August 1, 2007

Spirituality

Fear of Death

by Creative Blogger


Before May 2006, I had no fear of dying.

I recall discussing this lack of fear on a science forum and found that I was in the minority. The majority feared death for reasons such as the method of dying and the fact that they enjoyed life too much to want it to end. So why did I not fear death? Was it because I believe in life after death and so when this life ends, I believe I shall merely go somewhere else? Was my life here so empty that I would not miss it? Was I just complacent and did not value my life enough to contemplate what it would be like without it? I think it was most likely the latter. I did not really think about my own mortality and so there was no fear of losing it.

This, however, changed in May 2006, I believe for the better. I now fear death, but this is not a negative thought; it merely means that I value life more than I did. Through valuing life more, I make more effort to get more out of it, to make the ride more comfortable and pleasurable. I am not just coasting along anymore, waiting for the end. I am making that end a distant nightmare, while I seek to fill up my time in useful endeavour.

So what brought about this change? What was special about May 2006?

In May 2006 I was diagnosed with severe pre-cancer of the cervix. It was treated and the pre-cancerous tissue was removed. Six months later, I tested clear. I am 100% well and I expect to remain that way.

And yet, during that period, as I waited for my biopsy and pelvic scan results, and before my six month re-exam, I contemplated death and what it would mean to me, my children and my loved ones. I did this because during that period I did not know whether or not I would develop cervical cancer, and in that event, survival rate is something like 53%. So, despite being mostly positive about my future health - which I was - I had a few moments when I lapsed into sadness about what would happen if I got cancer. From this sadness arose fear ... the fear of dying.

My fears were based on the following thoughts:

Should I die prematurely...

My children, toddlers at the time, would be without a mother - who would take care of them?

How would they cope without me to comfort them the way only a mother can?

Would they grow up angry, resentful and scarred due to my premature absence from their lives?

What effect might this have on their future - where they live, the education they receive, the circle they mix in? These are things which I had carefully planned before they were even born, as most mothers do.

How should I spend my remaining time with my children if death beckons? Should I be distant and cold so that when I leave they do not grieve, or should I remain close and adoring so they treasure their memories of me? At this young age, will they even remember me at all? Is my wanting them to remember me selfish? Would it be better for them to forget?

Will I endure prolonged pain during treatment/illness, and how will I cope? Will I become depressed, suicidal even? Who will look after me while I am ill?

What effect will my death have on those remaining? What hole will I leave in their lives? How will they cope with their distress at seeing me ill? What about my lover? This is a new relationship, this is not what he signed up for. Should I let him go?

What preparations should I make for death... guardians for my children, a will, and diaries? Will access be allowed for all those I wish to remain part of my children's lives?

Will I be angry and resentful about being ill and dying, my time with my children and family cut short?

I did not afford these fears much time or consideration, for I generally remained positive and concerned myself with what I knew, which was nothing until I was told. After all, there is no point in being morbid and sad for the sake of it. Yet on that rare occasion when I did allow fear to grab hold, these were the concerns I had.

Who did I talk to about these fears?

Well, aside from stating the facts relating to my diagnosis, I was positive and rarely mentioned the matter. This was for two reasons:

1. I was being proactive in taking steps to improve my general health. I was eating anti-cancer foods and taking coriolus mushroom supplements which I mention in my blog [need the link].

2. I felt that people, whether they be close or distant, do not really want to listen to others talk about their fear of death.

The nearest and dearest will try to keep you positive; they won't allow you to be morbid or glum, or to prepare for death. You'll see the fear in their eyes - their own fears of losing of you - so you'll be brave for them, to keep their spirits high.

Should you talk to strangers who don't care enough about you to be hurt by your possibly imminent death but who care enough to listen? Do they really want to hear the nitty gritty of your fears? It seems not, but why? Perhaps it makes them think about their own mortality and what difficulties they themselves may face. Perhaps because they are on a 'high' and don't want your fear to make them feel low. All of these are good reasons for deflecting your fear away from them.

So who then is left to talk to? God, Angels, deceased friends and relatives, a priest, a counselor, others who are also dying?

During this time I thought about my relationship with God. I am not religious but I do believe in an interfering presence, which I call God. I asked God what important role these events were playing in my life. How fair would it be if I could not learn from them but died instead? What point is there in that? What deal could I strike up to ensure survival? What promise could I make?

Well, I promised to value my life, and I do!

I am grateful for this seemingly negative set of events because valuing life is no small thing. Consider for yourself what not valuing it means.

Life is a big deal, and being alive is a big deal. It is a miracle that life ever got started on this planet at all. While theories abound, it remains a mystery, at least to the non-religious. So not to value this time here, short as it is, is wasteful in the extreme.

I know what it is to suffer through dark moments of depression and despair, feeling like you want to die. In reality, though, it is not death that is sought, but merely escape. Escape from the feelings that gnaw away at your body, a physical pain manifested from a psychological source. Escape perhaps from a situation you feel trapped in, for to remain is intolerable and you are at the end of your patience. You may just be weary of existence, tired and wanting a rest from it all.

I have no answer to this except the old cliche that it is good to talk. In times when we feel this way, we need each other.



Creative Blogger is a single full-time mum of two who is presently employed as a freelance Writer. She is also a qualified Stress Consultant and Character Analyst, though her work history is varied and mainly within the realms of Business and Health Management. She enjoys interpreting dreams and blogging. Her work can be found at SearchWarp.com and her blog, Girl Talk.