The end of life has been a mystery over thousands of generations. Death is an unexplainable to humanity, yet it happens all the time globally. The issue of death has for ages defeated the human mind. Not that presently the underlying mysteries have been unraveled. In fact, during this times of technological and scientific advancement, the mystery surrounding death has been weighty than ever before. Moreover, no scientific knowledge gathered offers an elaborate explanation of what transpires after one dies. However, religious beliefs and conscience gives hope and creates the image of an afterlife. The only thing that most people are in consensus about death is its sense of finality-an end.
In the quest to understand death, people have different analogies and philosophies to understand the afterlife. Depending on the culture, own race, religion or geographical areas humanity tends to find comfort in knowing death collectively. The worst menace about death is that it occurs in infants throughout to the aged. It is known as the only certainty of life because it is inevitable. The unpreparedness of when it might happen grips many with fear. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, a known psychiatrist and author of many books on death tried to analyze death and came up with theories on how to deal with death as no concrete evidence gives a picture of what follows death. No matter the ways we try to deal with death the questions remain, is death merely the absence of life? Can understanding death alleviate its fear? Can anyone reach the level of not being afraid of death?
Therefore, the religious perspective about the antecedents of death holds a prominent place in such discussions. For instance, most of the renowned world religion share a common stand about the transformation from one life to the other upon death. It is a common belief that; death is not an end of life per se, but it is rather a bridge or a stepping stone to the next life. As such, many religious denominations, use their sacred writs to offer this explanation. The Christians use the Bible, the Muslims the Quran which shares lots of similarities on matters of the afterlife. Hence, it is evident that religion answers the question that science fails to.
The Bible and the Quran base their stories on a promise. Both books expressly provide that there exist a promised land purposely prepared for dwelling by those who follow the rules of the deity. Moreover, in this case, it is the rules of God and Allah respectively as referred. For instance, the Bible categorically states that Jesus (John 14:3). Went to prepare a place for those who believe in Him and abide by the rules of God. Moreover, it further says the believers will inherit eternal life in paradise. Similarly, the Quran propounds the same message. For instance, the Quran provides that those who follow the will of Allah shall be partakers of the heavenly kingdom referred to as paradise. The followers rest assured of a reunion with their loved ones who died before them. Therefore, death’s image as the end of life is nullified by the religious beliefs; they give the hope of an afterlife.
Therefore, gathering from what these Holy Books offer, the earthly life is just fleeting and temporary. It is just an avenue where people are vested with the free will to choose either: to abide by the law, which leads to eternal life; or to go astray and experience eternal suffering. As such it is evident that regardless of the ways that the subjects choose, the notion of life after death exists. Either way, death leads to another life where one receives the rewards of their deeds in the physical life.
Different cultures perform rituals and rites to help them understand or deal with death. Eastern and some Asian cultures believe in incarnation, the reappearing after death in another form. Some belief in returning in the form of animals or inhabiting the life of a newborn baby. Vilma Ruddock, the author of “Death Rituals in Africa,” states, “ Death rituals in Africa are deeply rooted in the cultural beliefs, traditions, and indigenous religions of the continent. They are guided by Africans’ view of existence after death and the power and role of the deceased ancestor. Rituals evolved through the infusion of Christianity, Islam, and modern changes, but traditional themes survive in Africa and among people of African descent in the Caribbean and the Americas.”
Fear of displeasing the dead among some cultures in Africa lead them to perform very dramatic rituals. All night vigils are held at the deceased home to allow family, friends, and neighbors to pay their last respects. During that mourning season, all people shave their heads bald and wail all night. Some go to the extent of hiring expert Wailers to perform the mourning dirge. They slaughter cows and goats, the blood and traditional drinks are poured as libations to appease the ancestors. The funeral is followed by others rituals to ensure that the deceased spirit rests in peace. Failure to appease the dead is believed to cause nightmares and bad luck in the family.
Gillian Welch, an American singer, and songwriter sang a song dubbed, “Am Not Afraid To Die.” There maybe people who echo that phrase but if sincerity were measurable they would be found wanting. In the Western cultures, society has a way of creating a fantasy that some people have immortality, great leaders, famous celebrities and mostly our loved ones.
Guy Somerset wrote about, “The Four Stages Of Western Celebrity Grief Syndrome.” The stages range from disbelief to devotionals to exaggeration and finally capitalization. The same case applies to many with the death of a loved one. The first reaction is denial because in our minds death should never occur to them.The disbelief that death has found a way to sting where it hurts most reflects on the illusion many have created around themselves as a way to ignore its existence. In the case of celebrities, some weeks later after their death was the breaking news. The funeral rituals performed. Their wealth divided among the heirs, and a month later, they tend to be forgotten.
Unfortunately, when death occurs to a loved one reality sets in. The mask is torn apart and then one can only hold on to a belief that will emanate inner strength to assist in facing reality. The demise of a loved one gone on a journey never to be returned. The bereaved go through grief in different levels. Throughout the mind trying to understand the meaning of death.Behind the grief is the overwhelming fear that death may find its way to them. There are cases where death occurs, and body is not recovered, and there is no closure, there remains a ray of hope that one day the presumed dead would reappear.
Moreover, the loss of interest of living may occur to someone grieving. Lack of appetite, sleep and lack of general life drive may be displayed by the bereaved. Some go to the extent of declaring they have no more desire to live. However, if something threatening happens they may react with the flight or freeze stress reactions. Both responses display hidden fear of death. Nobody wants to die no matter how verbal his or her lack of interest in life.
Finally, there are those who hide their fear of death by becoming angry at the dead. They blame the dead for allowing it to have victory over their life. In their anger, there is a fantasy that there could have been an action powerful enough to stop death.Ironically when asked to explain what measures could overcome death, all they have is the question, “ why did they die?” Eventually, some might end up taking the behavior of the departed to preserve their memories.
In conclusion, death will remain the scary hidden monster that produces its painful sting in random time to all humanity through countless generations. No scholar, culture or group has got answers to reduce the personal fear of death in humankind. There is comfort in trying to understand the afterlife, but we are yet to understand death and its sting.
Kübler-Ross, Elisabeth, Stanford Wessler, and Louis V. Avioli. “On death and dying.” Jama 221.2 (1972): 174-179.
Gillian Weltch. “I’m not afraid to die.”
“Death Rituals in Africa – LoveToKnow.”. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2016 <http://dying.lovetoknow.com/Death_Rituals_in_Africa>. accessed Nov 17, 2016,
KJV John 14:1-3 Hindson, Ed. “15 Future Events that Will Shake the World,” Harvest House Publishers, 2014.