Why Are We So Afraid of Death?
by Uma Girish
My phone just died on me. I’m dying to eat a good burger. She’s dead to the world when she’s absorbed in a book.
That’s the extent to which we use the dreaded D-word in daily conversation.
Why is “death” such an icky word? Why does it make our mouths tighten and our toes curl? Why does the mention of the word have us grabbing our cellphone, the TV remote, headphones—anything to distract us? Most of us spend our lives walking over a thin safety net. Anytime the safety net could disappear from under our feet—and down we would plunge into a vast, terrifying abyss called death.
Death is the great unknown
So we fear it, flee from it, and are frazzled by it. We can’t touch it, see it, feel it, taste or smell it. Anything that’s unknown is uncomfortable. Be it people of a different religion, race or region. When it is death, we have a whole other level of anxiety around the mystery of it. Where do we go? Is this the end? What lies beyond this life? So many questions—unvoiced, unheard and unanswered.
We’re attached to our body
We bathe it and feed it and groom it (even though we sometimes wince at it in the mirror) but it’s our body and we’re attached to it. It’s the body we’ve been given. It’s the body we’ve known and grown in. So we’re attached to it. We’ve navigated this earthly journey with our body. In death, we don’t need it and we don’t know what that means. Same as a toddler who’s asked to give up her favorite blanky. We touch something and are assured by its solidity. We like the smell of lavender and are disgusted by the smell of over-ripe banana. We see a beautiful sunrise and are moved by it. Death takes the body away. In one fell swoop, we discard it, like yesterday’s blue blouse. So we fear death because we don’t like the idea of losing our bodies.
Death was never a popular subject
Not in the classroom. Not around the dining table. Not anywhere. Most of us grew up with parents who treated death like sex education, a necessary evil. They cleared their throat, looked away, made an awkward joke, patted you on the head, told you to go play and left the room. By showing embarrassment and discomfort around it, they taught us to do the same. So, when a colleague loses a parent, we shuffle our feet and look the other way. We agonize over a condolence letter we have to compose. We have an anxiety attack over what to say or how to comfort. How, then, do we stop tiptoeing around that dreaded D-word? READ PART 2 here
Uma Girish is a Grief Guide, Certified Dream Coach and award-winning author. She volunteers her time at a hospice where she is a companion to the dying and their grieving families. She also facilitates a weekly “Reminiscences and Life Lessons” group in a retirement village because her goal is to share their stories and validate their lives. Her latest book is a transformational memoir, Losing Amma, Finding Home: A Memoir About Love, Loss and Life’s Detours which has been published by Hay House.
You can find out more about Uma and her work at http://www.umagirish.com
Uma is a speaker at the Food For The Soul Teleseminar Series (proudly brought to you by Eco Health Solutions).