18 Nov Death Anxiety
by Laurie LaGrange Hurtubise
Death Anxiety is that feeling one gets in the pit of their stomach when the subject of death comes up in conversation. You may have felt it, but not know exactly what it is. Death Anxiety is the apprehensive, uneasy, or nervous feeling brought on by the awareness of death. Many of us spend a lot of our lives worrying about things that may or may not happen. Spoiler alert. We are all going to die. So, let’s agree to not start a sentence with “If I die…”. Let’s reframe that sentence to “When I die…”
Because many of us are uncomfortable with the topic of death, we may subconsciously come up with excuses to avoid the topic. Some of these avoidance excuses might include:
It is too morbid. It is upsetting. It brings up unaddressed grief. We don’t want to ruin the day. I don’t want to make others uncomfortable. I want to shield my family from pain.
“ACCEPTING YOUR MORTALITY IS LIKE EATING VEGETABLES: YOU MAY NOT WANT TO, BUT IT’S GOOD FOR YOU.” – Caitlyn Doughty
What is so good about accepting your mortality, you may ask? Ask anyone who has accepted that our days are numbered. Ask anyone who has truly accepted that they are mortal beings. When we are young, we often behave like we are going to live forever. Grief work may be applied to so many little losses that occur constantly throughout our life. This can be applied to a job loss, a divorce or your favourite restaurant closing forever. Acceptance is the final stage of grief. Accepting your mortality is the final stage of grieving the loss of your old way of thinking. It is a game of the mind. This is your mission, should you choose to accept it. (Cue the Mission Impossible theme song in your head.)
Once we accept that our days are numbered, regardless of our age, the sooner we can get on with living our best life possible. This Christmas is not just another Christmas for me. It could be my last. I am not ill. I have made a choice to live my life to the fullest. After many years of putting others ahead of me, I am making choices to fulfill my own dreams and create a legacy that I can be proud of. I am a servant of our community. I care for the dead and bereaved. Many years ago, I recall overseeing a memorial for a stellar human being. Their legacy was nothing less than impressive. They worked hard, played hard, created memories, and made a difference in their profession, in their family and in their community. I found my self happy for them and jealous and resentful, as I was not living my life to the fullest. Life is about choices and it is up to all of us to make the right choice for us.
“REMEMBERING THAT YOU ARE GOING TO DIE IS THE BEST WAY I KNOW TO AVOID THE TRAP OF THINKING YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO LOSE.” – Steve Jobs
You may have received “the sex talk” from a parent in your pre-teens or given “the sex talk” to your child. It was probably awkward or uncomfortable but necessary. Some of you may have had many conversations over time surrounding this topic. I challenge you to another “talk”. Talk about death with the people who you care about. Don’t wait until the end is near. Have healthy conversations now. If the thought of this seems impossible, consider contacting an End of Life Doula. ANORA can connect you with a trusted professional in your community. End of Life options can be overwhelming even for folks who have the luxury of time.
I am an extremely patient person. Asking all the right questions and listening closely serves clients well, when they are trying to make decisions when they are in shock, grieving and essentially not in their “right mind”. If I could give you one gift, it would be for you to understand what I frequently encounter. I see people with regret for having not had “the talk” with the people they love. This is a call to action for you and the people you love.
Step one. Accept your mortality for a more fulfilling life.
Step two. Have the talk.