Hello everybody, welcome to episode 90 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino. Today we’ll be answering a really important question about death and the fears surrounding it. Given the pandemic, I think it’s a very interesting time to talk about death, as if there’s ever an uninteresting time. So let’s open our ears and see if we can assuage this viewer’s fears. Here’s the question for today…
QUESTION: “Is there any escaping the fear of death? This thought becomes more and more difficult for me as my kids grow up (they’re 5 and 7) and I get excited about a future with them. There’s so much I want to see them through, not to mention things I’ve discovered I want to do for myself! I’ve been on a mindfulness journey for a while now, yet this is one of the few things I can’t seem to stop worrying over.”
You're Not Crazy to have a Fear of Death
And there we have it. A great question, a heavy question, a question I’m actually thrilled to answer because I love thinking about death. I actually feel it’s an entirely healthy practice and my own death crosses my mind every day. I recently put up a poll on Instagram asking people how frequently they considered their own death and I believe it was only 21% that said they consider it every day. I’m not sure what results I expected to find, but that was it at least amongst my little demographic of followers.
Anyway, I think it’s no coincidence that your fear of death has reached enough of a peak that you’re coming to me with this question. Your fears are justified, but let me just remind you of a few things to remind you that you’re not crazy.
Life During a Pandemic
First of all, we are in the midst of a pandemic. Death is on everyone’s brain a whole lot more lately, and it’s not exactly being painted so well. Death is currently associated with uncontrollable disease, huge quantities, not being able to be near dying loved ones, not having enough healthcare for those who are dying, bodies being taken out of hospitals by the truckload. It clearly has a bad look right now. In addition to that, no one knows how to stop it or just how serious it all it is.
Conflicting studies reveal different amounts of people dying and how they’re dying. So not only are we having trouble stopping it, we’re having trouble understanding it which is a prerequisite for stopping it. To be nervous about death right now is totally normal.
Top that with everything else you have going on in your life. You’re raising children while this is all happening, children that are at an age where you can finally have fuller conversations with them and even see traces of tiny adults. You can identify with them more, and their futures seem both increasingly real and increasingly at risk.
Being Mindful of Quality of Life
So much to live for, NOT TO MENTION the mindfulness journey which of course only brings us more in touch with the beauty and meaning around us, giving us even MORE to be excited about and make life feel that much more worth living.
See how all this is coming together? The current condition of the world is only making you realize how good your life is personally. It’s no wonder you’d worry about losing it. Seems to me you’ve got yourself a good problem, my friend.
Still, if feeling more justified and more understood is not enough, I get that you still want to fix it. Try to reverse all the stimuli that aren’t helping you. Whatever you’re hearing about the death toll is all but certain to be A. not helping you and B. not accurate. Detach yourself from these things and don’t make this very serious time harder than it has to be. It’s not worth it, especially if you can’t guarantee truth and utility from them.
Your Mindfulness Journey
And if you want to make the most of your mindfulness journey, I’d also recommend detaching yourself from your judgments and assumptions about death. There’s nothing wrong with having beliefs about death rooted in whatever religion or spiritual practice you’re apart of, but anyone who’s not at least acknowledging the mystery surrounding death is doing themselves a disservice. We don’t have the answers to death. It might bring more bliss than you’ve ever known in this life time. As a mindfulness practitioner, practice allowing your mind to be open to this sea of possibility and give in to the adventure of it.
I know that may be difficult as you see your kids growing and you get not only excited about that growth, but you feel that much more of a duty to look after them. But the truth is the truth. Death is coming. You don’t know when, and you don’t know how it’ll look. Meanwhile, you can leverage these feelings about your children by enjoying every moment you have with them and not holding back.
Look at how you wrote this question. There’s a reason that you’ve put them first and foremost when worrying about death – because they’re your priority. Take this energy with you into daily life, and make sure you’re always putting them first. Remember this when faced with the option to work an extra 10 hours a week. Remember this if you ever consider retiring in a different country or state.
Summary: Fear of Death
As someone who loves their life and doesn’t want to lose it, the best thing you can do for yourself is identify your values (which you’ve started to do) and live by them to a tee. It’s not a difficult formula, but it will undergo tests during times of crisis like right now and during times when you have opportunities to change the path of your life.
You already know what you value and you already know you can’t control death. All you have to do is remember these things in the right moments.
So when the thoughts of death come up, use them for what they are: a measuring stick for how you’re spending the time you have.
All right, everyone. You know I try to offer nuances and alternatives for you guys as best I can, but sometimes, especially in the case of death, things are so out of our control and our options are so limited and I’m not sure there’s much we can do aside from embracing the circumstances. It can be tough but it’s an important part of life and can be very liberating. So asker, I hope that I was able to help you today and give you something new to think about even when confronted with the roadblock that is death.
To all others, you can email us any questions you’re struggling with that you’d like help with on the show. Email your concerns to advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
That’s our email, that’s where we’ll take your questions and do what we can for you. Thanks so much for being here today, hope you have some better feelings about death, and hope you’ll stop in next time. Until then.