there was nothing.

Hum. What do you all think? IS there something else?

I rather like this quote of Epicurus’ - “Death is nothing to us, since when we are, death has not come, and when death has come, we are not””

You know…yeah. That pretty much makes sense. An eternal sleep…I rather like that explanation.
However. What if I wanted to ease a person’s fear who happens to think there is something beyond this life? I always seem to be at a loss…and am at a loss to comfort family members…well…I don’t know.

I think this is partly because in our society, death is something to be feared, you know?

Maybe, you will think me naive. But consider sleeping. Someone can be thinking and know they are thinking but also be asleep (this happens when driving quite often). The part of us that is aware seems to be seperate from the body. Is it such a leap to believe that when the body dies that you will still be thinking?

Well, I think you are very kind to want to give some comfort to a dying person who believes in God.

Most people, if you asked, would say they want to go to Heaven.
But the only way we can get there is to die first. I like to look at our existence as going through stages. We do exist, but have no memory of being a fetus. Then it was time to
make that big change of being born, which you can only do by leaving the womb. Then the life we are born into is all we know, until it is time for us to make our next big change, which we can only make by leaving this life. We have to leave this life to go on to our last big change, the one we have with God. Like I told my kids when they were learning to swim, you have to let go of one side of the pool to get to the other side.

God is our Father, and we are made in His image. He waits for each of us, with His arms open and waiting. He has been waiting our whole life for us to choose Him with the free will He has given each of us. He is waiting for us to come back to Him.

Thank you for the job you do, and the thoughtfulness you put into it.

Jesus,our Lords peace be with You.
Dear friend,and sorry for my bad english. It is normal to fear death,animals do it also,but I think we a moore afraid of how we die,not so much death as suchs. We can with our own life make sure we will travel up to the heaven. But in the other hand,we are also afraid to meet something we dont know. I am afraid of death,or rather,how I will die,I try to live so that I will take my final journey to heaven,not hell,but still I am afraid,and that fear,and this may seem strange,it is the fear of death that keeps us alive. Somewhere in France there is,so I’m told,a headstone with this text on it,“Die to Live”. But how to overcome the fear,once again I offer a advice linked to a Rosary,take in Your hand,feel it,You dont need to pray,just keep it in Your hand,and the fear will go away. Not for good,but know You know what to do the next time. See You in Heaven my friend,see You in Heaven.

Thanks, all of you, for your thoughts…it’s really hard to have to deal with the unknown…and-well…death is the ultimate unknown, you’d think.
We see patients that are-well…suffering in a sense because the family is so frightened to lose thier loved one…they refuse to give up-even when it’s pretty much impossible to give this person any quality of life back.
Case in point…not too long ago, we had a patient who was dying…nothing more could be done (the pt was on a vent, etc) and the body’s systems were shutting down…but the family still wanted everything done…so-here’s this person…the body shutting down, and still…we are doing everything for them.EEK.

The poor patient. They were really scared to let go…so sad. They went to-heaven? The big sleep? yesterday. This will not be the first…or the last pt. we will have to deal with…

Well, there really is no hope then. Life has little if any meaning, and we are soon forgotten after we pass. Unless.

And on our own, which is what we are if we believe in nothing past this earthly existence, we can conceive only of, perhaps, a cessation of pain and suffering - but what is that based on? A hope? When hope fails, anxiety and despair follow.

Ah, my former co-worker is in the last stages of cancer. Death is imminent. What to say? I reassure her of her beliefs and the promise of what eternity holds once time ends. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”. This was written almost 2,000 years ago. It is as comforting now as it was then, because it represents a timeless, unchanging truth.

I risked death for 30 years at work. Saw a lot of it. Have been at stage 4 with an aggressive, incurable cancer - a few months to live. Twice.

Was I stressed? A little. But much more was I certain that there actually is a Being directing everything in creation, and that the future held much more promise than the present. An unlimited, eternal promise. When I contemplate my own death, which can be any month now, I am at peace, and confident that all of the worries and concerns of this life are baseless.

If we believe in goodness, justice and love death is a blessing! It would be hell to be forced to live in this world for all eternity without any hope of escape from injustice, cruelty and unnecessary suffering. Better to die and be delivered from evil for once and for all…

When Christ calls a man, he bids him to come and die. The Christian journey is to die several deaths while living (and to be reborn) to know that resurrection does indeed follow death such that when the ultimate physical death occurs we can know our path is that of Christ’s.

How do you overcome it…By faith believing in God’s promises given to us in the sacred scriptures…I have been walking with Christ for nearly 40 years…Hope growing all that time…I have health problems from a work accident and long to shed this tent and receive my heavenly immortal one…It could be anyway with Christ’s soon return
or my own time being up…He provides a peace that defies understanding…

Having just skimmed over the answers I may repeat something but here goes…
You seem to be asking how you, a non-believer, can comfort someone who is religious and is afraid of death. An excellent question. I am also making the assumption that you are in the healthcare industry and maybe work at a nursing home?

The first thing I would say is that, inorder to comfort someone, it is helpful to work from where they are, and not where you are. By that I mean, work within their framework of belief rather than your framework of non-belief. Ask them gently why they are afraid. This will ellicit various responses about pain, leaving loved ones, the possibility of judgement and going to hell and so forth. Knowing that the person is religious then can help you respond to these responses in ways comforting to them For instance pain can be compared to the sufferings of Christ on the cross. Leaving loved ones will be only temporary - you’ll see them again. Judgement - pray for mercy and forgiveness for God is merciful…
I imagine that there are religious books available dealing with end of life issues, greif etc that might help you to better understand and be of service to your patients.

Most of all remember that some of the most powerful things you can do are the simplest. Hold their hand. Say a prayer with them (even if you don’t believe). Make sure they know that they are not alone.


You tell them they have nothing to fear, for the life they lived was worth everything. If they are religious, you comfort them and tell them heaven is waiting for them, because this is something they have believed all of their lives. There should be no reason to change their views just because they are dying. The phrase “Everything will be okay” will be the most comforting saying to most. You don’t have to believe it, but don’t let the person deny the God they have so longed believed.

I agree that this could be an acceptable way to view death, but here is the problem. When you are dreaming, the brain releases DMT (a hallucinating chemical) which causes us to have this ‘real’ dreams. The problem is how would you be able to think without the body which contains the organ you think with!? (brain)

I kinda sense you are asking for you. Being around death would provoke such questions. As far as religious people, well, are they religious? I know how I would help someone who was Christian, Jewish or Muslim, but an atheist, I’d be at a lost. I, as one with a Catholic faith, I might try at first to evangulize. Other than that, it sounds like where you work the patients have had time to come to grips with the inevitable. We all face death, just like we all face life. We are only here for a short time. Some realize this early, some divert thinking about it until they have a morphine drip in their arm.

God help you in your quest.

I think it’s human nature to want to hold on to those that are close to us. The devistation of losing a loved one is often overwhelming. I don’t think it matters your religious affiliation or not. And it can cause some of us to act perhaps even irrationally. So, as a fairly normal human, I don’t want my children to die, or my friends to be killed in wars, or even for my parents to die. Obviously, we’re all going to die sometime. But I’m in no rush. And in many cases it’s just a very emotional situation. A person who has been fighting for life for such a long term losing the battle. A mother that fears that her children will suffer the pains of loss without her. I don’t want to die anytime soon. I have little kids. I want to be here for them. Raise them. Protect them… I realize that my DH could take on the full responsiblity. Or that our sisters would step in. But I don’t look forward to that at all. And I’ll admit, there are times I fear that I’ll suddenly die and my kids will have to endure. That they will suffer in any fashion bothers me.

Now, if a person, and more specifically a Catholic is afraid to die, and you feel compelled to aid in lessening their fear, I think you ought to ask what they are afraid of. If they are afraid of hell, ask them if they’d like you to call a priest and have a last confession, and have their last rites. (which would be a good call pretty much no matter what). If they just feel anxiety do to the knowledge of their transition, perhaps just ask them to tell you about God, and what they expect heaven to be like. You don’t need to believe them to listen.

You can just hold a hand. Acknowledge that you don’t have the answers, but that you will stay with them in those final moments. (if possible) I suspect it’s the lonelyness that could happen during this transition that makes it scary.

From a personal perspective. I’ve had several experiences with death that have shown me things that I just can’t ignore. Although I don’t want to die anytime soon. I’m not afraid of where I’m headed. And in the meantime, I’ll keep preparing myself for such a journey.

So that you can relate to the Christian patient better, you might consider reading some books that talk of NEAR death experiences. What people saw, learned etc. Perhaps the most uplifting of the stories can help you offer some compassionate words to those in there final hours. 90 Minutes in Heaven is a FAST read, and a good one.

You may not believe in God, But I do. I suspect you will recieve special graces for considering the human spirit, and wanting to and trying your best to offer comfort.

The idea that there’s “something else” is really at the core of our faith. As far as death goes St Paul, in reference to the resurrection and Christs triumph over death, said in 1 Cor 15:

**“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”

“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”**

and later in the same chapter:

"If the dead are not raised, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die."


“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death has been removed for a believer.

A Minor point: Not only is death’s sting removed, but also death’s victory. For a Christian, death is only the doorway to life which never ends. And, since suffering is purification, the end of this life is not suffering that is wasted, but is blessed purification for eternity.

First, I do want to say that I am so sorry about your illness, and I am so glad that you are at peace with what is to come. I admire that…a lot of people we treat…they don’t have that peace, and it is so sad…all they have is questions and fear. Mind, not all people are fearful. We do have people and families who have the peace you have…

I do understand why you or anyone…ME, for that matter…would really need, want, HOPE that there is something beyond this life…and I still wonder if there might be something else…but-well…

Yeah. The idea that nothing lies beyond…scares me sometimes, but-like another poster mentioned, I suppose it would be something you’d just not be aware of, because…well, that’s it.
Kind of like when I had surgery. Yeah, I got knocked out, put on a vent, they did the surgery, and I woke up afterward and didn’t recall a blessed thing. (Versed is something else).

However…if people were less focused on what lies BEYOND and work on fulfilling what they need to do in the HERE and NOW, don’t you think the world would be a better place in some respects? Just a thought.

I am not criticizing you, not saying you are wrong, I am just…well…wondering, thinking out loud. I really want to explore this…I suppose because it disturbs me and a lot of my fellow co-workers. It’s really hard to see people you treat, develop a relationship with…and see the progression of their disease process…and the death that follows…it’s just really hard.

***Well, yeah…I can get that.

You know…off on a bit of a tangent. WHAT DO you all do when you reach your heaven anyhow…mind, only a select few are going to make it there, yeah? SO-then what? Eternal adoration? More life lessons? Another plane of life akin to this one? What?

I recall when I was a kid…I thought-man, so when I die, I’m gonna float around on a cloud and play a harp all day? How BORING!

Just food for thought…***

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