The Fear of Dying
Being told you have cancer is scary. It makes you want to scream, “HELP!” at the loudest decibels you can muster up. It conjures up every imaginable fear you could possibly think of. It can feel so BIG that you don’t know how to process it. It's so much bigger than a turbulent plane flight, facing a criminal in a dark alley, or losing your job. This is your life! Now your whole life is in jeopardy.
You may wonder how to bring up the topic of death with your friends who are living every minute of their life with complete gusto? Does your family really want to hear about your fear of dying or would it just sound like whining or feeling sorry for yourself? Who can you turn to? How can you calm your fears?
The Process of Dying
Dr. David Servan-Schreiber did a beautiful job of describing the process of dying in his international bestselling book, Anticancer: A New Way of Life. In the chapter on Defusing Fear, Dr. Servan-Schreiber writes,
"With relief we found out that death isn’t painful in itself. In the final days, the dying no longer feel like eating or drinking. The body dehydrates progressively. No more secretions, no more urine or stools, less phlegm in the lungs. Thus less pain in the abdomen, less nausea. There is no more vomiting, no more coughing. The whole body slows down. The mouth is often dry, but it’s easy to relieve the dryness by sucking on small ice cubes with a feeling of well-being, sometimes even mild euphoria. The dying are less interested in talking, simply holding a hand or looking through the window at the sunlight or listening to birdsong or particularly beautiful music instead. In the final hours, one sometimes hears a different kind of breathing called the “death rattle.” And then there are several final incomplete breaths (the “last breath”) and involuntary contractions of the body and face, which seem to be resisting the loss of the life force. These do not betray suffering but are simply a sign of the lack of oxygen in the tissues. Then the muscles let go and everything is over."
We all want peace inside from this insidious fear but what it really comes down to is faith.
Learning to Live Exceptionally
Some people have spent their life in an anxious state of fear about one thing or another. When we live in fear we build a cage around ourselves. Trapped by our own fears, we shut ourselves down and become content with living a small life. We feel that by limiting our exposure to others and diminishing our life experiences, that we will be freed from our anxiety and that joy will be waiting for us in the end. To really conquer our fears, we must master the courage to live our own life exceptionally.
Arianna Huffington bravely wrote in her book, On Becoming Fearless in Love, Work, and Life, what living the fearless life is really about:
“When we know who we are, we can overcome our fears and insecurities. We surpass our smaller selves who suffer the slings and arrows of our conditioned reality, and we move to the unconditional truth of our larger selves. The answers to the questions of what to say, what to do, whom to let in, and whom to keep out become a clear and simple matter of listening to our hearts. That inner voice helps us align with our purpose, because each of us has a purpose, even if we judge it to be insignificant. The voice is there. We just need to listen to it. When we do that, we live in fearlessness.”