Mindfulness,  Reduce Anxiety & Stress,  Wellness

How to accept your own death

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Accepting death is a necessary part of life. It is a natural thing to want to live, and it is natural to have death anxiety. Accepting your death can be difficult, especially if you’ve experienced a traumatic death in the family or have seen someone close to you die when you were young.

There’s a quote by the Canadian writer and spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle that goes: 

Death is a stripping away of all that is not you. The secret of life is to “die before you die” and find that there is no death.

How do you learn to die before you die? You can start by accepting that you are going to die. Accepting your death is a difficult concept to grasp, but it’s not impossible. If you can accept that you are going to die, then you will be able to live much more freely. Life will be less stressful and more enjoyable when you can stop worrying about what might happen when you die. 

Types of death acceptance

Three discrete types of death acceptance have been proposed by Gesser, Wong, & Reker in 1988 [1]:

  • Escape acceptance – embracing death as a welcome escape from the suffering and pain of one’s life
  • Approach acceptance – accepting death due to one’s beliefs about the existence of a desirable afterlife
  • Neutral acceptance – accepting death as a natural part of life, and something outside of one’s control.

I thought this was a very engaging monologue by Alan Watts:

Cultivating death acceptance

Death acceptance is a philosophy of life that considers death as a part of the human experience. Therefore, death acceptance can be a positive force in our lives. If we are in full acceptance of death, it increases the quality of our lives because we allow ourselves to live without fear and stress.

The idea that we should accept death is not new. Many ancient traditions and religions teach it as a spiritual practice. It’s also a core part of many contemporary Eastern practices, such as Buddhism and Taoism [2]. But what about the West?

Acceptance isn’t really taught in Western religions, but it’s becoming more popular as a therapeutic practice. It has been linked to improved quality of life, greater spiritual well-being, and reduced anxiety and depression. Some evidence shows that acceptance can help people cope with pain better than other approaches. It may also help with grief after someone dies. So if you find yourself fearing death or struggling with losing someone you love, it may be worth considering how acceptance could help you cope better.

Research shows that people who are more psychologically prepared for death tend to have less fear of dying. The same goes for the terminally ill. Those who accept their fate don’t seem to suffer as much from their disease. This is called death acceptance, and it can be a powerful tool in helping you overcome your fear of death.

The idea behind this strategy is that accepting the inevitable helps you live a happier life free of fear, worry, or regret. Instead of spending your days worrying about death, you can focus on living in the present moment and being grateful for what you have. You don’t have to be happy about dying, but at least if it happens, you can feel content in knowing that it was all part of a bigger plan.

Death acceptance is a two-step process: 

First, you must recognize that someday, no matter how much you try to avoid it, you will die. This may seem obvious, but many people fail to realize this simple fact until it’s too late. 

Second, you must learn to accept your fate. By doing so, you will feel more relaxed about the experience and hopefully worry less about the inevitable reality of death. Conquering this fear can have a huge impact on your life and your happiness. You may even find yourself enjoying life a lot more!

7 Strategies for Accepting Your Mortality

Accepting that you will die is a very difficult thing to do. Whether you believe in the afterlife or not, it’s still hard to imagine yourself not existing anymore. A lot of people try to avoid thinking about death altogether, but if you can’t help but think about it, here are some helpful strategies for facing your mortality. 

  1. Start by thinking about your mortality right now rather than avoiding it. Death will happen to everyone and ignoring it won’t change that fact. Imagining what the experience of death will be like can help prepare you for it and act as a form of exposure therapy. 
  2. Create a project that gives you meaning. This may mean volunteering at a community group, making artwork, writing a book, or simply helping friends. Allow yourself to connect with things and people you’re passionate about. Seeing your life have an impact on the world and others can help to quell your fears about death, as some part of you will live on in your legacy.
  3. Deal with anxious feelings by self-soothing. Identify ways to calm all of your senses and feel safe in your world.
  4. Seek help if you’re feeling overwhelmed. You don’t need to hold all of this by yourself, especially if people in your life don’t ‘get’ you or aren’t supportive in the way you need them to be. A licensed therapist can help guide you through what you are feeling.
  5. Be compassionate with yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for having difficult feelings.
  6. Don’t watch the news. Journalists are paid to create headlines that will grab your attention, and they tend not to be positive. Reducing your news consumption can help you focus on what is in your control, rather than escalating your fears into what is totally beyond your control.
  7. Review your life’s purpose. Is there something you’ve secretly wanted to do or achieve, but have held yourself back? Maybe now’s the time to review and take some baby steps towards achieving that.

Death is a terrifying and inevitable part of life. If you’re young, it’s easy to think you have all the time in the world, but it’s important to realize that this isn’t true. For some people, this realization comes too late, when they finally face their mortality. 

What does facing your own mortality mean?

Facing your mortality can mean a lot of things, depending on the individual. For some, it may mean going through life with a constant reminder of their own death. For others, it may mean reflecting on what they’ve done in their lives and what they would like to do or change. It can also mean learning to live each day to the fullest. So how should you go about facing your mortality?

The first step is to acknowledge that you will one day die. Once you face this fact, you can start thinking about what death means to you. This could be difficult at first but try thinking about all the things you’d like to do before you die and how you might accomplish those things. Keep in mind that if you don’t want to think about your mortality for this exercise, there are many other ways to get started on fulfilling your dreams right away.

Marc Kraft

Marc is the creator of Mindful Searching, a content site dedicated to providing actionable, unbiased tips to reduce anxiety, stress, and improve cognitive performance. He's struggled with social anxiety for many years. Over the last 5 years, Marc has been researching and testing lifestyle changes, products, and techniques to build a happier, healthier, anxiety-free life.

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