Learning How to Accept Death and Your Own Mortality

Michele Meleen
Contributor: Tamsen Butler
A young hand touches an old wrinkled hand

Death is the fate that awaits all living things. Learning how to accept your death through regular actions can help you live life to the fullest and be prepared to leave when the time comes.

Talk About It

People often fear things they don't know much about. If you aren't thinking or talking about your desires for after death services or afterlife possibilities, you don't likely know a lot about your own death experience or how to accept death. While you can't know when or how you'll die, or what it will feel like, you can take time to tell loved ones how you'd like your body handled after death. You can discuss what will happen with your assets and even share your ideas about what the afterlife looks like.

Open Conversation

Groups like Death Over Dinner emphasize the importance of making death a mainstream topic of your everyday conversations so you'll be more comfortable dealing with the idea of death and others will too.

Make Up for Past Regrets

If you've made poor choices in your past or done things you're not proud of, and these memories cause you discomfort in thinking about how you'll be remembered, start by forgiving yourself. For any given instance in the past, think about what you learned from it and re-frame the memory to focus on that.

Seek Forgiveness

Once you've forgiven yourself, be honest in admitting your faults and ask for forgiveness from others. Now you can move forward with a new perspective and make better choices. While two rights don't fix a wrong, participating in a positive experience that relates to a mistake you've made can help you feel better.

Embrace Your Beliefs

In many belief systems, death is not viewed as an end but rather as the beginning of something greater. For example, Christians who believe in God's forgiveness often feel less anxiety about death. Studies indicate that people with some type of religious belief are generally more accepting of death than those without any religious beliefs. Those who believe in an afterlife faceless anxiety about their own death.

Lean on Faith

Take a look at your own religious beliefs or general feelings about death rituals. Whatever you choose to believe, embrace it and keep those sentiments any time you think about death.

Live a Fulfilling Life

Since the present moment is the only thing anyone often has any real control over, The Grief Recovery Method suggests making the most of each day and living in the present as the best ways to accept death. Say the things you want others to hear from you as they pop up, do the things you want to do now instead of later, and slow down and appreciate the life you have.

A Satisfying Life

Each person is fulfilled in different ways, so think about what brings you joy or what makes you feel good and look for ways to incorporate those things into your daily life. If you've lived a satisfying life, you won't feel so sad about leaving it.

Senior couple sitting on bench looking at sunny autumn view

Take Stock

Reflecting on your own life can be emotional and for some people quite painful. Whether you sit quietly and think about your life or write it all down in a memoir, the process of reflection can be quite powerful in helping you accept death.

  • Try to focus on the positive aspects of your life and the positive effect you had on the people around you.
  • If the negative outweighs the positive, reflect on the lessons you learned and your ability to overcome adversity.
  • If your reflection drudges up memories of people you've wronged, reach out to those people to apologize. You can't take pride to the grave.
  • If you realize that some people had a massively positive impact on your life, reach out to them and let them know.

Face Your Fears

Facing your fears one step at a time, which is often the case with cognitive behavioral therapy, essentially helps decrease your fears by the sheer fact of having more exposure to the thing you're afraid of. If you have strong fears about death, spending time with people who have terminal illnesses could be one step in facing your fears.

Change Your Perspective

Volunteering in a nursing home, hospital, or hospice organization can help you connect with people facing imminent death. These individuals may also have a unique perspective and insight that can affect your perspective. These positive relationship experiences with death and dying over time can replace your negative thoughts about death.

Dostadning: "Death Cleaning"

Based on the Swedish words for "death" and "cleaning" combined, dostadning refers to the decluttering of your life and calls for a "mindful clearing" of possessions prior to death. It's important to focus on the mindfulness of dostadning; it's not a frantic dumping of items but rather an intentional inventory of items and deciding what can be donated, given to a loved one, or trashed. When done mindfully, this cleaning out of things before death can help a person better prepare mentally for what it ahead and cling less to the things of this world.

A Favor to Loved Ones

When you take control of shedding your personal property prior to death, you take that burden off your loved ones. Dostadning is preferable to simply leaving a detailed list with your wishes for your property distribution because it leaves grieving loved ones with one less task to complete.

Prepare Your Paperwork

One of the most important things you can do to accept your own death is to make sure you've got legal plans made to remove the burden from your loved ones. This includes documents like a will or pre-paid funeral plan. When you make these plans early on and discuss them with those charged with carrying them out after you're gone, everyone feels a small sense of preparedness.

Give Life to Your Mortality

Give life to your own mortality by thinking about it, taking action to prepare for it, and talking about death with a supportive community. Accepting death doesn't mean being happy about it; it means preventing fears about death from taking up valuable space in your life.

Learning How to Accept Death and Your Own Mortality