Fear of Dying
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Fear of Dying
Comments by Stephen Kaufman - 12 Dec 2004

 I think the sheer terror that Veronica describes, prior to her calm acceptance of death, is what Becker focused on. This is the sensation when death is foreseeable, but it is not (according to Frank, Veronica and others) the experience one has immediately before death.

What comes to my mind are the terrified voices of people talking on cell phones on the doomed 9/11 flights or the behavior of people in a burning building, which certainly seems to indicate a sense of terror. This, I think, is why many people of failing health, whose long-term prognosis is grim, often struggle against death, though often they exhibit calm and acceptance during the last hours or days.

There appears to be a different mental state just before death, but (according to Becker) throughout one's life there is a fear of death that is held in check by the psychological mechanism of denial.

Interestingly, Kubler-Ross relates that many people who have had near-death experiences relate that they are not afraid to die, and I doubt that this is a manifestation of denial. Rather, they recall the calm and (with the light at the end of the tunnel and all that) a sense that the death of the body is not equivalent to the death of the self.


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