How do I handle my thoughts about death?

I recently keep thinking about death. Initially, I felt horrible and unacceptable as when people die, everything ends forever. Then all the bad feelings come in. I am obsessing in the fear of death. I have tried to accept it and think positively such as ‘focus on now’, ‘live happily’, ‘live for love’, ‘live for a better world’ etc. But I still confuse about the meaning of life: if we all die, then why do we need to exist?

Thank you for writing and raising this very relevant question. For hundreds of years, philosophy, science and faith have debated on the meaning of life and there is no right or wrong answer. People may have different interpretations but what matters is to find our own personal meaning. It looks like you have been thinking hard to reach that goal and thinking about such existential questions can be overwhelming and scary.

It’s part of our normal development to wonder about life and death and to ponder your mortality at different stages of your life. Sometimes, thoughts about death are triggered by a significant event such as losing someone or being in or witnessing a scary accident. Times of transition can also cast uncertainty on the future and lead people to worry about their life in a broader way, about its meaning and its end. It is part of young adults’ natural development to try consider how meaningful their lives are and what to do with them.

Death is a difficult concept to grasp and it is common to fear what we don’t fully understand. In some cultures, it is also quite taboo and it may not be easy to talk and think about it. While it is normal to think about life and death, it can be disruptive for your concentration on your academic tasks or on work, in daily activities and in interactions with friends or family if you find yourself obsessing about it and fearing for your life or for your health on a regular basis.

Having clear values can give you a sense of direction and help you to participate in a meaningful life. Thinking about what is important to you can help, e.g. the people you love and value the most, things you want to achieve in your life, how you want to participate in society, and the qualities you value. Some people find some meaning in their spirituality or religion. Whether you are a religious person or not, you can always discuss these issues with someone from Chaplaincy. Chaplains are here to support spiritual growth and can help you navigate questions such the meaning of life.

If you still can’t help feeling overwhelmed by anxiety, changes in your mood or any impact on your quality of life, it could be helpful to talk with one of counsellors at Counselling and Psychological Services.

One Response to “How do I handle my thoughts about death?”

  1. A says:

    Thinking about death means that you are actually pondering about why we even exist and that means you have an open and inquisitive mind, are truly alive and not a mindless robot who is concerned with materialistic things only. Don’t try to silence those feelings because those questions open up the possibility for a much more fulfilling life, and for you to grow as a person.

    Our society tries to suppress our thoughts about death, there’s literally no reminders of death anywhere. The media is filled with things to do with ‘looking younger’ and living longer and death is never mentioned, ask yourself why is this?

    You are absolutely right to say that if we all are going to die forever then why do we need to exist in the first place?
    The answer is in your question. The world would make absolutely no sense if that was the case, but in a planet filled with so much order, from the seasons to the rotation of the earth to the proportions of the human body, this can’t possibly be the case.

    When a person dies, we all have that sense that they are ‘watching us’ or that their soul lives on and that
    innate sense of an other world is built into us and we feel it without even formally believing it. It is truly depressing to think that your existence just ends forever and is why the media distract us with other things like getting the latest designer handbag, getting the most powerful car, etc. Finding the answer to that question makes you empowered to stand up for what truly matters.

    I encourage you to look into a religion which will give you an understanding of the idea of life after death which will really help you. Christianity, Islam and Judaism (the religions i am familiar with, others may be similar), all have the concept that the soul lives on and that there is a whole new world after this one; this world is just the beginning. These beliefs also help as well when dealing with someone else’s death as you know this won’t be the last time you meet that person. Beliefs which state that deceased people hear even better than people who are alive means you can always talk to them, with confidence that they are hearing you.

    So take those thoughts you are having, and let them flourish; let them guide you into finding the meaning of life.

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