By: Terri Cole
For most people, death and dying as a topic of conversation is reserved for when someone they know or love is, well, dying. I find it more effective and less fear-inducing to start exploring your thoughts, feelings, and fears about this inevitable topic before circumstances demand it.
As a psychotherapist for over 15 years, I can honestly say that fear of death and dying is one of the top five fears clients present. Some of the most common forms of this fear are fear of losing your parents, fear of something happening to your children, and fear of your own mortality.
I want you to take a moment to ask yourself: How fearless are you about death? How much have you explored this topic? By “fearless about death,” I am not suggesting skydiving, bungee jumping, or engaging in death-defying acts (pun intended) to prove your fearlessness. I am using the idea of being fearless about death as a way to let your fear inform you but not dominate you.
In exploring these feelings, I am going to ask you the same question I ask my clients: What do you think happens when you die?
I refer to dying as “transitioning,” which reflects my beliefs. It irks my sister Kathy, who responds, “It’s not ‘transitioning,’ Terri; it’s dying. Please just say ‘dying'” — which reflects her beliefs. So the question is, what do you think happens when and after you die?
I started my journey of exploring this topic in my 20s. Although I was raised Presbyterian, there was no organized religion that resonated as truthful for me when it came to the question of what happens when we die. My oldest sister, Tammi, almost died in a car accident when I was 23, which brought the idea of death closer than it had ever been. Now, this same beloved sister, wife, and mother of four has liver cancer and needs a transplant as soon as possible. The work I have done around death and dying affords me the ability to do what is in my power to do — to help raise money for uncovered, immense expenses, while keeping an open, loving dialogue with her. I truly believe that what is right and perfect for her journey is what will happen. I accept that I do not know what that is. But I do know what my earthly heart desires — which is about another 40 years together — so I will do anything I can to expand that possibility.
One of the first books I read on this quest for understanding death was Conversations with God, by Neale Donald Walsch, which felt like reading what I already knew. The possibility that we live more than once on this planet, learning what our souls need to learn while spreading as much kindness as humanly possible, resonates with me.
Experiencing the death of my father within three months of my own cancer diagnosis really accelerated my deep dive into my personal feelings and fears about death. My beliefs continued to take shape as my involvement with the cancer community expanded and my work with near-death-experience clients increased. I just finished a thought-provoking book about a near-death experience by Anita Moorjani, Dying To Be Me, which really intrigued me. Also, studying with Dr. Deepak Chopra profoundly informed my personal belief system about what happens next.
As with my clients, I encourage you to go on your own journey. I have shared with you a small piece of my truth, having no idea or judgment about yours. To gain clarity, start reading and talking to people about spirituality, death, and dying. I encourage you to question yourdownloaded blueprints from your childhood and family culture so that your truth can emerge.
It does not matter how old you are or what your state of health is, death is a part of your life right now, this minute. You do not have to wait until you are diagnosed with an illness, become elderly, or have someone in your life die before you figure out your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. This is such a rich opportunity for self-discovery that many let pass, unexplored, because of fear. By facing your feelings about death and dying, you normalize the experience, releasing much of the fear.
I would love to read your thoughts, so I encourage you to answer the questions I’ve posed in the comment section of the video, and/or share your thoughts on what being fearless around death and dying means to you.
Love Love Love,
CEO, Live Fearless and Free; transformation coach and licensed therapist. Follow her on twitter: @Terri_Cole