We all know that we are born, that we live – and then we die. Mostly, we manage to deal with the fact that we are mortal and get on with the business of living. However, sometimes we can become preoccupied with a fear of death or anxiety about dying and our ability to enjoy our lives is lost. This might be because we have experienced the death of someone close to us or have been given a potentially fatal diagnosis, such as cancer.
Death or Loss of a Loved One
When someone close to us dies, not only do we have to face the fact that we have lost them, but also, their death might awaken our own fears surrounding mortality – ‘if they can die, then so can I’.
And this can be amplified if:
- we have a strong connection to the person who has died
- we are a child or adolescent and we lose a parent through death, separation or adoption
- the death is untimely, particularly a child, adolescent or young person
- we suffer multiple losses, trauma or major life changes within a relatively short period of time.
Anxiety about death can be expressed in ways that are not always obviously to do with loss e.g. panic attacks or compulsive behaviour. Talking about our fears and feelings can help. Often, friends and family can be there for us. And sometimes it can help to talk to a counsellor or psychotherapist who is experienced in working with this type of anxiety and who is also not personally affected by the same losses.
Facing Our Own Death
A diagnosis of a potentially fatal disease or injury is catastrophic. Whatever our age, such a diagnosis is most definitely not in our life plan. We may feel detached, confused and highly distressed. The person we once were seems to disappear overnight and is replaced by someone else altogether. We might worry about causing emotional distress to our family and friends, we might fear loss of dignity and physical pain and, at some point, we might be forced to face an uncertain, anxious and lonely road ahead.
How Counselling or Psychotherapy Can Help
Making good connections with other people can help ground us in the present so that we can take pleasure from our own life in the here and now. This is especially so in counselling and psychotherapy where the therapist is skilled in conducting the kind of conversations that can reduce anxiety and help you make sense of your experiences. Whether or not you are living under the shadow of an uncertain prognosis, having regular time to explore your fears with a trusted person who takes responsibility for their own feelings (as compared to friends and family whom we may fear burdening or pushing away) can bring new meaning to how you see yourself and where you fit in to your world.
Copyright: Caroline Clarke, UKCP Registered Psychotherapist and Counsellor in Brighton and Hove, UK
Image courtesy of winnond at FreeDigitalPhotos.net