Why is Death So Hard?

By Cindy Dube, Certified Pastoral Thanatologist Specialist

January 18, 2022

#hope #eternity #death

Unfortunately, death is part of our everyday lives. Even when we see it from afar, we know it’s there. We acknowledge it, but we don’t dwell on the possibility that it may happen to us or our loved ones. We do not live our daily lives contemplating death. When it happens to someone close to us or we are threatened by it ourselves, we are shocked. Why are we so shaken? Did we think it would never happen to us?

Although there is nothing glorious or holy about death, there are good ways and bad ways to journey through it. We can be intentional about it, making the transition easier, but most people don’t want to think about death because it is unnatural for us to do so. It is like an enemy[1]. We avoid it. When people are dying it is usually done in private away from others. The dying are placed in rooms behind closed doors, away from our day to day lives. People often find it difficult to visit the dying because it makes them uncomfortable, and those who suspect the end is near may hide their prognosis from others, even from themselves. In this way death is hidden. It is difficult to have a good death when every effort is placed on immortality.

If you have ever visited a Christian faith community, you will notice that death is often part of the worship services. It is not avoided and is part of life within the community. From birth, to baptism, through life struggles and celebrations and onto death; the Christian faith community walks alongside one another, even after death in remembrance. Part of clergy’s role is to help the community live well and die well as divine image bearing persons in-relationship. There is constantly an attitude of preparation for death, they do not avoid it. Outside the faith community others are aware of this fact and sometimes call upon the faith communities to help when end of life approaches or has already happened. They are considered the experts in matters of death.

The Christian faith has helped me understand why death is so shocking. Once I realized why, it satisfied something within. It helped me understand why some people will fight for life right until the end and even at the end, still hope for more.

To help you understand, I want you to imagine a created machine. The machine runs smoothly, its parts all intact. It is well lubricated and functioning. Then something starts to fail in the machine. It may continue to run but it spits and sputters. The machine struggles to continue its created purpose. It continues to fight for its function right until the end.

Death is like that for us. The Christian faith teaches that God created humans for eternity[2] not something temporary but instead for an everlasting life and that is why the idea of death is torture and we will never become accustomed to it, or think of it as natural, regardless of how hard we try. The thought of not living anymore is simply not part of our created DNA. We cannot understand or fathom anything but living.

[1] Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ called death the last enemy. 1Cor 15:26 [2] The wisdom and reflections of an old man “the preacher” or “teacher” referred to in Ecclesiastes considers the meaning of life, he writes “What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. Ecc 3:9-11