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I.

II.

Introduction
a. Even though fear of death affects so many, people tend to shrug it off
and ignore it
b. Struggling and internalizing this fear interferes with ability to cope for
patients and caregivers
c. Therefore, death anxiety is a commonly overlooked issue with a real
and relevant impact
d. Interviewee had OCD caused by fear of death
i. Originally feared higher power punishing him after death
ii. Significantly affected his daily life
iii. Came to faith in Christianity
iv. Faith eased fear
v. Goal: give voice to his perspective and affliction
e. How does spirituality tie in, including the timing of faith in relation to
confrontation with death?
f. What are practical ways for terminally ill patients and caregivers to
overcome fear of death, and in what ways can they benefit?
Background
a. Previous research shows that secular caregivers report more
mortality communication than religious caregivers
i. Also lower levels of fear of death in secular
1. Appears to contradict interviewees story
ii. However, significant positive association between fear of death
and emotional exhaustion
iii. For religious, significant inverse relationship between
mortality communication and fear of death
1. Mortality communication mitigates fear
b. Studies are limited and can be flawed, but they show significant
correlations that strongly suggest mortality communication can
alleviate fear while religion can deepen it
c. Contradiction between research and interviewee led to more
interviews to gain Christian perspective on death
i. Most said feared death less through faith and belief in afterlife
ii. Some said they feared being judged as sinners or not devout
followers of Christ
iii. These findings show religion is very likely a way for people to
cope
d. Templer and Dotson (1970) found no significant relationship
between a variety of religious variables and death anxiety in an
undergraduate sample. A variety of subsequent studies have come up
with almost every kind of finding imaginableno differences, positive
relationships, and negative relationships! There is some indication
that faith may be associated with a lower level of death anxiety
(Kastenbaum 133).
e. Therefore, religion is a way of coping for some, but not all

III.

How fear of death negatively impacts lives/Why its important to


overcome fear
a. Although normal people dont report a high fear of death, Kastenbaum
points out that the modest level of death anxiety that most people
experience in everyday life may increase dramatically when the
individual experiences a period of stress or threat, such as health
problems, illness, or death of someone close (Furer, Walker, and Stein
149).
b. Death anxiety is commonly measured using a Death Anxiety Scale or
the Multidimensional Fear of Death Scale.
c. Death anxiety is often coupled with hypochondriasis and other
anxiety disorders
d. An important part of being able to enjoy life to its fullest and
overcome its challenges is to deal with death
e. Avoiding the issue of death seems to work for most people most of the
time. However, at times the usual ways of coping are compromised by
intense stress or experiences with death and illness, which create
distress, limit pleasure and satisfaction in life, disrupt relationships
with other people, distract from working effectively, and consume
unnecessary energy
f. Fear of death is a unique fear; most other fears are unrealistic and
unlikely to happen
i. Fear of death is a commonly shared experience, and death is
inevitable
ii. Its composite of many fears: separation, individuality, leaving
mother, leaving world, and being alone
iii. Gardner Murphy categorizes these into 6 fears:
1. Death is the end
2. Loss of control or mastery
3. Loneliness
4. Unknown
5. Punishment
6. Future of loved ones left behind
7. Failure
g. Fear of death looms such that possible happy days turn into unhappy
ones
h. Dr. Yalom noticed personal growth in terminally ill cancer patients
who faced death
i. Gained ability to discern important and not important things
ii. Sense of liberation
iii. Living in the present
iv. Greater appreciation for simple things in life
v. Deeper communication with loved ones
vi. Fewer interpersonal fears
vii. Dr. Yalom concluded you dont have to be near death to benefit
from facing and accepting it

IV.

V.

1. Two approaches are best


a. Overcome fear by facing loss and death
b. Live life as well as you can to gain as much
enjoyment and satisfaction from each precious
day (Furer, Walker, and Stein 152-3)
i. Philosophers suggest that we can only live life to its fullest by
understanding and accepting death, thus overcoming our fear of it
Roots of fear for better intervention/prevention
a. 3 hypotheses for origin:
i. Biological /instinctual fear based on nervous system
1. If this is true, extremely difficult to treat
ii. Realistic fear base on late childhood, adolescent, or adult
experience
1. Unlikely because young infants display similar aspects
of fear of death through object constancy, crying when
abandoned, etc
2. Hard to treat, fear is ingrained in mind/experiences
iii. Learned fear from early infant experiences or abandonment
1. Most likely from evidence gathered (Langner 16)
2. Easier to treat
How to cope and overcome death
a. Philosophers suggest confronting death
i. What does this look like practically?
1. Mortality communication
2. Internal shift in attitude
a. Can be through journals, diaries, self-reflection
b. Simply accepting death as a part of life for
everyone, not just individual
c. Stop worrying about death and live in the
present
b. Treatment methods
i. CBT
ii. Group therapy
iii. Anti-anxiety drugs (less effective)
c. Coping methods
i. Positive
1. Religion
2. Group membership
a. Reduces loneliness through community support
b. Feeling of belonging
3. Creativity
a. Ex. Immortality through art forms
4. Love
a. Feelings of love can trump fear
5. Humor
a. Laughing off death to wash away fear

VI.

6. Procreation
a. Immortality through children, family
ii. Negative
1. Can produce obsessive-compulsive behavior
2. Counterphobic behavior, extreme measures and risks
3. Gambling
4. Dissociation
5. Repression/Denial
6. Suicide
iii. Although in a few cases, negative coping can work, it is
generally destructive, short-term, and doesnt actually improve
life
Conclusion
a. Fear of death is more present, serious, and universal issue than many
believe
b. Religion can work either way, depending on timing and what you take
away from it
c. Its important to overcome fear of death to significantly improve
quality of life
d. Much personal growth can be gained through process
e. There are many practical coping methods, positive and negative, as
well as treatment programs
f. In conclusion, fear of death is a larger issue than imagined, but it is
largely treatable and possible to deal with