The Fear of Dying
and what we learn about ourselves
Rumination in the Coronavirus Pandemic
Just a short while ago all of us were going about our normal live, blissfully unaware of the brewing pandemic. What consumed our daily lives was our routines and structures. This gave us security and certainty. It also gave us a focus on life and...
living. As I recently wrote in my article on death anxiety, people avoid the consciousness of death. Until recently, death was not part of our daily consciousness. Except when, by some seemingly sudden and random act(as we generally experience it) of death. A parent, grandmother, friend or colleague passes away. For a moment we are aware of the cycle that’s called Life. Birth and death. Growth and renewal. Where someone dies, we celebrate their life and we focus on the ones that keep living. And ultimately we forget about the death and process of dying. People have different ways of coping with death and the process of death. Some people like to not know. They deny death and anything connected to Some people choose to ‘know’ through some delusion-inducing mechanism. We soothe ourselves through some fantasy that death is not terrifying. What happens to the terror? Death is not romantic, it is not beautiful, and certainly not welcomed, although some may embrace this attitude as a way of coping. But suddenly our world is inundated by the presence, possibility and process of death. Death is thrust into the living room with the lens of media permeating our daily living. But death is not welcomed. It terrifies us. The modern world has denuded the meaning and process of death through neat funeral processes; through old people dying in old age homes and hospitals; and through cancer patients walking the process of death with cancer carers in hospitals while the rest of us continue ‘living’. Have we become so anxious and separated from death?
Modern publications on death have generally sanitised death. They remove the real suffering of death and its process. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross is a good example of this. Her writing has been very useful in gaining understanding of the grief cycle, but her writing has been expressed in a way that romanticises death as a process. The emotions around death, the process leading to death, and its suffering is not experienced. We do not embrace the full meaning and range of experience of death in our society. Carl Jung developed the idea in modern psychology that the psyche has opposing elements and that we often defend against the one side (or find it traumatic). In the case of death we tend to spiritualise and romanticise death. To embrace all aspects, both the spiritual and renewal elements in death, as well as the great fear, anxiety and suffering that death brings, is to engage with the whole experience of death. It promises a sense of wholeness and engagement of all the meaning and emotions attached to being human. We are not called upon by the depths of our psyches to live broken lives, or experience life partially. We are called upon to embrace all the elements and experiences of being human, of dipping into the river of life in all that it holds. Only we can choose to do this differently. We have to become aware of those aspects we keep away from experience. During this time of the coronavirus pandemic, share with yourself those aspects you feel anxious about, face the awareness of both sides of death, and embrace it in how we walk through life. It makes life a bit more uncomfortable, but it sure does make one taste all the flavours of Life.