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21. Relating to Death

Death is the horizon which places the possibilities of life in perspective.
Charles R. Mojock (American educator)

Death has a special significance because it is the boundary of physical existence and the only future certainty. In this area we will mainly examine the ways we can relate to death, as this can have profound effects on our attitudes towards life (e.g. our decision making). Loss and grieving will also be addressed.

Why it is good to accept death

The two basic ways of relating to death are acceptance and denial. It is quite common to deny death for as long as possible. Denial of death enables us to avoid, at least temporarily, fear and other unpleasant feelings usually associated with death. However, many philosophers and psychologists have recognised the value of being aware of our mortality and accepting death, and warned against denial. There are some sound reasons for this:

  • Death is a part of the life cycle and denying it means denying life as it is – accepting death, therefore, enables us to take life in its totality.
  • Sooner or later everybody has to face death (that of others and finally their own), which is harder to do if unprepared; those who accept death as a part of life are in a better position and more in control in such situations.
  • Accepting death puts in perspective small misfortunes and self- importance, and can make us more courageous.
  • The awareness of death can contribute to decision making and prioritising too; it reminds us that the time to accomplish our projects is limited and that nothing can be taken for granted.
  • Many have observed or experienced that being aware of death leads to a greater respect of life and finding value in every moment – somewhat paradoxically, it makes us more alive.

The following exercise is an example of how the awareness of death may affect your present attitude and behaviour:

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PWBC (Personal Well Being Centre)
United Kingdom


PWBC (Personal Well Being Centre)
United Kingdom