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How can I stop thinking about death all the time?

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Hello Mark,

For the past two weeks, I have been thinking over and over about death. I read your article about dealing with the fear of death and it didn't entirely help, unfortunately. I am wondering if you know any other ways to get over it.

I am 17, my grandparents are 75, my mom is 47, and it's freaking me out. I want my mother and my grandparents to be around forever. My grandmother told me, "I am not afraid of death. I know it will come. I am ready for it any day." And that petrifies me because I am not ready for it. Not at all! I don't want to die and I don't like hearing that she's okay with it, because it's so scary.

I also am afraid that in 30 to 40 years, my mom will die, as well. That's, like, no time at all. I don't like all this thinking about losses. It's petrifying me. It got worse after I went to the first funeral I've ever been to - a funeral for my cousin who got shot at almost 25 years old. I started to think about the theories of what happens after death. I have been having panic attacks nightly, crying and shaking, and I haven't been able to enjoy anything like I was able to two weeks ago and earlier.

What would you suggest? I am sick of feeling so sad and I am sick of being so scared. I want to live life, but I can't with these intrusive, perturbing thoughts... Help!

This question was submitted by 'Sarah'

mark tyrrell

Mark says...

Hello Sarah and welcome to this site.

I'm sorry to hear of the way you have been suffering, the anxiety, crying, and intrusive thoughts. It does seem to be a natural and universal human urge to want to be around forever. It doesn't feel instinctively right, at least for some of us, to consider that some day we won't be here, that we are not eternal creatures - or at least not in the sense of our current form.

Many people find ways not to think about it, to compartmentalize those kinds of thoughts - a "yeah, if I think about it I don't like it, but I don't think about it" kind of approach. But sometimes we are forced to face our own limited lifespans and those of people around us.

We have to surrender courageously to the way things actually are and not cling too tightly to the way things 'should be' or the way we would like them to be. 'Life is made precious because it is finite' and other platitudes don't help when you are feeling so afraid.

As I mention in the article you referred to, there may be a part of us that is 'switched on', especially when we are older, that prepares us for the loss of life in its current form. The feelings (not just the thoughts) of personal death for a 95-year-old (or 75-year-old) will inevitably feel different to the thoughts of death of a 17-year-old or even 40-year-old. Life, in a sense, prepares us for death. Even young people who have had time to prepare for death sometimes talk in terms of being ready for it. There seems to be something inside of people that changes perception as death approaches and makes the transition easier, as evidenced perhaps by reports of near-death experiences: immense calm, a sense of moving on, and that kind of thing. This is very different from the way we might view death 'from the outside'.

Now, you mentioned that all this got worse after you attended the funeral of your 25-year-old cousin who got shot. It may be that the current over-focus on death and feelings of anxiety are connected to that. Do you feel anxious when recalling the funeral or the time you heard about your cousin's death? If so, then you might have been experiencing a bit of posttraumatic stress, which had been fuelling this preoccupation. If you feel that might be the case (because memories around your cousin's death still make you feel really anxious), then contact our office and we might be able to point you in the direction of a well-trained therapist who knows how to quickly and comfortably help you get over that.

As you are under 18, you'd need to talk to your parents about any therapy and also about the possibility of listening to the 'Fear of Death' download.

It's likely, though, that this phase of preoccupation will pass quite naturally if it hasn't already by the time you read this.

All best wishes,

Mark

watch icon Published by Mark Tyrrell - November 20th, 2014 in

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