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Don't Waste Your Life By Fearing Death

by Rebecca Lynn Ivey 6 months ago in Humanity
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"It doesn’t have to be so scary"

Does death scare you? If so, then you are not alone because 1/3 people admit that the thought is terrifying to them. What is it that scares us so much?

“The idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else,” wrote Earnest Becker in his book, The Denial of Death. This is a read that I highly suggest to anyone struggling with this fear.

Numerous surveys have documented that the majority of people believe in life after death. Polls and studies support the assumption that the majority of people believe that death is not the end of one's existence but rather a transition from one life to another. The belief that there is a life after death is one of the oldest concepts of human history.

The truth is, we don’t necessarily fear death as much as we fear the uncertainty of what happens to our bodies once we die. I recently met a mortician, and after a lengthy conversation he agreed to explain the process to me. He was pretty excited to know that I would also be sharing his knowledge with my readers.

The first things that we need to understand is that there are two primary ways for our bodies to be prepared once we die. Of course, there are many other ways but the most common are cremation and embalming. These are not necessarily words that we like to think about, however in order to conquer our fears we do need to consider both of them. Take a deep breath and say both of these words.

Cremation and Embalming

Congratulations, you have just completed the very first step to overcoming your fear.

Next, we’ll be discussing what happens during each process.


More and more people are choosing cremation over a traditional burial. In fact, over half of Americans now opt for being cremated.

The typical cremation takes about four hours.

During the cremation process, the body is first placed in the area where the cremation will take place (crematorium). Only one body can be taken into the crematorium at a time. However, there are some exceptions to this situation. For example, a mother and her baby who died in childbirth can be cremated at the same time.

Before the cremation begins, any unwanted objects on the body are removed. These are jewelry, gold teeth, etc. Since it will not be possible to remove implant-style metals in the body, they are not touched during the first stage.

Bodies are cremated at 850 degrees. At this point, the remaining metals in the body are also released. These materials, such as pacemakers and implants, are attracted by a magnet and separated from the remains of the body. The remainder of the bones are completely pulverized into a thin, powdery ash. This happens by passing the residues through a grinder. The average weight of these ashes are 450 grams or a little less than one pound.

The ashes are placed in a sealed container and delivered to the deceased's relatives to do with as they wish. The ashes can then be buried in cemeteries or taken home and kept in vases containing the ashes. Some people choose to scatter the ashes in a special place, but this is not always legal, so checking with local authorities is critical. If nobody wants the ashes the funeral home will properly dispose of them.

Some advantages to cremation are:

  • More Affordable
  • More Time Efficient
  • Environmentally Friendly
  • Saves Space in the Cemetry
  • The Ashes are Portable
  • Allows for Creative Ceremonies
  • Divide Up the Ashes Amongst Loved Ones
  • Largely Compatible with Many Faiths
  • Less Burden and Stress on Loved Ones.


Now, let’s talk about embalming and exactly what happens during this process.

A typical embalming takes 45 minutes to an hour to complete.

Embalming is the science of preserving human remains by treating them with chemicals to forestall decomposition.

There are three common uses for embalming: temporary preservation of the body, restoration or presentation, and sanitation.

Some people think that embalming completely stops the decay of the body, but this isn't true. If you plan on having an open-casket funeral, then you should not leave the embalmed body out for more than a week.

To begin, the deceased is undressed and placed on their back, with private areas covered, on a mortuary table with the head elevated.

The body is then washed with disinfectant and germicidal solutions while bending, flexing, and massaging arms and legs to relieve rigor mortis.

Before beginning the process, embalmers will set the features of the deceased, often times using a photo provided by the family or friends. The eyes are posed using an eye-cap, which keeps the eyes shut and in a “natural” expression. The mouth is then set by wiring the jaw shut, suturing the lips and gums and then adhesive is used to make the expression look as relaxed and natural as possible.

Once the expression is set, arterial embalming begins. Arterial embalming is the process of draining the blood vessels while simultaneously injecting embalming chemicals into arteries while massaging the body to break up blood clots and ensure thorough distribution of embalming fluid.

Following arterial embalming is cavity embalming. Cavity embalming involves removing any built-up gas and fluids in the organs with an aspirator and filling them with concentrated embalming chemicals. Other orifices are plugged with cotton to prevent undesired leakage.

A moisturizing cream or lotion is applied to the deceased and makeup is applied to the face, neck and hands to provide a natural complexion. Hair gel and other products may be applied to the hair and styled while baby powder is applied to the body to eliminate odors. Sometimes wax, plaster of Paris, and other cosmetic techniques are used to reconstruct features.

The body is dressed for visitation or funeral service and placed in the coffin or casket of choice.

Some advantages to embalming are:

  • Allows for a safe, pleasant, and natural viewing of the body
  • Delays the natural process of body decomposition

Now that we understand each process, we have conquered yet another level of fear.

Death is something that every living creature (even plants) will endure at some point. Almost everybody has a fear of death, no matter what culture, religion or country that they come from.

My mortician friend suggests that visiting a local funeral home might also calm your anxiety. Ask for a tour and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Getting involved in your final plans might also be a good step to take. You can decide upon every last detail, the entire process is in your hands right now. You have full control over the situation, so jump in there and make it happen the way that makes you feel most comfortable.

Everyone must figure out their own way to handle the fear of death. However, learning to understand it and taking control of it are the biggest steps that we can take in overcoming that fear.

Don’t waste your life by fearing death.

"It doesn’t have to be so scary."

According to my friend, if you have finished reading this article, you are already well on your way of overcoming your fear. Now it's time to further educate yourself and take full control of it.


About the author

Rebecca Lynn Ivey

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“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

― Maya Angelou

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