Thinking About Death May Change Your Life

Facing the reality of death may bring serenity to your life.

Facing the reality of death may bring serenity to your life.

Have you faced the reality that, one day, you will die? If you haven’t faced this fact, don’t feel alone. Denial of death is a popular pastime in developed countries, as people don’t want to die any more than they want to pay taxes.

But, if you take the time to realize that you will die one day, your outlook on life may change and you may experience serenity. People who believe they will live forever (including many teens), often take more risks and make decisions that may take longer to resolve. The resulting chaos can be used as a means to avoid deep introspection, a skill that takes time to develop in many people.

One way to build that skill is to take life slowly and deal with situations as they arise. The person who tries to deal with situations or events that have not yet arisen and that may never arise can feel overwhelmed. This type of thinking also wears on a person’s health. Worrying about “what if” situations can become an addictive behavior, especially when an individual begins to think about his or her death.

Before you work yourself into a depression while thinking about life ending in death, think about a person who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Unfortunately, in many cases, a terminally ill person feels isolated and rightly so – the fact that many people do not want to face death in this society tends to spill over into real life as people avoid terminally ill loved ones.

But, dying is not a contagious disease. It is a fact of life. Still, many people treat death and dying with a hands-off attitude, mainly from fear. Many people equate death with pain, but physical pain can be endured or treated. Emotional pain often is the issue here. Fear of separation, fear of abandonment and fear of the unknown are real fears. These fears can be diminished by talking about them with a counselor or with your family and friends.

Alcoholics Anonymous deals with these fears in a twelve-step program [PDF] that addresses emotional issues and day-to-day activities that can prevent serenity. Since alcoholism is seen as a terminal illness among many recovering alcoholics, the individuals who seek treatment for their alcoholism (or drug abuse) can walk away with skills that can help many other people learn how to deal with life and death.*

Outside the twelve-step program, life plans also can be simplified further into four basic categories (not listed in any particular order):

  • Relationships with family members and friends
  • Job or career goals
  • Health issues
  • Spiritual questions

Taking each one of the four issues listed above, you can list obstacles that exist for you in any area within that category. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • Do any of my past relationships remain unresolved?
  • Do I have financial problems to address?
  • Do I exercise enough or┬ácan I eliminate foods that are not good for me?
  • What do I believe, and can I find support for my beliefs or do I need to change that perspective to find peace?

Although you deal with these four issues continuously throughout life, the answers to your questions may change as you age. The analogy would be like a movie you watched ten years ago or a book you read when you were younger. If you watched that movie or read that book again, you might see the content differently than you did ten years prior. AA calls this practice “taking inventory.” The average person might call it, “taking stock.” No matter what you call this personal interrogation, a constant desire to seek answers to life’s current dilemmas can help you to understand yourself and your loved ones better.

This willingness to take stock and to understand shifts in your perspective may show that you have grown emotionally, spiritually and in knowledge.

To realistically plan for your life to end one day is a practical exercise, and one that many hospices employ in their care-giving. But, if you think about the end of life now, rather than waiting for a time when you face death head-on, your willingness can present new opportunities rather than close doors. Facing the reality that life ends in death, always, may help you avoid chaos and worry and live a more peaceful life filled with satisfying relationships and goals.

*Note: Many addiction programs allow recovering addicts to replace “God” with “higher power” to help avoid resistance to recovery.

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