Anxiety About Dying

Melanie Sextro


There are not many times in life where we can say we are all going to experience the same thing. Everyone’s lives are so unique and special, but one thing we will all experience at some point, whether ready or not, is death.

There have definitely been times in my life where I have felt anxious, even panicky, about when or how my family, friends or I will die. However, my anxiety and views on death changed when my husband, an Army officer, was deployed to Iraq just about nine years ago. Before he was deployed, I know I was much more anxious about dying. I hardly gave any thought to it, but when I did, I was much more distressed and it was definitely something I did not even want to think about, much less talk about; almost like it could not or was not ever going to happen to me or anyone I love.

Throughout the process of my husband preparing to be deployed, we did a lot of planning for “what-if” he did not return. We talked in depth about what we would want for each of our funerals and about the dying/ grieving process. Although this did make me feel a little more at ease about the details if it would happen, I still hoped and prayed I would not need to execute any of our plans so soon.


During the year he was away, I know both my husband and I changed a lot. What I experienced made me care about everything life had to offer since I truly began to realize life really does not last forever. The friendships I generated during that time became invaluable to me, as well as the support of other military spouses.

As time continued to slowly tick throughout the deployment, I had made the decision to become more at peace with the realization that we are all going to die at some time. Although we all “know” this, I found it to be another thing to really “KNOW” and accept it. And if we do not choose to accept it, we will be so busy running from it that we will not truly live this most beautiful life we have been given to the fullest.

We all hope we are able to stay on this earth a long time and live a healthy life. For those of us who are married, we hope we are able to grow old with our spouses. For those of us with children, we hope we are able to grow old enough to watch our children grow into adults, start their own lives and perhaps their own families.

The deployment for us was an unpleasant, noxious time in our lives, but in other ways it was also one that allowed us to create a more solid and successful marriage. It definitely gave us the opportunity as a younger couple to be able to talk openly about death and prepare for it.

We never know when it will be our time to exit life on this earth.  As humans, it seems natural to wonder how or when we will die. We all hope we will not experience great pain and suffering or even possibly know when our time is coming. We may think about all of the things we want to experience on this earth before our time is up. We may wonder if we are going to be able to squeeze everything in we want to do and if we will have time to accomplish the things we dream of doing one day.

The best way I have found to become more at peace with the inevitable is: when opportunities present themselves and you feel internally sparked, try them. Jump at the chance to try something new you have always wanted to do or experience. Or maybe jump at the opportunity to try something that comes along in which you never thought you would ever do. Most of the time, those are the most memorable.

Personally, I have noticed that people who accept that they are actually going to “die” someday live their lives more healthy and vibrantly than those who think it will never happen to them. It is probably fair to say that most people do not like talking about death, because they feel unprepared. Opening up and talking about it is difficult and awkward at first, but it also begins to ease your mind when you feel more prepared. (And as we all know, that goes for most things in life.)

Melanie Sextro is a military wife and mother to two sweet boys. She is a member of St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City.

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