Dealing with your fear of death will help you get ready for the next great adventure! I interviewed Dr Kori Novak about death and dying – she’s an expert in hospice care, aging, and palliative services.
“We can take the fear out of death by talking about it,” says Kori. “Discover what you believe about death and don’t be afraid of it. When you transition to death, make it a quiet one. Quiet because you have said all you need to say to loved ones and because you are ready for the next great adventure.”
She adds that working with people who are dying has made her less fearful of death. She wants to talk to people about preparing for death because the more emotionally, financially, and personally prepared we are, the less scared of dying we’ll be. Here, Kori shares her perspective of death and dying – and her thoughts on overcoming fear of death.
Thoughts on Taking the Fear Out of Death
Learn about hospice care. If you’ve been diagnosed with a terminal illness, learn as much as you can about hospice and palliative care. “When I first started working with people who are dying, I thought hospice care was about dying, but it’s really about living,” says Kori. “Hospice is about living your last moments pain free and in a way YOU want to live it. Had I known more about hospice care, I would have encouraged people to be involved in hospice earlier in their illness.”
Remember that everyone approaches death differently. Since every individual is unique, we all have unique responses to and experiences with death. Fear of death may be a common denominator for many people, but every person has a unique passing. However, there is one thing that might make it easier for anyone to transition from life to death. “When people pass knowing they are truly cared for, I believe it makes the transition easier,” says Kori. “Knowing the person dying is key to providing them with supportive products, service, clergy, etc. that may comfort and alleviate the fear of death as they transition.” For instance, if you’re spiritual then you might find spirituality in palliative care very helpful. If you have a more lighthearted or community approach to death, you might find decorating your coffin more your style.
Prepare for the sometimes pleasant surprises death brings. Overcoming fear of death might involve an acceptance of the pleasant surprises that dying might bring. For instance, being with a loved one as she transitions to death might enhance your life. “I think people are surprised to learn how much they benefit from being with a loved one who is dying,” says Kori. “The more they care for their loved one, the more they learn about themselves, their outlook, how they love and the capacity they have for love and patience.” Kori adds that she was surprised at her ability to do things for her dying loved one – with grace and service – that she never thought possible.
If you’re taking care of a loved one who is dying, let her talk. Let her get everything off her chest when she wants to. This is cathartic for both her and you.
“Working with the dying has taught me to embrace ALL the seasons of life, even the final ones,” says Kori. “It has also made me both more and less selfish. I give more of myself, my finances, my time and talents. But I have been more selfish too, doing what makes me happy when it’s appropriate because I don’t want regrets! Working with the dying has taught me that balance is key in all aspects of our life and death.”
Dr. Kori D. Novak, is a leader in healthcare and public affairs with a broad range of experience in elder care, hospice services, and healthcare strategy. She is an active volunteer as a member of the White House Council on Aging and a conference program reviewer for the Gerontological Society of America. Locally, she serves as a kitchen chairman for her local Meals on Wheels chapter and as a board member of Junior Achievement of Lancaster County. Connect with her at the Mellivora Group.
I welcome your thoughts on dealing with – or learning to live with – fear of death. How does the thought of dying affect how you live? Coming to terms with dying can help you prepare for death – and live a happier, healthier life.