Death Anxiety: Existential Issues

The Death Anxiety and the fear of non-existence constitute the fundamental fear and underlie all other fears. Death Anxiety as a higher degree of existential anxiety will interrupt the person’s openness to find satisfaction in their lives and obstruct the world’s self-esteem and awareness. In this article, we will discuss Existential Anxiety: Death


existential death anxiety
course photo: owllog1991

What is The Fear of Dying?

The fear of dying is a complex phenomenon. It can be seen as an emotional response to the prospect of death and many other things such as one’s own mortality or that of another person. Understanding this fear is important in order to work through it and not give into its impulse.

The existentialist approach, which stands in a significant place in understanding humans, aims to contribute to self-discovery by focusing on the essence, the effort, and the potential of the human being instead of framing it with theories and assumptions. The existentialist approach to Death Anxiety deals with the individual’s confrontation with the pangs of being. Basically, four final concerns are studying the existentialist approach to this anxiety: death, loneliness, freedom, and the meaning of life.

Absolute End: Death-Mortality

death anxiety: existential issues 1
Source: @victoria.alvey.mental.hea

It is unclear what happened at the time of death, the deceased’s experience, how death came, what would happen after death. This uncertainty about death is the basis of our concerns about death and the Death Anxiety itself. Our effort to make sense of such an abstract phenomenon leads us to explain it with the things we know. That is the reason why all descriptions of the afterlife consist of rivers, pastures, hills, and other pleasant scenery. Literature, which commits death the most and makes the bravest confrontations with death, gives us plenty of examples:

Always the same thing again and again, all these endless days and nightsIf … Quicker to what? DeathdarknessNonoAnything better than death


“It is life, more than death, that has no limits.

Gabriel García Márquez

Self-awareness is a great gift for humankind. Awareness is our cornerstone when determining who we are, what we want to do in life, and our goals. While reminding us that we exist, it causes us to recognize a bitter truth: Mortality. Man’s desire to make him the leading actor of this life is also difficult because of the mortality of men. On the other hand, many people deny this mortality. But in the end being face-to-face with causes mostly Death Anxiety.

This denial functions like a defense mechanism but always exists in human nature. This heroic aspect of the narcissistic structure leads the person not to think of his own death but to pity the person next to him like he’s not gonna die. We admire those who have faced death and won. For example, we want to know the story of cancer survivors in full detail.

There has been a phenomenon of heroism since ancient times. In primitive ages, a hero is an appreciation given to a person who goes to the world of spirits and returns from there. Heroism is one of the first reactions to the horrors of death.

Even though anxiety about death increases and decreases, it is always visible in the life cycle. The idea of ​​death in children does not occur until the age of 3-5. Death is an abstract concept and cannot be experienced, so it is difficult for children to understand. Young children observe traces of mortality around them. Autumn leaves, the death of insects and animals, disappeared grandparents, mourning adults are all around and they face all those different situations.

Parents who have children desperately expect an explanation for all those things try to explain them in a childish manner. Perhaps these initial reactions to death confront us as children with our mothers’ and fathers’ helplessness, who we think are indestructible in any way, and form the core of our first fears about death.

What Scares Us the Most About Death?

To be forgotten, to be buried, to be abandoned… The answer we give to this question provides a clue to the basis of our fear and Death Anxiety. Our answer is a reflection of our fear in life. What haven’t we been able to do in our lives? What are we worried about?

Human is a social being. In most of the things we do, we are with others. However, dying is the only thing one does alone. Sometimes people slowly withdraw from the dying person. Desperation brings them to this point because they do not know what to do in the face of death or they would avoid facing their own death.

Sometimes the person close to death empties his surroundings. Not upsetting the rest and the fear of saying goodbye to them is the main reason. But such loneliness increases the fear more. The anxiety of the person approaching death or experiencing anxiety about death should be acknowledged, physically present, and approached with empathic language.

The thing we do most about death is to deny it. But the best remedy for death anxiety is confrontation. Confronting death causes great anxiety, but it also allows us to make sense of our lives. The life of each of us began to end one day. This really means running away from the freedom to live our lives as we wish. We make our lives meaningful to the extent that we can face death, accept and begin to live with it, and understand it. We have a chance to live every moment. When we give ourselves this opportunity, we can be ourselves.

Last Updated on December 11, 2022 by Lucas Berg


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