Thought about fear of death
The fear of death is natural and responds to the survival instinct that characterizes us as living beings. It is a primary emotion provoked by a real or supposed danger.
On the other hand, fear has an adaptive and necessary function to survive. In this case, the fear of COVID-19 activates behaviors of personal care and others.
The pandemic has presented us, without prior warning, a stark reality about the possible proximity of death to our families, including ourselves, and today's society hardly knows how to manage it, since it was not prepared for it.
In this society in which material well-being, consumption and leisure are the values that control the system, death did not fit and was kept in an unnatural anonymity.
The fear of death and its impact on society
Children do not attend the funerals of their own relatives, even beloved grandparents, or their own parents. It exists as a fictitious bubble of protection created by adults that deprives children of the awareness of death, and even of saying goodbye to their loved ones, a ritual necessary to correctly close the cycle of mourning.
When I was a child, I saw the coffins pass through the streets of the town, on the shoulders of relatives, followed by their entourage and revered by all passers-by, who bowed in silence in a respectable gesture before death. The bells announced death just as they rang for joy at moments of celebration in life. The children went with the family to the wake, the relatives accompanied us all together in the pain of the farewell. Many children (called altar boys) accompanied the priest in the extreme unction. And all of this gave us a more realistic, responsible and less reckless perspective on life than that perceived by young people today.
All this pedagogical obscurantism in our current society has triggered an emotional response from people who often become somatized , in some cases developing severe anxiety, depression or the loss of adequate adaptive skills in stressful situations.
Many are the children, adolescents and adults (especially essential and health workers) who come to my office since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic with various symptoms, but all of them hide fear and, especially, fear of death.
The fear of the death of loved ones and of death itself has skyrocketed. But are we only talking about death as a fact that is part of life? No, there are many ramifications: fear of dying alone, fear of dying with suffering and pain, fear of not finding meaning in one's life, fear of not having lived long enough to fulfill our dreams, fear that everything will end ... . and many others.
If you feel anxiety, breathing difficulties, dizziness, tremors, sweating, rapid heartbeat, chest pain and nausea, it is important that you go inside and connect with what is really happening to you, and especially listen and accept your real fears, it will be easier face them if you identify them.
There are other symptoms that in addition to occurring in adults, are those that warn about the need for help from children and adolescents. We talk about nightmares, panic attacks, irritability, insomnia, sadness, fear of going outside or going to school and dependency behaviors.
What to do?
The best way to overcome the fear of getting sick and dying is to talk about it; suffering in silence can become entrenched and reduce your quality of life. It is good to learn about death and accept reality with a good dose of positive thinking.
In order to help children and adolescents, we have to talk with them as a family, tell them about our loved ones who have already passed away but who are part of our hearts. This will give them a sense of belonging to the family system and a sense of time, something they need to find a little peace in these moments and, above all, it is absolutely necessary to listen with interest to what they think about it, their fears and their fantasies about death . The worst fears are not those that are given to us by life, the worst fears are imaginary ones.
To face the death of a loved one, it is essential to perform a farewell ritual, share these rituals with the children and strengthen cohesion with family and friends. We are all in the same boat. In this historical moment, many are silent about their pain, their fear and their helplessness, not knowing what to do with those emotions.
Feel free to seek help if you need it. You are not alone.
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