“Death is no paper tiger,” once wrote psychologist Dr. Carl Gustav Jung. Beyond age 35, according to him, death is a common universal source of anxiety or preoccupation in our lives. It’s also a revealer of one’s actual state of Self, mental health, and overall wellbeing.
In the process of getting older, death anxiety usually looms progressively larger. People show a variety of responses to this inevitable, heavy reality of eventual physical self-obliteration. Generally, one’s response can either be helpful or harmful to one’s self-integration and wellness.
I’m reminded of a 65-year-old millionaire mother of one of my addiction clients. Based on my client’s recount, she inflicted much verbal and emotional abuse on him since childhood. Yet she didn’t think, “Since my final years are getting so brief, how can I use my final years to heal my deeply wounded relationship with my children, correct my mistakes, and make up?”
Rather, she’s constantly thinking of leisure and self indulgence, speeding up her expenses to travel to as many countries as possible. It drove her to frenzy to hurry and enjoy seeing sights, grab all the gusto she can to enjoy further luxuries and comfort in life before she dies.
On the opposite side, other people cope with their death anxiety by turning to God and/or serving others. Not to hedonism or self-indulgence, but to producing a lasting legacy behind for others’ greater good. They’re able to discern the delusion of transitory leisure, possessions, and comfort before they die.
Examples of this abound. The aging Bill Gates, the world’s wealthiest man, donated millions of dollars to global health causes. Mother Teresa served the poorest of the poor in India for many years and built a worldwide organization. Dr. Albert Schweitzer famously served in Africa as a medical missionary as well as countless others like him from missions and churches. Plus much more!
If you’re a Christian, death and its accompanying anxiety is vanquished. For Jesus proclaimed: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in Me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again. They are given eternal life for believing in Me and will never perish” (John 11:25, 26).
I ask, have you found true lasting remedy for death anxiety yourself?