fear of dying

I am only 27 years old myself, but when I think about dying, I really get a frightening (feeling powerless). I’ve actually only started thinking about this since the birth of my son. Some people say that this is normal and that it also has to do with the fact that you are still very much alive. Some people tell me that they felt the same way at my age. They also reassure me that as you get older you start to accept this too, especially as your zest for life diminishes (which I find hard to believe right now). You also hear older people say this at a point where they really don’t like it anymore (eg too much pain etc.) Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one who thinks about that? Or is this a normal phenomenon that everyone experiences at certain times in their lives? It is also true that you do not ask other people if they also think about this. Can any normal person accept this or is it the case that you will never really accept this?

Best regards,

Asker: Carl, 27 years old


Dear Carlo,

“Being able” to think about dying is the toll of being human. We have been around for about 200,000 years and in that time our brains (more precisely our cerebral cortex) have evolved in a special way compared to the other living beings on earth: instead of adapting to the world (walking faster, more spots in our fur, better eyes, longer teeth…), we have adapted the world to us. We have to constantly think about this: first about basic things, as we evolved further about ways to optimally fit into a group, about art, about science, about religions to increase social cohesion and so on.

So if you can think about death (which a rabbit or a snail is not given!), then on the other hand we as humans can think about anything and everything. We even know fantasy, so we can even think of things that we don’t even experience or will ever experience. Indeed, against this phenomenal ability is again… that we can think about our own end…

I am a basic nurse and I can assure you that many people think about death and their own death (these are 2 different things). There is also no line “when” you start to think about it: a lot also has to do with “confrontations with an end”. Children do not think about death unless they lose a loved one, get a serious illness themselves, but also, for example, when the cat or their canary dies. And whether you worry about that for a long time or not, that has to do with yourself: the variation is as great as the number of people walking around on earth.

Young people usually think they are quite immortal, which is why armies rely mainly on very young men. Middle-aged people already realize that life is finite, and as you get older you realize that you will have to arrange certain things. But the intensity or pace of this is also influenced by the presence or absence of disorders. It is also not always clear what people fear the most: of deterioration and pain, or of no longer being, or of leaving loved ones behind, or of being forgotten…

If thinking about death (you’re 27) starts to dominate your thoughts, so that it really starts to sour your life or starts to overshadow your relationship with your child – then you’re clearly thinking too much about it. Talking about it with experts can help you, but on the other hand we have to say boldly (and the sooner you accept that, the better): you will certainly die, so will I. There is no pill to gild that, it’s the only certainty we have. But… you’re 27 and I’m 50, so statistically you’ve got quite a few years ahead of me. So there is no alternative: you can’t say ‘I don’t want to get older now’, you just get older. stop burning That’s life, and you just have to accept that a lot.

By the way, I think it’s normal that you are thinking about death now: it indicates that you are a responsible young parent and fear for your child (or what will happen if you die now). Births are intense experiences, barrels full of euphoria, but at the same time the carelessness disappears: that UK is totally dependent on you. I think you just ended up in the next phase: from an immortal youth to suddenly someone who now has to take care of himself, or his descendant no longer has a father.

This brings us back to the beginning of the text: We will protect and keep our young. We have evolved to do that. In our non-congeners it is part of a set of longer teeth or spots on the wings, but as said, the toll of being human is that we can think about it. But with the same power you enjoy a DVD, a painting, a song, empathy, a holiday, a love, a dream and also the dream about your baby’s future. Then remember that your cat or dog will never be able to do that, but for him or her the world will stop at the edge of the garden.


Dirk Danschieter, nursing scientist, VUB assistant

Answered by

MSc Dirk Danschieter

Itensive care children – humanitarian disasters and field hospitals – plasticizers and plasticizers in medical material and the effect on the body

fear of dying

Free University of Brussels
Pleinlaan 2 1050 Ixelles


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