What happens after death?

Help! I’m scared of dying. 

It’s not uncommon, says our elder. Let go of what you can’t control, and live life to the fullest.


Dear EWC

Hi, I am 20 years old and I just had the most panic inducing thought: what happens after death? Now I know I have lots of time left (hopefully) and this is nothing I should be too concerned about just yet. However, I’m afraid that on my deathbed I’ll have nothing to look forward to, or that I will be sad to be without my soulmate for all eternity. I do not like the idea of simply not existing anymore. This being said, I’ve lost my faith in Christianity, so I do not believe in that sense of heaven. How do I deal with the dread I’m feeling? How do I try to calm down before death so I don’t fear what comes next when that time comes? It’s a lot more than I am able to put into words so I hope you get what I’m trying to say. Thank you for reading this, I hope your day is going a little bit better than mine is 🙂


Sage replies

You are not alone. The fear of dying is quite common, and most people fear death to varying degrees.

In general, the fear of death can actually prove healthy for human beings. When we have a fear of dying, we often act more carefully and take appropriate precautions to minimize risks, such as wearing seat belts or bike helmets. A healthy fear of death can also remind us to make the most of our time here on Earth and not to take our relationships for granted. Fearing the reality of death might also push us to work harder in order to leave a legacy

For some people, however, their fear of death can be unrealistic and disproportionate. At times, ironically, this fear of death can make it harder for you to live a normal life!

Here are a few tips that might help you conquer your fear of death (these helped me when I was much younger and had the same fears as you):

  •       Recognize that death-related fears are normal.
  •       Thinking about death or dying can produce paralyzing fear.
  •       Thinking about another person dying also highlights our own mortality.

Know that you are not alone. Other people can empathize with your situation because they have probably dealt with a similar issue.

  •       Write down the times when you think about death. The first thing to determine when dealing with a fear of death is how – and how much – your fear affects your life.
  •       Start by simply asking yourself, “What was going on around me when I started feeling afraid or anxious at that moment?”. Start with the basics. Think back over the last few days and write down as many details as you can remember about the times you thought about death. Include exactly what you were doing when the thoughts arose.
  •       Make note of when you feel anxious or afraid. Next, write down any of the times you can remember deciding not to do something because you were afraid or anxious. Write down instances even if you aren’t sure about whether the emotions were necessarily related in any way to death or dying.
  •       Compare the times when you feel anxious with the times when you have thoughts of death. After you have one list of thoughts of death and one list of anxious moments, look for commonalities between the two. Writing them down can be a great way to start becoming more aware of them. Then you can better influence how you manage the way you’re affected in such moments.

Be honest with yourself. Be completely honest and fully face the fact of your own mortality. It will eat away at you until you do. Life becomes much more valuable when it temporarily is realized. You know that you will face death sometime, but you don’t have to live life in fear. When you are honest with yourself and face your fear head-on, you will be able to start deconstructing your fear of death.

  •       Focus on what you can control. Death can be an especially frightening thing to think about, primarily because it exposes the limits of life and what we are able to conceive. Learn to focus on what you can control while still engaging with what you cannot.
  •       Guide your life. When you want to control the direction of your life, you are often met with disappointment, frustration and anxiety about things that don’t go as planned. Learn to loosen your grip on how tightly you control the outcomes of your life. You can still make plans, of course. Guide the course of your life. But allow some room for the unexpected.
  •       Eliminate unproductive thought patterns. When you try to predict or imagine the future, you find yourself asking, “What if this happens?” This is an unproductive thought pattern known as catastrophizing. An unproductive thought pattern is a way of thinking about a situation that ultimately causes you to have negative emotions.
  •       Challenge your anxious thoughts. If you are struck with anxieties about death, ask yourself about the chances of dying in certain scenarios. Arm yourself with statistics about dying in a plane crash, for example. You will likely find that your worries are inflated beyond the reality of what could possibly happen.
  •       Ultimately, it’s best to avoid spending too much time worrying about death and dying. Instead, fill each day with as much joy as possible. Don’t let little things get you down. Instead, focus your mind on living.
  •       Let the fear work through and ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that will happen today?” Today you are alive, so go and live.
  •       Spend time with your loved ones. Surround yourself with people that make you happy and vice versa. Your time will be well-spent – and well-remembered – when you share yourself with others.
  •       Keep a gratitude journal. Take some time every few days to write down a moment or thing that you’re grateful for. Write in depth, savoring the moment and appreciating the joy you’ve received from it.
  •       Take care of yourself. Avoid getting involved in bad situations or doing things that can raise your chances of dying. Avoid unhealthy activities like smoking, drug or alcohol abuse, and texting while driving. Staying healthy removes some of the risk factors that can lead to death.

Worrying about your future, or the future of a loved one, is normal. While you can live in the moment and enjoy one another, the fear of death or dying can still be concerning.

If the worry turns to panic or feels too extreme to handle on your own, seek help. A doctor or therapist can help you learn ways to cope with these feelings and how to redirect your feelings.

If your worries about death are related to a recent diagnosis or the illness of a friend or family member, talking with someone about what you’re experiencing can be helpful.

Asking for help and learning how to handle these feelings and fears in a healthy way can help you manage your condition and prevent the potential of feeling overwhelmed.

Best Regards,


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