Death is something that we understand as a certainty of life. We are also aware, for the most part, that we cannot control the way in which we die. In fact, we are mostly unaware of death and when it will occur. Death and dying, therefore, can be a topic which is uncomfortable for some people. No one wants to believe there is a possibility of leaving their loved ones expectantly, or their loves ones leaving them. I believe this is one of the fears which individuals face in regard to death. In addition, fear of the unknown after death also frightens people. I feel that awareness of our mortality can help us cope with death and enrich our lives while on earth. I have had experiences of death and dying from as early as a small child and I remember those instances very clearly.
My first experience with death occurred when I was in the fifth grade. My grandmother’s brother, my great uncle, passed away from a sudden massive heart attack. At that point in my life, I was aware that people died and believed that people went to heaven; however, I never experienced it first-hand. My first impression was consumed with sadness around me. Everyone was in great anguish, especially my grandmother. I have never seen her that distraught; therefore, it was upsetting for me as well. The most memorable moment during this experience was the open casket. We were told to go up to the casket and say a prayer. I still to this day have that image embedded in my mind. After seeing a dead individual for the first time, I had many questions for my parents. I wanted to know how we knew there was a heaven and why people died. My family was not very open about death and just answered questions referring to the Bible or God.
As I got older and reached high school age, my grandparents started to pass away. For the first time in my life, I felt same loss and anguish I remember observing in people when I was a child. In addition, it made me realize that I will have to experience this with my parents as well. I personally do not like the subject of death. I know it is there and I know that it could happen to anyone at any moment, but I try to avoid it and not think about it. In fact, someone close to me was faced with cancer and the threat of not surviving. I had moments were I became extremely upset with the notion that this person could leave me; however, for the most part I blocked it out and stayed positive. I understand that death is a reality and part of life, but for me, I try to avoid thinking about it and thinking about the possibility of anyone close to me dying. I feel that this is not the best approach. Since death is a reality, I feel that I should become more open about death to myself and those close to me. It makes more sense to be open, accept death, and prepare for death, rather than fear it.
The biggest fear that I am faced with, in regard to death for myself, is not being able to see my loved ones or coping with someone with a terminal illness. I am not afraid of where I go after I die or whether there is an afterlife or not, or whether death will be painful. In addition, I have no fear of seeing dead bodies or where a body is placed after death. I feel it is person’s decision whether they want to be buried or cremated. I do, however, have fears of pain and suffering for my close family. It makes me uncomfortable thinking that their body could end up to ashes or in a coffin. I feel that I need to discuss these issues with my family. Discussing death with your loved ones could bring opportunity to obtain insight into everyone’s feelings and probably understand that everyone has those fears. In addition, it could help free any anxiety or fears one has of death. It comes down to attitude towards death and dying.
Fearful attitudes toward death and dying could lead to denial, which ultimately lead to the lack of preparation for dealing with death or dying when it does occur. Individuals like myself, who have fearful attitudes should consider researching what death and dying is all about. The more knowledge about death can help decrease the fearful attitude, as we tend to be fearful of what we do not understand. I have often seen or heard people who are dying of an illness come to peace with their fate. How does one come to peace with that? I am not sure I could come to peace with knowing that my life could end and I could leave everyone I love behind. It is almost a jealous thought. Jealous that my life would be ending and I would miss out on the lives of our loved ones on Earth.
I believe that individuals must focus on death as not the end, but an entrance into another life. The human body consists of both a body and a mind. The body composed of physical attributes and the mind composed of a soul. Believing that the mind leaves the body and undergoes a new beginning or new life can help people accept the reality of death. In addition, learning to cope with problems and pain can help cope and prepare for death. Most importantly, healing a relationship and letting go of grudges is important to dealing with death. As death can occur at any moment, leaving issues unresolved with friends or family can be extremely painful. Therefore, learning to forgive, communicate and be compassionate can help in the understanding of death and dying.
Compassion can work in different ways. Compassion can help heal any relationship, as well as help eliminate any fears of talking with someone who is dying. I feel it would be hard to know what to say to someone who is dying, but showing compassion towards that person can help them through a hard struggle and help them gain faith. I think I would focus on telling that individual how it isn’t the end and that our paths will cross again one day.
Each living organism has the same fate. We are born, live and die. We can choose to deny death and dying, or we can understand it and think about what we would do when placed in such a situation. Understanding, communicating and exuding compassion towards your loved ones can help decrease any fears of death and dying, as well as help prepare as we get older and develop signs of aging or symptoms of death.