Have you experienced a fear of dying after a close bereavement?
Death can be a reminder of our own mortality
Thanatophobia, also known as death anxiety, or the fear of death or dying can be triggered by the death of a loved one. When someone close to you has died, it can be an incredibly difficult and distressing time. The grief and loss can feel overwhelming, and it is normal to experience a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, and guilt.
Death anxiety can be set off by the death of a loved one because of the emotional attachment and the potential for unresolved issues with them. The fear of death can be a normal reaction to this kind of loss.
Death can be a reminder of our own mortality and can make us question the meaning and purpose of our own lives. It can also raise questions about the afterlife and the unknown, which can be difficult to process and understand.
Experiencing death anxiety can come about due to:
A lack of previous exposure to death
A lack of control over one's own death
The belief that death is a painful and negative experience
A lack of understanding or acceptance of death
Suddenly becoming the eldest in the family
Research has found that people who have experienced the death of a loved one are more likely to have higher levels of death anxiety than those who have not. A study by Jeong-eun Lee and Young-il Kim published in the Journal of Loss and Trauma found that death anxiety was positively associated with the level of attachment to the deceased loved one and the degree of unresolved issues with the deceased person. The study suggests that people who had a close and unresolved relationship with the deceased person may experience more severe death anxiety.
Dealing with death anxiety in the wake of a loved one's death requires a multifaceted approach. Here are a few steps that may be helpful:
Allow yourself to grieve and acknowledge your feelings. It's important to allow yourself to feel and process your emotions. Don't suppress your feelings or try to "move on" too quickly. Grief is a natural process.
Seek support: Talking to friends and family, joining a support group, or seeing a therapist can be a great way to process your feelings and get the support you need.
Take care of yourself: Make sure to get enough rest, eat well, and engage in activities that bring you joy. Taking care of yourself physically will help to support your emotional well-being.
Practice self-compassion: Be kind to yourself. Remember that you are going through a difficult time and that it's okay to make mistakes or have days when you don't feel like yourself.
Reframe the way you think about death: Death anxiety often stems from a fear of the unknown. You can try to lessen your anxiety by educating yourself about death, or by thinking about it in a different way.
Seek professional help: If your fear of death is interfering with your daily life and ability to function, seek professional help. A mental health professional can help you manage your feelings, and may be able to offer treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy or exposure therapy.
It's important to keep in mind that everyone grieves differently, and there is no "right" way to deal with death anxiety. What works for one person may not work for another. It's also important to remember that healing is a journey and it takes time. For additional support, see our community of Grief Specialists.