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Why Do We Fear Death?

An Analysis of Our Innate Fear of Dying

People's claims about death are similar to the natural process of nightfall--we are engulfed by darkness and we see a piercing, white light that looks like moonlight in the distance. Photo credit: PKH Photography (my mom's photo). Used with permission.

Death is one of humanity's biggest fears (some people could argue that it is undoubtedly our biggest fear). This has been true ever since the first humans walked the earth. Imagine being one of those humans and making the morbid and shocking discovery that death exists. You lose a family member, friend, or lover to death's cold, merciless grip. Unable to cope with the horrifying and sickening event, you live your life dazed until death takes you, too. You learned that it would also come for you. Or maybe you did not think it would. Either way, those humans developed a fear of death and, as a result, this fear became ingrained in the human psyche.

This is the scientific explanation. There is another explanation: the religious one. Religious people believe that death/mortality came about after Adam and Eve were created. It was one of the catastrophic consequences for disobeying God. Adam and Eve thus developed a fear of death that was passed down from generation to generation.

Before I discuss more about why we fear death as a species, I would like to examine what it is supposedly like to die. As stated under my photo, people's descriptions of death are like the natural process of nightfall—everything fades to black and we see a piercing, white light that is similar to moonlight in the distance. Whether these descriptions are accurate or not is a highly debated topic. This is due to the fact that some people believe that there is an afterlife, whereas other people believe that death is finite—we simply cease to exist.

I would like to share a terrifying out-of-body experience that I had about seven months ago (as of September 2018). Warning: It is REALLY creepy!

I had just fallen back to sleep after randomly waking up. I had been stressed out because I had started my freelance writing business about four months prior and I was not getting anywhere (if you are also a freelance writer, I am sure you can relate since this business is extremely competitive). My dream began with me gasping and abruptly sitting up in my bed. A totally unnatural sensation crept over me; I knew I was sitting up, yet I was still conscious of the fact that I was lying in bed sleeping. My room was dark instead of faintly lit (it was early morning when I had fallen back to sleep). I noticed what looked like a dead black dog lying on my bedroom floor by my desk chair. It suddenly started twitching as if it was in extreme pain and I became horrified by the sight. I then quickly looked over at my bedroom door and saw white light sneaking through the cracks. I did not like that either! I forced myself awake and just lied there for a little while, paralyzed by fear.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with out-of-body experiences, they are similar to this one and are triggered by anxiety and stress. People feel like they leave their body and exist as some sort of otherworldly entity. Whether these experiences are real or purely neurological is debated by religious people and scientists. It is not unlike the argument about what exactly happens when we die. When it comes to out-of-body experiences, it really depends on the beliefs of the people who have gone through them.

I still remember that dream vividly and I do not think I will ever forget it since it scared me so much. During that time, I recognized the significance of the white light, but I had forgotten what I had learned about the black dog: it supposedly appears to a person right before he/she dies!! Needless to say, I was pretty freaked out. But did I think that I had died that morning? Not at all. My experience was caused by the stress that I had been going through at the time. I have not been that stressed out since then and, therefore, I have not had another out-of-body experience. Thank goodness for that! It is definitely NOT something I would want to go through again!

I already covered the reasons we fear death, but here is a short list along with more details:

1. The Fear of Being Separated from Loved Ones

This separation is possibly forever depending on what people believe. If people think that human beings stop existing after death, then they think there is no chance of ever seeing loved ones again. In contrast, if people think that human beings move on to an afterlife, then they think they will be able to see loved ones again. Even people who believe in an afterlife experience this fear because they have to cope with living their lives after their loved ones die.

2. The Uncertainty of What Comes After Death

People who have never experienced death do not know exactly what comes after it. Religious people receive what they assert is proof that there is an afterlife via prayers and/or visions. However, since they have never actually died, they are unfamiliar with the exact process of dying and moving on to the afterlife.

Our fear of death is continuous and it will remain this way until our species becomes extinct.

I hope you enjoyed reading my article! All of the information was taken from my knowledge of science, psychology, religion, and the paranormal. Please share and feel free to make a donation to support my freelance writing business. Thank you!

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