Fear of death is not a new phenomenon. People have been scared to die ever since our species evolved into existence
One of the explanations for people developing a fear of death is the idea of the afterlife. The afterlife is a huge mystery to all human beings. The only people who know are, well, dead. Sure, many people have beliefs about what will happen to them after death, but a belief is not the same as knowing. Part of us does not fully accept the fact that we, with one hundred percent certainty, know what will become of us. For this reason, the afterlife is hand in hand with the unknown which widely explains fear. As Greenberg et al. (2010) have noted “The awareness that death is inevitable and may signal the absolute end of existence creates the potential for potentially overwhelming terror, which is assuaged by a dual component anxiety buffer consisting of a cultural worldview and self-esteem” (p.2). Not knowing what is coming next can raise questions and doubts amongst people that might have no certain answer. This causes people to assume and create expectations with no guarantee that the reality is going to be anything like what they imagined. Additionally, human beings are unknown to be curious creatures that constantly need assurance on matters being that the lack of answers can develop anxiety and other psychological complications. Lack of answers also causes the inability to identify the trigger and prevents us from binge able to remove ourselves or the threat from the situation. Buhr and Dugas (2002) further illustrate that “This worry occurs because the intolerance of uncertainty makes people feel uncertain about many aspects of their lives” (p. 391). In fact, the afterlife is to be feared because life after death is the ultimate thing we can never know while alive. We fear death for what unknowns lie in waiting.
Another reason for the cause of fear of death is defined as loss of control. Humans tend to freak out when they think they don’t have control over things. Thanks to control, people advanced to be able to live all over the world. Death, however, is something that no one was able to control. As a result, not being to control our destiny can arise fear and worry. Moreover, death can come at any time and with no warning. This exacerbates our fear of death because not just loss of control, but we can not even truly control when, where, how, or the cause of our inevitable demise. Robert W. Firestone (2018) confirms that “Whenever people move out of the familiar safety of their defenses and expand their lives, anxiety is aroused or heightened and they begin to experience their essential aloneness” (para. 7). Likewise, people afraid of losing control live continuously in uncertainty which gives them a feeling of powerlessness. Fear of loss of control causes people to not dare to surrender to what the future brings and end up in a vicious circle. The more uncertainty that comes from the idea of death and loss of control arises more fear. This fear can pile up and affect our approach to life landing the person in the well of anxiety. We fear the unknown, and death and all its details are the ultimate unknowns. Realizing that we cannot ever fully control our future because of all these unknowns scares the hell out of us, and it's one reason why we fear death.
Fear of death may also be attributed to things left undone. in this state of mind, there is so much possibility in life and everything seems achievable but only if we have time. Time, though, is the only obstacle literally where we cannot get more of. All anyone gets is a lifetime to go after everything life has to offer; no more, no less. According to Leila Odinaiv (2020), “You can’t stop the clock or slow things downtime is non-discriminate, and it’s going to keep going whether you want it or not. Because time won't wait for you, it becomes much more of a commodity, because every day we lose some of it” (para. 3). It is certain that time is a valuable asset due to its finite existence. Its limitation produces anxiety and worries in people planning their future or even thinking about the work they are currently doing. This is supremely scary, knowing that everything we have ever worked for and wanted will suddenly come to nothing if we do not finish or obtain them before our unknown time of death. Because our entire lives are dedicated to achieving one thing or another, knowing that we might never achieve something we have spent so much of our limited, precious time pursuing scares many people. Similarly, even if there is time and resources to fully go after one’s dreams, the is no guarantee people will not die waiting. As Thomas Curwen (2009) expressed “He fears a stroke most of all, that this life might be reduced to gibberish or silence” (para. 24). As an illustration, all the goals and achievements one has done or prepared for can all go to as a state of nothingness. The lack of motivation this brings increases the fear of death and the fear of not living life to its fullest. In that case, the fear of not being able to get all that is wanted, hoped for, or expected out of life before the time is up is another reason why people fear death.