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wundayatta's avatar

How do you cope with an awareness of impending death -- inside?

Asked by wundayatta (58638points) February 2nd, 2012

Most of us know the things to say when we go to a funeral. However, at least for me, I often feel differently inside than I am able to express externally.

There are times when grief has been overwhelming and times when I have been unable to stop crying. There are other times when I feel like, well, this is sad and all, but I’m not feeling overwhelmed. It’s a shame. I wish you hadn’t gone. But it’s not going to be such a huge thing for me.

There are times when I suddenly think of someone who is gone and I sort of have this wish I could see them again, but then I know I can’t, so what’s the point? So maybe I’ll just think about them for a while until something else takes my thoughts.

But the reason I thought of this was that I saw a colleague coming out of the men’s room and he was limping along, using his cane. I had this sudden feeling that he might not be around much longer and then I wondered if anyone would tell me if he was gone. This is an issue because he is in a different department, and these announcements don’t seem to reach me a lot of the time.

I don’t even know who sends them out, if they get sent out at all. Mostly it seems like it’s word of mouth, and since it isn’t my department, maybe the word of mouth won’t reach me.

I’m at an age where people are starting to die. People my age. Right now, it’s mostly cancer, which makes it feel like people died too soon.

It’s strange, now I think about it. There are probably 20 or 30 men on my floor, but I tend to see maybe three or four of them, regularly, in the men’s room. Are these the guys who pee a lot? Are they the ones with prostrate issues? Do they also take meds, like me, that cause a lot of peeing? Are we men with health issues—men who might not be around as long as others?

I don’t know what to think. It makes me a bit melancholy. Should we reach out to each other? Or are we old dogs who are slowly separating ourselves from the pack and we don’t really want to connect any more?

I think it matters, but I don’t know what to do about it. Don’t know if I want to do anything about it. Other than, inside, to acknowledge that life changes, and we who have seen more life now than we are likely to see in the future are just being reminded of that, increasingly often.

We are all further or closer to death and I doubt if many have much idea exactly how far away it is. Do you think about it? If so, how does that train of thought go, for you, at this moment in your life?

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13 Answers

selfe's avatar

I have been lucky till now (healthy and never in danger), but I have lived with somebody terminally ill. I can’t say I coped well with that: I did what needed to be done but it stays with you forever… Probably because of that I’m very mindful of making the most of every day, including brightening the day of others like the person in your office you wrote about. If you feel comfortable doing it, I would reach out to him the way you would reach out to anybody else. Go have a coffee, talk about sports, the usual (usual is great when things are not going well) , and see if you connect.

As far as your last question, I’m aware of being closer to death than earlier. I’m glad I don’t know my “expiration date” so I can focus more freely on making the most of every day!

dappled_leaves's avatar

You could let this question consume you entirely, for the remainder of your life, and not find an answer or any comfort. Please don’t do that. Do practical things, like making a will, and tell people that you love them, so that they know it when you’ve gone, but for the most part, you need to put thoughts of this nature aside and live your life. We are all mortal, as unfair as that may seem. No effort on your part will make it reasonable. Put that effort into life instead.

Coloma's avatar

Well said @dappled_leaves

Yes, keep the focus on the now, and if you want to try and connect with some of your co-workers, just do it. Offer them a coffee, take them to lunch, bring in donuts in the morning and go around offering up a goodie and a bit of chit chat. Ask one of them to go for a lunchtime walk.

I like the saying that ” The opposite of life is not death, it is birth, life has no opposite.”

Don’t waste your present moments on useless mind stuff, be here NOW! :-)

jazmina88's avatar

Ironic that I just left my Mom’s nursing home and she is having a horrible day at 92. I cant stop tearing up and plan to nap.
I have always worried about my high school band director dying.

Myself, I didnt think I’d live this long. I’m trying to get a trust fund for my estate set up.
Enjoy the sunshine and accept destiny. We all have to die.

I think it is to go on to something finer. That my soul will be rewarded.

flutherother's avatar

Life contains all the time there will ever be.

YARNLADY's avatar

For me, I didn’t focus on the death part, but concentrated on each day as it came.

wundayatta's avatar

I’m not really thinking about my own death, but about losing people around me, and how that will start happening more and more. I had to come to grips with my own death a long time ago, because it was consuming me with worry. But this notion of friends and colleagues and who knows… family members and such… It seems like it needs a place where I can do what is required of me in public, and yet do my own work on it in private.

I’m not asking for advice. I want to know how other people think about the deaths of those around them in private. What is it really like? How is it different from your public death face?

Neizvestnaya's avatar

In public, I keep my face on that says I’m about each day as it comes, making the most of it and thinking of my Bucket List, stuff to get too. In private though, I feel odd as “the old people” in my family are dying off and I am overwhelmed I don’t know all the generations younger than my my own and their kids.

It feels strange to talk about burial plans with my grandparents and parents but at the same time, I know it’s time to at least be prepared.

jazmina88's avatar

A friend of mine died last month. and the fact I am so close to my Mom – I cant imagine life without her.
Sometimes I bitch on facebook, and grieve on FB.

Today I just held my Mom’s hand. This is the first time I have actually thought she could die any day now.

It is hard losing those you love, or even just wave to on the street. My neighborhood is friendly!

digitalimpression's avatar

I’m no spring chicken, but I’m not worried about dying either.

I am deeply saddened when someone I know dies, but as you mentioned, sometimes I go through the motions without really being too rattled by it.

Because of what I believe, death is not a thing to be afraid of.

CaptainHarley's avatar

For over three years, I thought about this a lot, since I have prostate cancer and diabetes from Agent Orange exposure while in Vietnam. The people who really need your ear are those close to the ones who die. Everyone has to come to terms with their own death in their own way and in their own time. If they know you, they will come to talk with you when and if they feel it’s appropriate. Daying is a highly personal thing. My beloved wife has promised me that she will be there with me and hold my hand when I leave this world. I don’t want my children or grandchildren there when I leave ( don’t ask me why, ‘cause I don’t know ).

I am very thankful for the opportunity to know that I’m slowly dying, and I’ve reached my own peace with it, and with God. At least it’s given me time to pick out a burial plot, have my tombstone picked out and engraved, etc. : )

majorrich's avatar

I faced death myself twice. Once in combat, once in the doctors office. For some reason, I continue to exist and hope to for some time to come. When I faced it, I found terror the first time. The next, I had more reason to live than to die and chose to accept it as part of living. When I am gone, I hope people will remember me for what I did, and see something of me in my son. (I married after getting out of the service.) He is in College now, and I somehow sense the finish is coming for me; he is my legacy to the World. I try my best to leave at least one person a day with a smile. I practice my faith openly to be an example to my son and anyone who cares to watch. I love my Family, and those I choose to call Family. And I hold no malice for any man, because our time here is too short to worry about those kinds of things.

Bellatrix's avatar

I do think about it but I don’t dwell on it.

I also have a friend who has been through major surgery to combat cancer and has just found out her tumour markers are up again and she is in for more chemo. Makes me very sad. Right now rather than confronting the horrible possibilities in this situation, I am hoping for a good outcome. Part of me feels at a loss as to what to do apart from hope and send positive thoughts. We aren’t best friends but I want her to know I care a great deal about what is happening to her. Another part of me is frightened for her.

I also think about family I don’t speak to and what if something happened to them. Would I go to the funeral? Would that be hypocritical? I don’t have an answer regarding how to resolve the situation or an answer for the questions though, so in truth, I push it under the carpet and hope I don’t have to face such things soon.

In terms of my own mortality, I think because I lost very important people when I was quite young, I am very conscious of the reality of death. I know it is there waiting in the wings for each of us and that when it comes, it may not be after a long life. So, while I really don’t dwell on it, I do find myself doing things to make sure those who matter to me have letters and other mementos to remind them how important they were to me.

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