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Are we obsessed with safety and death? Why are we so afraid to talk about the things that scare us?

You can’t escape death, no matter what you do to prevent it.
You can wear helmets, avoid dark alleyways, and wrap yourself in cotton wool. If you chose not to ever leave your home, sit on the couch and dread the outside world, chances are the ceiling would collapse on your head. Or a freak tornado would rip through the house and toss you upside down.

Take the 38 year old father of two killed by a plane while jogging along a beach. I’m sure he didn’t get up in the morning and think, “I better not go for a run today, I might get hit by a plane.”

Or the female driver whose car was rammed by a lorry in England, resulting in her vehicle being pushed sideways along a motorway because the driver didn’t see her. Did she get back into her car the next day, or decide to never drive again?

Photo by kevindooley

I have lots of trouble dealing with death. The thought of not getting everything done in my lifetime is terrifying. The thought of not knowing what happens next is overwhelming. Yet there’s people that risk their lives everyday: firefighters, policemen, soldiers.

Death is a part of our daily lives.

The only way I can figure out how to deal with it is to look at it from a different angle. Like The Darwin Awards, meant to “commemorate those who improve our gene pool…by accidentally removing themselves from it.”

Take this one:

Down here in Florida we have some rabid Marlins fans. A few days before the Marlins game, two supporters decided to show their loyalty by constructing a paper banner. Wanting to display their efforts prominently, they chose the Metro Rail overpass at a point where it crossed a major thoroughfare. The banner would proclaim the superiority, not to mention the high testosterone content, of the city. Unfortunately, their plans were not altogether complete. Neither had the foresight to procure a Metro Rail schedule. As they hung the banner, the Metro thundered toward them. Both were struck by the automated train. One was killed, the other left wounded to tell the tale. The banner was unharmed.

Photo by cyanocorax

When it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go.

No amount of good luck will prevent it. Like the Italian woman who missed the fateful Air France flight from Brazil to France which plunged into the ocean killing all those on board, and then not long after died in a car accident.

Putting your fear and anxieties aside is necessary to live any kind of life. This means working outside your normal, everyday comfort zones and doing things that you often find challenging.

Comfort zones can be deceiving.

These zones are familiar and welcoming, and so they cause us to be less aware and cautious of our surroundings. Perfect example: I have lived in this current neighborhood for a year now. I walk to and from work, the gym, the grocery store and other parts of town at least four times a day. And while some of my neighbors are shady characters, I never imagined the police might find a grenade along the route I take regularly. But they did, just last week. In a town where crime rate is next to nil, there’s something hair-raising about knowing what might have happened.

Explore different ideas.

Take it one day at a time. Search for a different perspective on death, like the Mexicans who celebrate El Día de Todos los Santos (All Saints Day) and El Día de los Muertos (All Souls Day). These festivities come from an ancient indigenous practice centered on the belief that the souls of the dead return each year to party with the living. If the afterlife is just one big party, I’m cool with that.

Community Connection

How has fear kept you from doing the things you love? How did you overcome it?



About The Author

Candice Walsh

Candice Walsh is a Professional Experience Collector and full-time writer, blogger, and inventor of job titles that don't make much sense. She's based out of St. John's, Newfoundland. Follow her website for more shenanigans.

  • Abbie

    i think we’re scared of the unknown – we don’t really know what happens on that day…

  • Rosie

    Death is the only certainty in life & i guess we are all afraid of dying to some extent. We never know when our time is up so I try 6 live to the motto to live each day as it is your last. Never put off to tomorrow what you can do today.

    My grandad was the dead person that i came into contact with & I did go to the undertakers to see him in chapel of rest because I am curious I asked the undertaker all kinds of questions about what they did to the bodies & all. People say I am morbid but it helped me cope. Then when my dad & grandmother died, I was upset of course but I coped a lot better as did have an understanding of the process. In fact the undertaker let me do my grandmothers nails & hair.

  • Leigh Shulman

    People don’t know how to approach death. Western society — as a generality — simply doesn’t have the tools to cope anymore. Perhaps it’s that we live long lives that with the help of medical technology are relatively unhindered by death and disease.

    So that when someone comes along who has cancer or has lost a close family member, particularly someone who has died younger than they should have, we not only don’t know what to say, but we hide. Maybe we’re reminded of our own mortality, but I think it has more to do with not wanting to hurt the person.

    Funny comparison, but the first time you hold a newborn baby you also don’t know what to do or how to act. And you clam up.

    Right now, I have a friend who is fighting cancer. She is amazing to talk to because she makes you feel like talking about her treatments is just normal. Still, it’s difficult. We keep positive. In my head, I somehow know she’s going to be alright. And we never ever mention the D-word, as if doing so might bring it on.

  • Liz Watkin

    I live in Zambia where life expectancy is low and poor access to basic faciities mean death is very commonplace. I am alway impressed with the dignity that Zambians have when mourning. They are not afraid to talk about death or dying and accept it as part of life. Although I think it is a tragedy that so many people die in Zambia, their attitude is admirable and comforting.

    • Leigh Shulman

      I can’t quite explain why people have such a hard time talking about death. But you can see it mirrored in how few comments there are on this post in comparison to most others in this section.

      I think it often leaves those who have no choice but to deal with death feeling isolated and alone.

      The subject of disconnection so many of us have with our bodies and the realities inherent to being human seems to be coming up over and over lately on Life. In relation to breastfeeding, birth and death. I don’t know that I’d been so acutely aware of it before.

  • Steve

    I think that people have such a hard time talking about death is because it is a hard topic to talk about. So people avoid it. It’s pushed off to the side as something that will happen someday and to just ignore it for now. I like to use it as a way to motivate me into getting as many things done in life as possible.

  • Carolyn

    My father passed on in November –
    I could see my mother wishing he would not leave.
    She didn’t want any help from Hospice – Dad could have used it .
    I felt a sense of loss – not because Dad had been ill for over two years and kept going in and out of hospitals and rehab places – but because , as was mentioned above – our society – churches, synagogues, temples, – and all the people that visit them or contact their holy people – somehow haven’t created a space that supports, tends to either the person dying or the family.

    We are afraid of the unknown . If we can’t see it , it must be bad.

    Some how , some where, some group of people have to come together to create ceremonies that work for them. A sort of gentle place where they can feel cared for.
    Some societies do this better – the Native Americans had ceremonies.
    We have lost the ability and desire to connect with the Natural world, to find peace anywhere.

    When I die I want to be on the dance floor in the middle of a tango –
    Or fishing in a mountain stream.

    Now I creating an after the fact ceremony for my Dad. .. I’m a writer, but words are escaping me

    • Leigh


      I think you said it rather perfectly.

    • debra

      I am sorry for your loss and recall my parents passing a number of years ago… and felt the need to mention the wonderful support both my parents and we children received from their synagogue friends and rabbi during their illnesses, burial and mourning periods…
      But it helps if you belong first…
      I found most of the family unable to deal with the basic concept and that sometimes they would go through the stages of anger and denial that are probably common to all loss of that scale…
      My mother was convinced that if my father would eat, he would get better and thought he was not eating to spite her… when I gently said, how can you expect an unconscious man to eat?… she blew up and would not speak to me for 3 days… until she broke down and admitted that it was likely he would die, no matter what she did… acceptance helps..
      before she passed, she had a birthday party and spoke (on oxygen) for 15 minutes, thanking everyone and talking about what an incredible life she had and the doctors who were helping her … and died 2 weeks later… peacefully in the hospital…
      With regard to expressing it all… give yourself time to grieve… whenever the moment hits…
      I found myself in my car, on the side of the road and crying or writing poetry to my dad…
      and had the privilege to share it on the year’s anniversary and stone setting…
      My brothers found solace in attending daily prayers to say the Kaddish over the entire year following their deaths… and in avoiding parties and music for the same period…
      and in fact, we had to create 2 spaces for the bar mitzvah of my son and nephew so that there could be some music… you compromise and find ways to accomodate grief rituals …
      I hope I didn’t get too carried away…
      and may you know no more sorrow…

  • Carolyn

    Thank you Leigh.
    Maybe part the whole picture in talking about death is realizing that we are truly part of some kind of continuum . The idea of us is always here – I can remember my Dad and all the things he said or did that I wish to. I can’t hold his hand, but do feel I can talk to him when I need to — find him in a river when I’m fishing.

    Although this is small comfort when we wish someone physically near.

    So I’m back to a ceremony. There is a local musician who goes to hospitals and hospices who plays guitar music for patients and families. I love that idea.

    The medical and pharmaceutical communities are focused on keeping us alive – and in part that is OK. However, by denying passing perhaps we are missing a time when there are some kinds of gifts to be given.

    Writing, hiking on a mountain trail, fishing or wading in a stream help me. However, there’s still a hole where a ceremony needs to be.

    Maybe we can create a bit of community here where we can share ceremony ideas? That would be more positive than what’s happening in the news.

  • Scott

    I’ve spent over a third of my almost three years in India (over five trips) in Varanasi, one of the most auspicious places for a Hindu to die. People from all over India come to die there. You can’t miss death in Varnasi: the glowing fires at Manikarnika Ghat – the main burning ghat in the city; the daily stream of biers being carried through the streets, bodies wrapped in sequined cloth; and the occasional glimpse of a body in the Ganges. It is a part of life.

    Personally, I’ve never had an issue with death. I was in Pakistan when my father died, unexpectedly and accidentally, in Paris. I was driving a van from Quetta to Islamabad and had a dream. Of a river, six boats on the river, one coming to shore while the others continued downstream. The lone man in the boat walked up the steep hill to the Tibetan style guesthouse I was in, walked toward me, then into me. Not bumping me, but in TO me. Eight months later I was in a remote cabin in Utah, writing about that trip – reading the journal for the first time since writing about the dream . . . the day I had the dream is the day my father died.

    Something IS going on Here . . .

  • Dorothy

    I deplore the fact that Death is such a dirty word here in the West. Wouldn’t it be the ultimate evil if everybody lived forever? Probably because I’ve lived much of my life in the East, I’m more comfortable with the concept of Life and Death being a whole continuum. Perhaps that is pervasive thinking there because life is more tenuous and people don’t live long lives in general. This is not to say that one doesn’t feel pain and a huge loss when someone close dies–it’s just not such a surprise, such a sense of “how could this happen?” It’s all in the appointed order of Life that it should end, whether we want it to or not.

  • freddy

    We are afraid to die because we have not yet lived. At the edge of the unknown, in the line of uncertainty, is where the human psyche awakens to real life. The predictable, security and fear based existence recommended by the status quo is not living at all, but living dead. A zombie condition that paralyzes true happiness and the miracles of living in faith. When we “know nothing”, we will return to our childlike state of being where no fear exists. And we will live forever.

  • Nedemgirl

    it’s fear of the unknown. we don’t know what awaits us after we die. where do we go? that’s what people are scared of. they want to be in control of things, to know what happens next like in life but sadly nobody has ever died and come back to tell us what it ws like.

  • max

    In my opinion the main reason why we don’t talk about death is because each and everyone of us experienced it, the loss of a dog, a friend, a familiy member…and those memories come up with hearing the word “death” wich causes us pain. The tragedy of losing a person that is close to us left some sort of mark in our head that reminds us of the good times spend together and that we won’t be with them ever again, but that’s just what I’m thinking

I see this as a reminder to always look further to find truth.
I blew him a kiss as I walked away. I don’t know why.
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