Shelley Bridgeman 's Opinion

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelly Bridgeman: Are you scared of dying?

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Is it reasonable to be afraid of death? Photo / Thinkstock
Is it reasonable to be afraid of death? Photo / Thinkstock

I blame episode six of MasterChef New Zealand for making such a meal of death.

The contestants were asked to cook their own "last supper" but, instead of simply focusing on presenting a winning dish, they began contemplating their own mortality - as if for the very first time: "It's already quite an emotional feeling," says Aaron. Eliott reveals he has a phobia about dying, reported the NZ Herald. "It's just a cooking theme. Start chopping and save the existential angst for later," I wanted to shout at them.

While constant thoughts of death can be a sign of depression, the careful and quiet consideration of death has actually been the latest thing since, well, almost forever. Sir Paul Holmes admitted to a fear of death in his last television interview: "I get a bit scared. Scariest thing is going to bed and closing your eyes and not knowing if you're going to wake up again.

That's my scary thing."

In Tolstoy's Anna Karenina Konstantin Levin's brother says, "I'm afraid of death, terribly afraid of death." (Yes, I'm reading this novel for the first time. Not re-reading it, which is all anyone who's anyone seems to do with classics these days.) One of Philip Roth's characters concurs: "In every calm and reasonable person there is a hidden second person scared witless about death."

Yet as far as phobias go, I've always thought that fear of death is a fairly compelling one. After all, thanatophobia certainly beats fear of clowns (coulrophobia), fear of symmetry (symmetrophobia) and fear of the colour purple (porphyrophobia). In fact, a fear of death can be viewed as normal, healthy even. Surely not being the slightest bit apprehensive about such a life-unaffirming event could mean you're out of touch or in denial.

You can take an online Death-Related Anxiety test involving 34 statements to see how worried you actually are. "If you are extremely anxious (scoring 65 or more), you might consider counsel[l]ing or therapy; if you are unusually anxious (scoring between 40 and 64), you might want to find a method of meditation, philosophy, or spiritual practice to help experience, explore, and accept your feelings about death."

Of course, entire religions have evolved to bring their followers peace of mind about death but sometimes just reframing the notion of death with some wise words can be enough to provide a fresh perspective to even non-believers:

Neel Burton: "All that we can do is to come to terms with death in the hope of preventing it from preventing us from making the most of our life."

William Hazlitt: "Perhaps the best cure for the fear of death is to reflect that life has a beginning as well as an end. There was a time when we were not: this gives us no concern - why, then, should it trouble us that a time will come when we shall cease to be?"

T. Byram Karasu: "You die a little death every night and are born every morning. In between, you lose your grasp on everything you have. Whether one day you can gently go to your death depends on how covetous you are of life."

Science Daily: "[B]eing a mindful person not only makes you generally more tolerant and less defensive , but it can also actually neutralize fears of dying and death."

Socrates: "No one knows whether death may not be the greatest of all blessings for a man, yet men fear it as if they knew that it is the greatest of evils."

Wikihow: "Understand that it's a cycle. People are born, people die, more people are born. Don't feel like you're being called out, and that you have to fear it."


Are you scared of death? Is this a reasonable response or an irrational emotion? How have you overcome such a fear in the past?

Shelley Bridgeman

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman is a truck-driving, supermarket-going, horse-riding mother-of-one who is still married to her first husband. As a Herald online blogger, she specialises in First World Problems and delves fearlessly into the minutiae of daily life. Twice a week, she shares her perspective on a pressing current issue and invites readers to add their ten cents’ worth to the debate.

Read more by Shelley Bridgeman

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