Fear of Dying, Fear of Death and the Catastrophe of Dying

If one really wishes to proceed to such precise differentiation, “fear of death” needs to be distinguished from “fear of dying”. The former is the fear of no longer “being there” in the future; the latter is the fear of the event or process of dying itself. “Fear of death” is really as devoid of foundation as is >Fear of Never Having Been. But we have good reason to be afraid of that event or process of dying to which we were condemned by those who brought about the beginning of our existence. As regards our own selves, we can contemplate our entry into death – the beginning of our non-being – with complete equanimity. We are quite justified, on the other hand, in being anxious with respect to the final years, months and weeks of our existence. The fear of this closing phase of our being, then, is by no means devoid of foundation. The authoress Ilse Aichinger rightly replied, when she was asked if she feared death:

“Everyone fears death. But really it’s not death that I’m afraid of, it’s dying. Because one cannot know what will occur there on the biological level, how strong a biological will to remain alive will break forth and what sort of terrible prolonged death-struggle will result therefrom.” (Ilse Aichinger, Es muss gar nichts bleiben)

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