Accepting our mortality and that one day everyone will die is only the beginning of living and dying well. In the human life cycle, everyone dies in the end despite every effort we put into avoiding talking about or planning for the inevitable. Accepting and coming to terms with the fact that death is a normal part of life can help you live more presently. Being conscious of our mortality helps us live each day with more gratitude and helps us appreciate our life.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Does Death Acceptance Look and Feel Like?
- Why Is It Important to Accept Your Mortality?
- Tips for Accepting Your Own Death and Mortality
Thinking about mortality in ways that don't cause you to get depressed takes practicing. Preparing for death and learning to accept death are two very different things. Learning to accept death can be liberating and add to your enjoyment of life in ways that you may have never considered before. Accepting death can also help you accomplish your life's work, repair and solidify broken relationships, and make peace with mortality.
What Does Death Acceptance Look and Feel Like?
Death acceptance can and is considered part of the death-positive movement that's taken shape over the past several years. The movement began in 2011 by the Order of the Good Death to bring awareness to death and dying. The idea behind the campaign is to encourage healthy conversations about taboo subjects related to death, illness, and the dying process.
In the context of the death positive movement, accepting death means becoming at peace with knowing that everyone will die one day and that there's nothing taboo about having open and honest conversations around the topic.
A healthy acceptance of death can mean that a person comes to terms with their mortality and lives their life in ways that are personally fulfilling, meaningful, and without fear of death or dying. When individuals recognize and accept their eventual demise, it can help open their minds to new ways of seeing the world around them. In turn, they may be able to find new opportunities to live their life in more meaningful ways.
There are plenty of theories on why someone chooses to accept death or deny the inevitable. Dealing with one's mortality doesn't have to be so complicated or dismal. Some of the more common things individuals think about when contemplating their death are whether it'll hurt, what'll happen if they become helpless or dependent, and how will their loved ones left behind survive on their own.
Accepting death can mean searching for answers to the above and other frequent concerns relating to what happens in the afterlife, to fear the unknown. An individual can dedicate some time to finding the answers to satisfy these questions and discovering what gives meaning to their life in the present.
Why Is It Important to Accept Your Mortality?
Many of us have conceptualized what it means to die. We've thought about the fears and ideas that make up what we think death must look or feel like in the end. Sometimes, we've come up with less than ideal images of death and the dying process. As a result, some of us have unhealthy relationships with death.
Some people may suffer a paralyzing fear when we think about what it would mean for us to die. Sometimes this results from being inexperienced with death and the dying process. In others, our experiences can end up becoming the root cause of our fears.
Getting comfortable with death is part of the process of living and dying well. Coming to terms with our mortality can be liberating and allow for living a more fulfilling life without fear or anxiety that typically attaches to the unknown. In essence, accepting death helps you live.
When we get comfortable with and normalize the idea of death, we have an opportunity to prepare for it. The things that we prepare for the most are those that typically give us less stress and anxiety. Accepting mortality means, in part, permitting yourself to live.
A person who isn’t afraid of dying is more likely to:
- Live a more fulfilling life
- Have stronger and more loving relationships
- Have specific goals in mind
- Achieve what they set out to accomplish
- Fulfill their dreams and ideals
Tips for Accepting Your Own Death and Mortality
Most of us think that we have control over our lives and can control how we'll die. But the stark reality is that we don't have control over either. Preparing and planning for our eventual demise is a part of accepting death as an inevitable part of life. However, it doesn't mean that we can predict how and when we'll die.
The choices we make concerning life are based on how we think it'll go, giving us a false sense of security. Take for instance an unexpected terminal illness diagnosis. Everything you've once thought true about your life gets thrown out the window in an instant. Suddenly your life's been turned upside-down and everything planned for is now pointless.
An unexpected shift like this is one of those times when accepting death can seem futile, leaving you trapped in the depths of grief and despair. Nonetheless, there's still plenty to look forward to, even when faced with bad news. The following tips may help you accept your death and mortality in any situation.
Come to terms with feelings of loss
When you anticipate all the things you’ll miss out on when you get closer to death, it’s normal to feel grief and loss before you die. Even healthy individuals go through these feelings of loss when they stop to think about what death means to them. This phenomenon is called anticipatory grief and can affect most individuals faced with a life-threatening illness, a sudden decline in health, or who’s experiencing the dying process of a loved one.
When you accept death, it doesn’t mean that you won’t feel grief or any of its consequences. At times, it may even mean that you’ll experience grief without having suffered any loss. The idea of a future loss alone can have this grief effect on your emotions and psychological well being. Anticipatory grief can help you deal with your feelings of loss when the time finally comes.
Have open conversations
Talking about death and dying helps you become comfortable with what it means to die. The more you talk about it, the easier it is to open up to others about your fears and anxieties. As with everything in life, the more comfortable you are with a particular situation, the more prepared you become for it. Accepting death doesn't come easy for everyone, and having conversations alone may not be enough for you.
Consider joining others with similar interests that you can talk to and share ideas with as you start opening up about death and dying. You can find groups online, primarily through social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Figure out your life’s purpose
Going through the motions of figuring out your life's purpose can be an exciting part of your journey. When you accept your mortality, you begin to appreciate life more. Suddenly there's an urgency to living a more fulfilling life rather than sitting home wasting your days away.
A person who knows and accepts that death is inevitable can live their life in a more driven and purposeful way. The search for your personal meaning of life can have the effect of enriching your existence in ways you never dreamed possible. Even if you never figure it out, the journey of making sense of it all can be fulfilling in itself.
Make amends with those you love
Relationships tend to hold us back from moving forward in life and from experiencing a good death in the end. Sometimes we live with the trepidation of knowing that we have to make things right with someone we used to have a good relationship with, but we don't know how to take that initial step.
When you make amends with the people that you love and whom you've had a falling-out with, it frees your mind and spirit energy to go on and live a more tranquil life. When you accept death, it also means finding closure within those relationships.
Live through your bucket list
People who know and accept that they're going to die make it a priority to live in the present. If you ask the people that you know how they feel about death, you might be surprised to learn that some of those closest to you are already fulfilling their life goals.
If you pay close attention not only to what they're saying but how they're feeling, you might find that they're some of the most joyous people that you know. Coming to terms with your mortality often translates into permitting yourself to live life to the fullest while enjoying every precious part of it before your ultimate demise.
Plan accordingly to ease fears
There are many people out there who are superstitious. They think that if they plan for their death, it means that it'll come sooner. These are typically the same people that live in constant fear of the what-ifs in life. Those who accept that death is inevitable and that one day they'll also die are those that are well prepared for not only death but also for life.
These are the same individuals who do their end-of-life planning, have financial plans in place for retirement and beyond, and plan for the well-being of their loved ones left behind. The better prepared you are to die, the less fearful you'll be of death. When everything's in place, you can expect to feel less stress, fear, and anxiety.
Trust in your faith
Having a solid religious or spiritual belief system in place can also help you come to terms with death and dying. Not everyone believes in spirituality or has a higher power to lean on. Some people believe in life after death, and others don't. Leaning on your particular faith and beliefs can alleviate many of the fears related to the unknown.
While medical science is busy trying to figure out whether there's life after death or if the soul survives consciousness, those who rely on faith to help them make sense of the universe and the meaning of life seem to be more fulfilled and less anxious.
Simplify your life
The older a person gets, the more material things they tend to accumulate. Having an overabundance of things can lead to the anxiety of not knowing what'll happen to your possessions once you die.
Having too many things is an actual cause of concern for many people who fear death. Their possessions have such a stronghold on them that they don't want to die because they'll lose control of what happens to their things.
The more you streamline your life as you get older, the easier it'll be for you to accept the inevitable. Giving away your material possession while still living ensures that they'll go to where you want while experiencing the joy of giving.
Make peace with your past
Everyone alive has a past. Whether it's a good one or a colorful one isn't what's important in the end. As death approaches, many of us tend to reflect on our lives and how we've lived them. Almost always, there'll be times of regret or things that cause significant pain and discomfort. Everyone experiences suffering at some level when they reflect on their past.
When preparing for death, there's no room for these negative emotions in your present life. Accept that no one's perfect, and there's no such thing as living a perfect life. Come to terms with the life you've lived, and make plans for how you'll live the rest of it.
Why Accepting Death Helps You Live
Accepting that death is a part of life frees your mind and soul to live the rest of your years in ways that are meaningful to you. You truly haven’t lived until you’ve experienced the freedom that comes with knowing that our days on earth are limited and that life's indeed what we make of it.