How To Deal With The Fear of Death

DR JOHN DEMARTINI   -   Updated 1 week ago

If you experience fear and anxiety around death and dying, Dr Demartini shares powerful insights to help you dissolve those fears.


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DR JOHN DEMARTINI - Updated 1 week ago

As you navigate through life, the older you become, the greater the likelihood of encountering someone who is going to die. Over time, the probabilities of individuals passing away for various reasons increase. 

If you're unprepared for this inevitability, it can be quite distressing; you may find yourself distraught, engulfed in grief, and possibly experiencing physiological side effects of prolonged grief syndrome. 

So, what is a wise way to prepare for death?

Since 1976, I have been exploring the process of grief. My fascination began when I was surfing in El Salvador one summer. There, I witnessed a large group of people, about 200 to 300, parading down the street in the city of La Libertad in celebration.

Curious, I approached someone and asked, "¿Qué pasa? What's happening here?" Given that this was Latin America, Spanish was the primary language. Eventually, I found someone who spoke some English, and he explained, "We're celebrating the death of our mayor." I was taken aback. "You're celebrating the death of the mayor? Why celebrate death?" My upbringing had instilled in me the notion that death was to be mourned with grief and somberness, dressed in black, a rather dismal and sorrowful affair. Yet here they were, celebrating, partying even. I pondered this contrast and found it intriguing that this group of people were celebrating death -  envisioning the freedom of the spirit, liberated from the constraints of the mortal body – a kind of Platonic idea. 

This perspective allowed them to celebrate death, devoid of mourning, gloom, or doom.

I also became conscious of how their lack of anxiety about death was likely due to their perceived ADVANTAGES that death brought, primarily the freeing of the spirit, according to their belief system. 

Whether or not this belief holds any truth is irrelevant; their mindset reduced their potential for distress and dispelled their fear of death, viewing it as a moment of liberation.

In various cultures, differing belief systems about life, death and eschatology result in varying perspectives on death. For example, I grew up with the notion that death was a dreadful event. Life was celebrated - the birth of a baby was met with congratulations, while death brought condolences, a sentiment that seemed almost automatic. Yet, in the wild, when an animal preys on another, it sustains its own offspring at the expense of the prey's, illustrating that life and death are inseparable in the food chain.


This led me to question why we display such intense reactions to death and a pervasive fear of it.

The nuances of grief is something that I have been researching since 1976, resulting in the development of a methodology that I call the Demartini Method that I share in my signature 2-day Breakthrough Experience program that I teach most every week. Part of this program is designed to help people dissolve intense emotions of grief and anxiety associated with death or loss.

During the Breakthrough Experience program, I share something I believe can help to transform your perceptions around death:

Grief manifests in only two forms: the perception of LOSS of that which you seek, admire, and look up to; and the perception of GAIN of something you avoid, resent, and look down on. 

For example, experiencing unwanted attention from an ex-partner you don’t want to see again can evoke feelings of grief, in the same way as the departure of someone you're deeply infatuated with can evoke polarized feelings of grief.

On the other hand, the presence of someone you're infatuated with can bring relief, as can the absence or departure of someone you resent.

Think of it this way: your fear of loss, including the fear of death, stems from your infatuation with certain aspects of individuals or life itself. 

A striking example of this contrasting perception was evident in the reactions to the death of the Iranian general by different cultures. In America, some celebrated his death as the elimination of a perceived terrorist, devoid of grief or fear. Conversely, in Iran, millions mourned him as a national hero, illustrating how varied perspectives and values shape people’s responses to death.

When you resent something or someone, you typically don’t fear its death. However, when you admire something or someone, the fear of them dying often emerges. Consider moments of intense anger in your life where you've perhaps thought, "I'd like to do away with them," fueled by frustration, though not genuinely meant.

Conversely, infatuation usually prompts a desire to protect, even to the point of sacrificing yourself for them. In other words, while resentment may lead to a desire for the death of the other, infatuation often results in self-sacrifice. 

Essentially, grief over death is a mourning of the loss of the qualities you admire, and the fear of death is the dread of losing these admired traits.


If you address the fear of death, whether it concerns yourself or another, it often reveals underlying dynamics.

When it involves yourself, it might suggest a sense of pride or infatuation with your own attributes or with the events of your anticipated future. 

This state is characterized by the assumption that the future holds more positives than negatives, more advantages than disadvantage, and more upsides than downsides. However, by identifying and understanding the potential negatives or downsides, you can calm down this infatuation and pride, and bring them into equilibrium. Achieving a more balanced perspective reduces the fear of death. 

I often say that at the level of the essence of your real authentic self - what some might call the soul - there exists no fear of life or death. This essence remains unswayed by infatuations of life (Eros) or by resentments of death (Thanatos), instead, it just has an appreciation for what is - the present.

Being infatuated with your own pride or future fantasies can lead to a fear of your own death. Similarly, if you are deeply attached to your ambitions and what you hope to achieve, the fear of death may arise from the concern that these goals remain unfulfilled. Infatuation with another individual and their actions can also instill a fear of losing them. 

Such intense infatuation tends to heighten anxiety about potential loss. However, this fear does not tend to emerge if you resent someone. 

Achieving a balanced perspective towards someone can significantly alleviate the fear associated with perceptions of loss and death. 

This concept is something I consistently emphasize in the Breakthrough Experience. Specifically, I explore the grief process and how to address fears of death, illustrating how balance can transform your approach to these profound aspects of life.

It’s a four-step process that essentially boils down to bringing your perceptions into balance.

An example I often use is to think about the early stages of relationships. In many cases, infatuation may blind you to the other individual’s downsides or flaws, but over time, as you become more acquainted with their full character, you likely recognize that they embody both qualities you admire and those you do not. 

This realization - that everyone possesses both positive and negative traits - helps mitigate the fear of loss or the desire for distance. The fear of losing someone likely only arises concerning those aspects that trigger positive neurochemical responses in your brain, such as oxytocin, vasopressin, serotonin, dopamine, and enkephalins. Conversely, the withdrawal of these compounds in the brain can induce grief, anxiety, and a profound fear of loss.

By adopting a balanced view and simultaneously embracing what you perceive to be the positive and negative traits of others, you are most likely to experience a more reflective awareness and genuine love. This is different from infatuation, which stems from focusing solely on what you perceive as positive traits, while resentment is rooted in focusing on what you perceive to be negative aspects. 


Understanding this dynamic is wise: the fear of loss is mostly associated with infatuation, while resentment is linked to a desire to distance yourself from the source of displeasure. 

Ultimately, you are unlikely to fear or grieve the loss of someone you resent. Like in the case of the Iranian general that I referred to earlier. In America, few people viewed that Iranian general as a terrorist felt grief over his passing. Instead, there was a collective sense of relief: the terrorist was gone. Thought his family members and many in Iran honored him and grieved his death.

This illustrates that when you balance your perspective, you are more likely to dissolve your fear and grief. 

I've had the privilege of working with individuals who are in hospice care, confronting death and dying. I even had the opportunity to work alongside Elisabeth Kübler-Ross herself, the author of *On Death and Dying*. Through these experiences, I've assisted people in their transition, helping them alleviate the anxiety associated with dying.

This involved neutralizing their perceptions of themselves and fantasies around a perception that they were needed and completely irreplaceable on earth. This allowed them to transition with a state of grace. 

So, there’s no reason I can find for people to have to have anxiety or grief around death or dying. They are optional responses. What’s wiser is doing the work to balance your mind. 

As I often say, the quality of your life is determined by the quality of the questions you ask. By posing questions that restore balance, you are in a greater position to neutralize your perceptions.

I wanted to share this insight with you. If you're interested in learning more, I invite you to the Breakthrough Experience. This program is where I demonstrate dissolving grief and how and why this process occurs. I provide a tool for dissolving grief and a method to prevent the anxiety associated with the fear of loss. This approach is applicable to various fears, including the fear of losing business, money, loved ones, or even cognitive abilities like memory and the onset of conditions such as Alzheimer's. 

I'm confident in its efficacy because I've applied it to thousands of individuals since 1976 and formally and clinically since 1984. So, I encourage you to join me at the Breakthrough Experience. If you're grappling with the fear of death or the fear of losing something, or grief, rest assured, it's a straightforward tool. It's not challenging to learn, and I'm here to guide you every step of the way. Once acquired, this knowledge will serve you for life and help transform your life from the inside out.

To Sum Up:

Understanding Grief and Fear of Death: Recognize that grief can stem from both the perception of losing something valuable and gaining something undesirable. This mind shift can help you approach your fears with a more nuanced understanding.

Cultural Perspectives on Death: Be open to different cultural interpretations of death. Celebrating the life and freedom of the spirit, as I observed in El Salvador, can offer a refreshing perspective that reduces the fear of death.

Infatuation vs. Resentment: Identify how your fear of loss stems from your infatuation and fear of gain from your resentment. Acknowledging this can be the first step in managing your emotions towards others and life events.

Balancing Perspectives: Strive to balance your perspective on life, death, and relationships by identifying downsides to perceived upsides, and upsides to perceived downsides. This equilibrium can significantly reduce anxieties related to perceptions of loss and death.

Self-Awareness and Authenticity: Embrace both the positive and negative aspects of life and arrivals and death and departures. This broader appreciation is key to fostering genuine love and reducing the fear of loss or gain.

Quality of Life Through Quality Questions: Remember, the quality of your life is based on the quality of questions you ask yourself. Questions that restore balance can neutralize fear and grief.

The Breakthrough Experience Program: Consider participating in the Breakthrough Experience program for tools and methodologies to dissolve grief, manage fear of loss, and achieve balance in your perspective.

I am certain that by addressing these aspects, you can navigate through life with a more resilient outlook on death and loss, ultimately leading to a more fulfilling and balanced life. Should this be a journey you would love to work through with me, I would love to have you join a future Breakthrough Experience program.


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