Q. 'I live in fear of dying. It haunts me. What can I do?' F.

Step 1: There are three stages to dying: the process of dying, the moment when we pass into unconsciousness and finally, the time after we have died. While submitting to the process of dying we are still alive. If you are consumed with thoughts of dying, you are in a sense creating a living death, which equates to a fear of being alive. In the process of dying, do you worry that you will suffer pain? If so, remind yourself of the times when you have suffered before and how you were able to cope; there is no reason why you will not be able to manage the process of dying. If we fear terrible, agonising pain, such as with a cruel terminal illness, we can remember that death becomes a friend to us when we can no longer go on. You might also be afraid that because you have not realised all your dreams, you have achieved nothing. Yet, on balance, few of us will be lucky enough to have everything we have ever wanted in our lives. What matters is focusing on what we care about, what we have achieved, what there is yet to achieve and what is meaningful to us while we are still here.

Step 2: The second stage of dying is when we slip into unconsciousness and for many people, this feels terrifying; at that moment, we think we truly lose control. Yet, the reality of the unconscious state means we simply will not be aware of its arrival. The experience of becoming unconscious is identical to falling asleep, and falling asleep is a wonderfully benign process of relinquishment.

Step 3: The time after our death will be a time of grief for our loved ones, but for ourselves there will be simply nothing. And how can we be frightened of nothing? By embracing the reality of death we can fill our lives with meaning, because if death is to have a purpose, it is to make us aware of the brevity of our existence. Instead of being afraid of living, we can savour the pleasure of breathing the air, walking in the rain, laughing with those we love, working to make a difference, leaving something good behind. Really appreciating being alive removes the fear of death, because each day lived without fear of dying is a day lived with an exhilarating love of being alive.

Cecilia is Mind journalist of the year. If you would like her to answer your problems email her at c.dfelice@independent.co.uk

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