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whatisthisabout

Fear of Death

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Hi Everyone, I am new here.

 

Until I was 10, serious religious ideas were not part of my world. Then I moved and was swept up, by loving family members, into an evangelical Christian lifestyle. I was really into it. This lasted until I became a teenager, and started to see logical lapses in Christian thought. I came to view Christianity as repressive and unbelievable. Then in my early 20’s I got into Agnosticism. I started to get into people like Joseph Campbell, which lead me to an exploration and comparison of several different religious/spiritual ideas. It was all very overwhelming and I just went into a kind-of choice paralysis. I figured, who can possibly know, and left it at that for years. But within that conclusion, I always thought there was SOMETHING out there in the great beyond, I just didn’t know what. Eventually, I got into Richard Dawkins and the conclusion that there likely isn’t anything after death. We just end. And I started to wonder if that is…preferable, even though it is also terrifying. Could I accept it? How do others?

 

Sometimes I wish that I hadn’t ever been told of an afterlife. It’s devastating to lose. The hardest part to accept. The scariest loss.

 

When I was first introduced to the concept of heaven/hell (around 10 yrs. old) I was really freaked out. I cried all night. I laid in my bed, trying to imagine the concept of eternity. I tried to imagine being conscious FOREVER…and ever, and ever, and ever, and ever, and ever… I tried to pan it out and really imagine it….it scared me on a very, very deep level. Then I tried to imagine ceasing to exist, no more perception. And again, I was beyond terrified. I felt trapped and afraid.

I’m in my 30’s and I still feel this fear. I’m scared of dying. No, I’m down-in-the-depths-of-my-being TERRIFIED of the thought of letting go of my perception. My reality. My senses. Everything I know. I know it’s natural to fear death because we are programmed to survive. But how can I get calmer about this?

 

I started researching Near Death Experiences when my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and facing death. I wanted to understand what was going to happen to her. Some of the info out there just came across as…wacky. However, several things I read and saw seemed legitimately plausible. This is something I plan to research more. There is a new study out, with a really large number of participants, but I haven’t totally delved into that yet.

 

I am plagued by these thoughts consistently, and am feeling desperate to feel calmer and more accepting. 

 

Any advice about how to deal with this fear of letting go?

 

How do you deal with losing the comfort that religion can provide when considering death?

 

Do you think we cease to exist or go on in another form?

 

Do you think there is validity in NDE’s?

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Welcome to Ex-c whatisthisabout. So glad you decided to join us. And thank you for sharing. What you shared was also one of my biggest fears. And losses. I somehow wanted to live forever. Doing what?, I don't know? But heaven was supposed to be Heaven and I understood that it was going to be a real good thing! So for many years, I just accepted that at the time of my own death (which I always dreaded and still do) I would at least have a wonderful reunion with all the loved ones who had already, ''crossed over'' and meet god and we would all live happily ever after forever and ever in a place with golden streets.

 

The gang here at Ex helped me with accepting the fact that it may not happen.That we may become 'nothing' after we are gone. They helped me to understand that when I went to sleep at night, it was like death in a way. While sleeping, I don't even realize that I exist until the alarm goes off in the morning. I remember 2 operations in which the surgeons cut my body from bellybutton up to my chest and across from hip to hip and because I was under anesthesia and unconscious, I did not feel a thing. (I sure did when I woke up though!! lol) They also pointed out that I hadn't been here on earth for billions of years and I did not know the difference. I don't even remember being a newborn!

 

So I had to grieve my own death and I did through many tears. I read a book one time written by the Stoics. They prepare themselves for death at any given moment. They never leave their friends or family without a big hug because they understand that life can be taken from you in a second. There was an exercise I had to do in this book and that was to completely imagine my own funeral with all the people I knew saying goodbye to me. I also had to say goodbye to myself. I had to say goodbye to beautiful green trees, flowers, my career, the blue skies, etc... (basically, anything or anybody I was going to miss here on earth) It was a very emotional exercise but I did it. And since I did this exercise, I appreciate everything so much more. I'm still afraid of how I'm going to die, but not afraid to be dead. Being afraid to die is totally normal.

 

 And besides, it has already been said that nobody knows what it's really like or if there is something after. We'll have to wait and see. And as far as I am concerned about all the NDE's, if I see white lights and a beautiful tunnel with lovely gardens, that would be an awesome way for the brain to shut down. My sister died of a brain aneurysm years ago and I was tortured by her death until I watched this brain scientist, Jill Taylor, who told her own story of when she had a stroke. It comforted me that my sister may have felt the same ecstasy that this doctor did. It's a really good (short) video to watch about NDE.

 

 I hope you learn to be OK with this issue. I understand fully that it's a hard one. You're going to be OK. It just takes time to work through all this.

((hug))

 

 

 

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Welcome to Ex-C!

 

The fact is that nobody knows what happens to you after death. Not science, not religion, not NDE experiencers. We simply don't and can't know since nobody has actually come back from being dead to tell us. The comfort of a religious belief comes from accepting someone's guess as a fact.

 

All I know is that when I die, either 1. my consciousness will continue in one of the several different ways reported by NDEs, or, 2. I will not exist to experience anything at all and therefore never know the difference.

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Welcome, @whatisthisabout! I have found this community to be very welcoming, I hope you feel it too.

 

As for me, eternity used to freak me out too. Never ending is such a....weird, freaky concept. However, I never found comfort in heaven. My entire christian life, I dreaded death and going into heaven, because I thought it would be like never-ending church. To me, as I started to embrace not being a Christian anymore....I started for fear hell. To me, a complete lack of consciousness is a relief compared to eternal torment. I just think of it kind of like you not being aware before you were born. We were suddenly here, from nothingness, and we'll go back to nothingness, we won't even know. Like anesthesia or something. Just count from 10 to 1, 10.....9....8......7....sweet nothingness.

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I've looked at NDE but all research points to it being a function of the brain. What you find is that religious people will generally have an experience that matches what they've been taught. Muslims will meet Allah, Christians meet Jesus and Shinto's meet their ancestors.  The tunnel of light experience can be manually triggered by shock and people who are on the verge of fainting can see that effect.

People who have never been taught religion like African tribes never experience Jesus.  I believe it is a flood of endorphins and a short circuited brain pulling images together then trying to make sense of the overload.

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Welcome to the forum.  My thoughts are below.

 

...

Any advice about how to deal with this fear of letting go?

...

Not really.  My fear of death is practically non-existent, although I certainly do not want it to happen for a long time and I do not want it to be painful.

 

Each night you sleep is akin to death, at least in terms of losing consciousness.  If it is true we do not have an afterlife, then you will not experience or be conscious of anything after death.

 

...

How do you deal with losing the comfort that religion can provide when considering death?

...

 

I prefer reality over false comfort.

 

...

Do you think we cease to exist or go on in another form?

...

 

I have seen no empirical evidence which would support such wishful thinking.

 

...

Do you think there is validity in NDE’s?

I'm not quite sure what you mean by "validity".  There are certainly near death experiences.  However, the truth value of some folks who have had them seems highly suspect.  In addition, mundane scientific explanations seem to cover them quite well.

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Hi, whatisthisabout! Welcome from me, too.

 

I liked Lucretius' On the Nature of Things. It is a poem about the philosophy of Epicurus. Epicurus taught that at bottom, all that exists are atoms moving at random through the void. You and I are collections of atoms, with very fine soul atoms moving the heavier atoms to make our brains and limbs work. Some day the collections that are "us" will dissolve, and those atoms will become parts of other things. There will be no "you" to mourn over its death. It will be just like the days of Hannibal in Carthage. Neither you nor I are smitten with grief that we were not alive then! We won't be alive at some future time, and it will be just the same.

 

So that gave me some help.

 

In the meantime, we have friendship, the wonder of discovery, the aim to make some contribution in the world. Some little pieces will go on, and that's pretty good, if those pieces are good.

 

I don't know that I could stand to think of existing FOREVERRRR

 

 

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Margee, thank you so much. I deeply appreciate you taking the time to craft such a meaningful message. I cried, a lot, when I read it. You really helped me. I feel you really understand what I have been struggling with.

 

I’ve been sort of doing the exercise you mentioned, in a drawn out way. I keep saying goodbye to the world around me and solidifying my acceptance of the loss. I occasionally say goodbye to myself. And, I feel more at peace. I feel more accepting. More free to let go. I think the idea of existing forever, is actually a lot scarier than not existing at all. I feel relief for the first time in…years actually. I cannot express enough my gratitude for your kind, sincere words.

 

I feel freer these past few days. And, more appreciative of life. I have been obsessed with the fear of death since my mother died a few years ago. I actually watched her die for three days and it was really traumatic. Ironically, she was incredibly brave and I was left with so much fear. Before this, I was someone who mostly avoided thinking of death, as much as possible. I had not really been closely touched by it either. No one dear to me had died, until my mother.

 

If NDE’s are simply the brain shutting down, It does seem like an alright way to slip into unawareness. Most people report a free, euphoric, peaceful feeling…and they usually don’t want to return to their bodies. I hope I have that experience. And, that when I reach there, I will want to go, and it will feel irresistible.

 

But for now, I feel the calmness I was searching for when I posted on this forum. Thank you so much for this place to explore these ideas and fears.

 

 

 

 

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"To me, a complete lack of consciousness is a relief compared to eternal torment. I just think of it kind of like you not being aware before you were born"

 

I had such a hard time getting here. I have gotten so much relief from just reading the replies from this post and I am so grateful. I generally feel "out of place" because most people believe that there is definitely something beyond, like 83% of people according to a PEW research study. Some of my most loved and trusted family members are Christians and this is not a conversation I can have with them. Also, people don't generally like talking about death. I really appreciate your perspective on how unappealing it actually is to consider being conscious eternally... especially in never-ending church ;) 

It's been a years long process to turn my mind around and I'm glad to be facing this finally. 

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I had such a hard time getting here. I have gotten so much relief from just reading the replies from this post and I am so grateful. I generally feel "out of place" because most people believe that there is definitely something beyond, like 83% of people according to a PEW research study. Some of my most loved and trusted family members are Christians and this is not a conversation I can have with them. Also, people don't generally like talking about death. I really appreciate your perspective on how unappealing it actually is to consider being conscious eternally... especially in never-ending church ;) 

It's been a years long process to turn my mind around and I'm glad to be facing this finally. 

 

I just.....*shudder* I would think about how anxious I was to get out of church and go to lunch. Never ending worship, praying...."excusing my french" lol. No thanks.

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I have a view of death that is divergent from anything I've seen here so far.  We die a little every day as bits and pieces of ourselves go away.  I mean this literally (death at the cellular level) to metaphorically (there are places, objects, and people who are part of us that disappear forever).  Our life is a symphony of mortality that builds up to that final measure, our ultimate demise.  I was also dead from the time of the big bang to the union of a sperm and egg.  It is the default state we will be in for all but this infinitesimal sliver of time.  It is perfect neutrality as non existence is neither painful or pleasurable, good or bad.  I've given this much thought over the last few years after realizing that there probably isn't an afterlife.  The peace that I drawn from this is greater than being at the mercy of a capricious deity.  It certainly beats the infinite church service scenario that Ag_NO_stic describes.

Indeed, I find Christians to be greedy in this regard.  They can't be content with this precious sliver of consciousness they've been served.  They feel the need to consume it for eternity. 

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Indeed, I find Christians to be greedy in this regard.  They can't be content with this precious sliver of consciousness they've been served.  They feel the need to consume it for eternity. 

 

This has long bothered me about "heaven." Be selfless for ultimate gain.

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I am plagued by these thoughts consistently, and am feeling desperate to feel calmer and more accepting. 

 

Any advice about how to deal with this fear of letting go?

 

How do you deal with losing the comfort that religion can provide when considering death?

 

Do you think we cease to exist or go on in another form?

 

Do you think there is validity in NDE’s?

It took me a couple years to fully get over all the ways Christianity fucked me up, some things were easier than others and death was surprisingly one of them (the fear of going to hell was an issue for a while, and getting over that was the key to me not worrying about death). My advice isn't advice as it is telling you the saying "time heals all wounds". It's been like 7 or 8 years since I left now and it feels like it all happened to a different person. This is quite the contrast to when I was first leaving and thought that God hadn't elected me to salvation (I was a Calvinist) and that he was going to go all Hebrews 8 on my ass.

 

As for what happens when we die and to the validity of NDEs: I don't think anything happens when we die, I think once we're dead that's it. We popped into existence out of the ether, and back into it we go in death. That said, since I've left Christianity I've felt a deeper connection to other people and other lifeforms in a way that I guess like I feel like we're all interlinked. I sometimes feel like I am getting the hint of "there's more", but I know this is more the emotional side of my brain coming into play here. As for NDEs, maybe there's something to them, but I think not.

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Welcome WITA. As others have noted death is nothing to fear. There is no hell or heaven. We all symbolically die every night when we go to sleep. Death is just an eternal sleep. 

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I was also dead from the time of the big bang to the union of a sperm and egg.  

I have been so consumed with considering what is going to happen to me after I die, that I haven't considered this other side of it. It's such a significant part.

 

 

It is perfect neutrality as non existence is neither painful or pleasurable, good or bad. 

This is surprisingly comforting. Uncomplicated and a relief. There was a time when I doubted I would ever be able to see nonexistence as desirable, and accept it as my destination. But I have really woken up and now see that it is so much more desirable than the alternative. 

 

 

The peace that I drawn from this is greater than being at the mercy of a capricious deity.

 

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It took me a couple years to fully get over all the ways Christianity fucked me up

It’s been surprising to see just how deeply Christianity influenced me. And, to see how many subtleties of Christian thought remained embedded in my behaviors for years after rejecting it. I would say that the most significant ways in which Christianity f’d me up are:

 

Made me a “change agent”…always wanting to help people around me become some better version of themselves. I must have been so obnoxious. Finally, I have learned to just let people be who they are.

 

Magical thinking. Faith. Growing up around evangelicals taught me how to accept ideas without evidence. I can’t even begin to describe how disastrous this has been for my critical thinking skills. I’m so embarrassed for my young self, who accepted some very bizarre ideas as truths…because it felt right.

 

My sexuality. When I was young, sex was like the WORST thing that I could do. All these bizarre unnatural restrictions were in place. Sex was fear, shame, bad. I wish someone had explained to me that sex is enjoyable, natural, and fun.

 

 

since I've left Christianity I've felt a deeper connection to other people and other lifeforms in a way that I guess like I feel like we're all interlinked.

I have definitely been feeling this lately. I actually value life more as an Atheist. I feel like a fog has lifted and I see the world around me more clearly. For me, knowing that this isn’t forever makes me appreciate the experience even more.

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