There’s a topic I’m bringing up today that is typically tucked away into the deep corners of your mind that you wish you could just toss out altogether. Maybe it hadn’t occurred to you; if that’s the case, I apologize for shoving this thought into your existence. It’s the fear of the possibility that upon death, all consciousness ceases; we completely flatline for good.
The first time this paralyzing fear pierced through my heart and settled into my stomach, I was about five years old. I can clearly envision where I was and what I was looking at. I was sitting in the bathtub enjoying the soothing, warm water while my mother was in the bedroom down the hall putting clothes away. I was staring into the shower faucet’s distorted reflection of myself. I remember the debilitating fear just hitting me out of nowhere. I called out for my mom and she came running.
I asked her what happened when we died. She said simply, “I don’t know.” As my mother, she added sweet nothings of God bringing us to Heaven. She calmed my fears and assured me into safety.
Throughout the years, the fear would occasionally come back. They were such rare occurrences and did not stay too long to cause much concern. Then a few days ago, I had one of the worst bouts of this gut-wrenching fear creep back into the forefront of my mind; this time, for a good part of a day with remnants lingering for two more (and counting). I’m currently writing this during the aftermath of this latest instillation of fear.
Let me describe this feeling. It is an utterly helpless, panicked, desperate feeling that makes you feel shaky and the worst kind of uncertainty. The fear churns like a popcorn machine and spreads throughout your body, continuously shifting so it constantly feels new as if you’re experiencing this feeling for the first time over and over again in quick succession. There is no other moment where I’ve felt more scared, small, and insignificant. It is the ultimate feeling of hopelessness.
I sought to get rid of feeling this way, if only temporarily. I searched for websites acknowledging and discussing this topic. I come across an article of someone who described this fear just as I have and the myriad of comments that followed from others who felt the same way. I read through many of the responses and found solace in some of the answers. As the feeling started to subside a little, the disturbing fact that we can never know for sure what happens upon death until it’s happening takes a permanent seat.
I also looked up the definition of ‘die’ and found two very different meanings that pertain to this very subject I’m writing about: 1) stop living and 2) used to emphasize that one wants to do or have something very much. Within the very definition of dying is the struggle I refer to in this article. We all die (stop living) and are also dying (to live and have [eternal] life). This struggle of irrevocably coming into existence and being given conscious thought paired with the binding promise and guarantee of an end that leads to somewhere unknown and therefore potentially nowhere is very powerful and very real. Everything important to you in your life and all your thoughts fall powerless underneath this all-encompassing umbrella that looms above us and everything we “know.” That is incredibly scary.
Recognizing and acknowledging all of this is the only way to get this fear under control. Simply ignoring it only delays its inevitable return. Instead of shunning it away like it’s some sort of taboo, learn to live with it and figure out how to fit it into your life. (In my opinion, this also applies to addiction.) I would compare this to a puzzle: your life comprises of puzzle pieces; one of those pieces represents a fear you have. How did this piece come about and get assigned to one of your fears? You did when you let it into your life. (It’s important to note that I am not blaming anyone for letting anything into their lives; there are no preventative measures to be taken; it is as effortless as energy exchange between items of differing temperatures.) Once it’s in, it’s in, if only leaving the evidence of having changed you. As the puzzle pieces are permanent, it wouldn’t make any sense to throw this puzzle piece in the corner so that it’s out of your physical sight. You’re going to need that piece for your puzzle. Other pieces need it to fit into the puzzle. So it would do you no good to toss your fears or puzzle pieces into a dark corner. Doing so will only delay your own progress and prevent you from functioning at your optimal potential.
Instead, your fears need to be faced head-on. Metaphorically speaking, with how big and monstrous they are, the only way to break free of the grasp it has over you is to get up close to it so that you won’t be able to see its massive size; they’ll be too large to fully take in or see up close. At this position, it’s much easier to not have to let its sheer monstrosity intimidate and have control over you. You’ll be within range to chipping away at it and depleting its matter. Optimal strength you’ll possess and your odds of destroying your fears are at its highest.
Rather than ignoring your fears, you should figure out how to incorporate it into your life as a functioning tool for you to work with. This goes back to the positive suggestion “Make lemonade out of lemons.” There are numerous sarcastic remarks that can be made to dispute this method, but try as you might, you can’t ignore the fact that I’m onto something here. (The nerd in me goes, “Resistance is futile!”)
Now in my aftermath, I come out spinning my fear into motivational momentum. I am not and will never be perfect, but in turning this into a positive propeller, I accomplish more with my day than without this powerful mechanism of thought. (It’s all about perspective!) I periodically research this subject and anything else that would lead me to build my case of determining what is most likely to come after we die. I won’t go into my personal findings right now because what I believe is not important to this article. I do encourage anyone who identifies with this same fear I talked about to do their own thorough research, exploration, and discovery.
Harness your fear and let it motivate you instead. Focus on the positive and try your best to let go of worrying about that which you cannot control. Learn to work with your fear and let it become something that strengthens you.
[Remember, we are all on this journey together. Lean on each other for support. The least we can do is be there for each other.]