Kirsten Schempp BQ project

Is the fear of death appropriate?
 Throughout this presentation we will be analyzing
different resources regarding:
 What
influences the common emotion of fear during
 If the fear of death is in fact appropriate or
 Views regarding death according to the dying
Our Relationship with Death
 “A shaping power on thinking and behavior at all
points in the lifespan” – Herman Feifel
 The way we anticipate death governs our “now” in an
influential manner which is true to everyone despite
any physical ailments or circumstances
How we perceive death
 Death is one of the most overwhelming experiences
we have as humans
 We tend to relegate death to the periphery of our
lives keeping it “out of sight and out of mind”
 The words “dead” and “dying” are rarely used, we
tend to use the phrases: “pass away”, “put to rest”,
“Death challenges the idea that human life has
meaning and purpose”
 The manner in which individuals respond to the
challenge is intertwined with their cultural beliefs
regarding death
 Our culture helps us deny, manipulate, distort, or
camouflage death so it is less difficult to cope with
The concept of “Death Anxiety”
 Robert Neimeyer and his colleagues proposed that
the term “death anxiety” is understood as: “A
shorthand designation for a cluster of death attitudes
characterized by fear, threat, unease, discomfort, and
similar negative emotional reactions, as well as
anxiety in the psychodynamic sense as a kind of
diffuse fear that has no clear object”
 More common in females, African Americans, youth,
and non-religious individuals
Neimeyer’s Conclusion
 Persons who accept both the dying
process and the prospect of being dead
one day as a natural part of their lives
express less intense fear of dying and
Terror Management Theory
 People learn to assuage their fears of death by
finding meaning in life and value in themselves, this
meaning and value being provided by the culture
into which people are socialized
 To cope with fear, individuals erect defenses against
death awareness, these defenses are based in denial
 Fear of death seems to partly be a reflection of
feeling cheated by life
 Some say death deprives us from the universe
Terror Management Cont.
 Ernest Becker created the “four strands of emphasis”
when discovering how people cope with an awareness of
death….This is his theory:
The world is a terrifying place
The basic motivation for human behavior is the need to
control our basic anxiety and deny the terror of death
Because the terror of death is so overwhelming, we
conspire to keep it unconscious
Our heroic projects that are aimed at destroying evil have
the paradoxical effect of bringing more evil into the
My Interview
 “Why do you feel that we, as Americans, are afraid of
 “It is a societal issue, we have a cultural mindset in
the media that youth is beautiful and aging is bad.
America is a death denying nation, which is
considered a macro issue.”
Why we fear death cont.
 “Generations ago, death
was apart of our everyday
lives and the dying were
cared for within their
homes by family members
and the community.
Burials were done in the
backyards of the deceased
or in the back of local
 NOW:
 “As the undertakers rise
occurred, this profession
caused families to become
less involved and the
deceased was taken away
quickly. Now, it is common
for post mortem care to be
handled only by the
undertaker instead of the
 “The dying are often in the
hospital during the time of
their death instead of
within the home.”
Does culture influence views and emotions
regarding death?
 “Human concerns regarding death are the same
throughout related to our beliefs and values.”
 “Some have no fear, some welcome death, some
believe in reincarnation, some believe we
disintegrate into dust, and some believe we are only
on Earth once.”
 “For example, the Hindu religion often shows the
least amount of fear and anxiety as they believe in
the afterlife.”
How does the dying person often deal with the
process of dying?
 “Their reaction often depends on whether the illness
or ailment is chronic or acute (less than 6 months).”
 “The preparation for death and allowing time for the
process is important in the emotional aspect of this
process. If the patient has more time to prepare, they
are often less avoidant and afraid.”
 “Often, the dying is not afraid to talk about death but
it is difficult for them to find someone willing to talk
with them about the transition.”
“Do nurses or caregivers have a similar reaction?”
 “Quality of life is extremely important to the nurse
and the art of the nurse’s therapeutic communication
will influence the patient’s view of death.”
 “Since patients have trouble sometimes finding
family members to discuss death with them, it is
important for the nurse to raise the concept with the
patient. This will enrich both the patient and nurse’s
experience, resulting in an enhanced relationship
due to the nurses honesty.”
Let’s Discuss Professor Shelly
Kagan’s view on the fear of death
 “The meaning of life is the fact that it ends”
 One of the most common reactions to death is fear
but is it appropriate and reasonable?
 Emotions have requirements to make sense and be
rational and ultimately be appropriate
Conditions for fear
 In order to be afraid of something, the thing we are
afraid of has to be bad- we can not fear something
 There has to be a non-negligible chance of the bad
object coming to you: the fear is not appropriate if
the occurrence is unlikely
 We need to have a certain amount of uncertainty in
order to have the fear be appropriate: if we knew
exactly what something felt like or the intensity of it
then fear would be inappropriate
Fear cont.
 We may be certain that death is going to come but
uncertain as far as when it will actually come in our
life time- will it come soon or in the far future?
 Our fear may be related to the uncertainty that
comes with death- will we die too soon or will it be
 Kagan believes the fear needs to be proportional to
the likelihood of death
Let’s take a look at the short
novel “Final Gifts”
What the dying person feels
 Anger may grow out of fear
 Most people have at least some fear of dying
 When most people discuss their fear they state, “Im
not afraid to be dead, it’s what happens before I die
that bothers me”
 Many ask, “Will it hurt?” and “What will it be like?”
 Fears often surface in the middle of the night
An Example
 The nurses explain an interaction they had with a
patient named Helen.
 Helen asked: “What’s dying like?” then quickly
added, “No, don’t tell me” as she feared the answer
might make her anxiety worse. The nurses simple
explanation relieved her anxiety because what she
imagined was worse than the reality.
 Some question their religious beliefs and fear if God
will take them to heaven
 “I’ve always believed in God; faith has always been a
very important part of my life but now I find myself
wondering if it’s all true, whether God will really be
there when I die. What if there’s nothing after all?”
Nagel’s view of death
 Most people hope that death is neither premature
nor painful
 Life is all we have and the loss of it is the greatest
loss we can sustain
 If death is evil it can not be because of the positive
features but only because of what it deprives us of
 Death is a mysterious and terrifying prospective state
because we are unable to imagine what it is like to be
 Nagel proposes the conflict of whether a “premature”
death is more of a loss versus a death of an 80 year
old man….is it?
 Is immediate death the same as immediate death
followed by a coma?
 We are attracted to the idea of long term freezing to
resume conscious life because we consider it to be a
continuation of our present life
 It is not possible to imagine within the mind what
death is like, therefore we are afraid of it
My opinion and results
 I believe that we are often afraid of death because of the
uncertainty death presents to us. As a nation, we push death
out of our minds and rarely accept this occurrence when we
are faced with it. We are uncertain of how our death will carry
out, the age we will approach death, and what it will feel like. I
don’t believe death is necessarily “bad” because for many, it
provides peace and rest especially for those suffering from a
terminal illness. Therefore, I don’t think it is appropriate to
fear death solely because it is uncertain. After reading the
book, “Final Gifts”, my eyes were opened to realize that for
many, death is not painful nor frightening. Therefore, when
loved ones are dying we should make ourselves available to
discuss this process openly without hesitation. We should be
able to carry out our everyday lives without hiding in the fear
of death.
Works Cited
 Callanan, M., & Kelley, P. (1992). Final gifts . New York, New York:
Bantam Dell
 DeSpelder, L., & Strickland, A. (2011). The last dance. (9th ed.). New
York, New York: McGraw-Hill
 Hames, C. (2013, April 05). Interview by K Schempp []. Why are we
afraid of death?.
 Nagel, T. (1979). Death. Retrieved from

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