I Am Not Afraid to Die but I Am Afraid to Lose

DenaOctober 3, 2009

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Jesus said, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you have will save you. If you do not have that within you, what you do not have will kill you.”

This journal is about sharing my journey and the lessons that I have learned along the way, but is also about how I am still traveling my path and my journey is far from complete. Like every human being, I have ups and downs. Today I took a dip and I want to share it here.

This story is about how and why I am completely unafraid to die; how I am terrified to lose my loved ones (to death); and how I am working to overcome the pain and the fear associated with loss.

I am not afraid to die.

Before I learned to live happiness I, like most human beings, was terrified of death. It pained me to even think of my own mortality. I wondered what would happen. Is there a heaven? Do I have a soul? Am I simply a biological organism that will cease to exist upon death? My questions were normal, the common questions that we all wonder about.

My peace with my own impending death came after I found joy and purpose in my life. When I decided to start living, truly living, my fear of death began to fade. Then one day the fear left me entirely. If I died tomorrow I would not have a single regret. For me “the fear” was not actually a fear of death at all. It was rather a fear of dying too soon—before I could do certain things like say something important to certain people, visit certain places, accomplish certain goals. When I began to live a life of intention all of that was erased. When you live consciously you do and say all of the things that you wish to do and say. You live the life that you want to live. You stop wasting time and you live, truly live.

There are three things that are necessary to my happiness:

  • One is that the people that I love know that I love them.
  • Two is that I live every moment of my life to its fullest potential.
  • Three is that I do not ever take this blessed gift of life for granted.

With those three things in place, I know that I am living life to the fullest, that I could die tomorrow without a regret. I still do not know what will happen when I die—when my heart stops beating—but somehow it doesn’t seem to matter so much anymore. What matters is that I have right here and right now, it’s all I’ve got and it’s all that matters. Yes, this is what they mean when they say, “Live in the moment.” It’s truly a beautiful state of being.

I am terrified to lose my loved ones.

And now for the ugly part. Until now I have made it a point to avoid negativity in this blog. It is the same point that I make in my own life. Positivity breeds positivity. Love breeds love. Likewise, negativity breeds negativity. So yes, I avoid it like the plague, however there are certain unavoidables in life and death is one of them. After all when it comes to life, no one gets out alive. Right?

Earlier this week we found out that my grandmother has Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer. In this stage, the cancer is in one or both of the ovaries and it has spread beyond the abdomen to other parts of the body. It may be in the liver, the lungs or both. To put it into another perspective, before Stage 4 there is Stage 1, Stage 1A, Stage 1B, Stage 1C, Stage 2, Stage 2A, Stage 2B, Stage 2C, Stage 3, Stage 3A, Stage 3B, Stage 3C. In Stage 4 there is just Stage 4. Nothing comes next.

It took me several days to process all of this and then tonight, it finally sunk in. I cried tears of sadness for the first time in a long time. I cried until my eyes hurt. I have not lost a loved one since I was 12-years-old. At 25, I feel unprepared for this. I feel paralyzed and afraid. My usual steps to overcome fear and pain are not helping. Indeed there are exceptions to every rule and for me, right now, all of this is an exception. I do not want to lose my grandmother and, like a two-year-old having a tantrum, there is nothing can be done to change my mind or make me feel better about this.

Overcome the pain and the fear associated with loss.

This is the part of the post where normally I would explain how you can beat, conquer, and overcome anything. This is the part where I would say that there is nothing that you are not capable of, that you are more powerful than you could ever imagine. All of those things are still true for you and all of those things are still true for me; but right now I don’t want to overcome this. I want to be sad.

Sometimes, that’s what we need to do. We just need to be sad until we are ready to be strong again. I will be strong again.

Living a life of joy also means accepting that there will be times in our lives that will not be joyful and that that is okay. There are unavoidable, negative situations that even the most positive person will have to face at some point. It is a miracle that I have come to accept my own mortality and have overcome the fear of my own death. Yet, the mere thought of losing a loved one brings me to my knees.

This is a challenge, an obstacle thrown in my way by the universe, for a reason. I do not know yet how to overcome the pain and the fear associated with loss. But, I will get there and as soon as I do, I promise that I will share that lesson, I will share that piece of my journey here.

These hard times will come, it is in how we deal with them that we are truly defined. Although the lessons of this circumstance are not yet clear to me, I am learning every moment. I am pouring my love out into the universe, into the hearts of my family, and into my grandmother’s soul. Nothing is certain and as ever I am entirely faithful that all things happen for a reason.

Comments (10)

  • Karen

    October 3, 2009 at 11:42 pm

    I'm so sorry that you are going through this, Dena. Your honesty and pain come through so strong in your words. I am close to my grandmother, and can't imagine her health failing, or losing her, although I am sure it is something that I will have to deal with in the next few years.

    Stay strong. I completely agree with you… sometimes the best advice for pain is to sit with it, feel it, and accept what is. It's okay to feel it all, and just know that it will pass. I'm thinking good thoughts for you and your Grandmother 🙂

  • Leo

    October 4, 2009 at 1:05 am

    I lost my father a few years ago very suddenly. After his death, my stepmother – whose mom also died of ovarian cancer – and I had a talk about which is more difficult: the sudden death of a loved one, or the protracted loss of someone who is terminally ill.

    What our talk really revealed is that there is no "better" way. The loss is still the loss. Well-meaning folks will tell you it gets better. It doesn't. But it does get different.

    For me, it seemed that every day, something would remind me of my dad, and it might as well have been a kick in the chest. My breath would catch, and I'd feel like I was suffocating. And then it would pass, and I would cry. Huge, sobbing cries. Sometimes, it felt like they'd never stop.

    But they did. And the next time, it didn't last as long. And little farther down the line, the kicks in the chest eased to a tightening. And the pain of the loss slowly morphed into remembrance, and smiles.

    I still get "Pops" moments, those little times when something triggers a strong, very visceral memory of my dad. But now, they bring a smile, and my reply – "Hi, Pops."

    Don't try to overcome the pain. The pain is necessary to move forward. I can tell from your writing that you won't revel in it either. You will get through the pain, because you mourn your loss. The grief is not for your grandmother, but for you. We grieve our loved ones' pain now, but their loss is purely our pain.

    You will get through it, coming out on the other side appreciating every moment just a bit more. Hold precious the moments you can collect now, and hold them in your memory for later. These are the moments that will bring you a smile in time.

  • Dena

    October 4, 2009 at 10:01 am

    @Karen – Thank you so much for your warm thoughts & your kind words. It is certainly a difficult thing to go through but, as with most difficult things, it is a tremendous opportunity to grow as a person. Loss is a part of life. It is a necessary pain. Having wonderful friends like you truly make it easier.

    @Leo – Thank you so much for sharing your story. It is truly inspirational. You are right on all counts. The pain is necessary for us to move forward.

    I have dealt with varying degrees of loss throughout my life. This is the first time, as an adult, that I have to deal with the impending death of a loved one. It is a difficult thing but yes, in many ways a chance for me to appreciate my time with my loved ones that much more.

    It is obvious that you love your father dearly and the beautiful words that you speak of him are surely an honor to his memory.

  • Anime no reppuu

    October 6, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    do you have an email? i was wondering if I could ask you somethings about cbt…


  • Dena

    October 6, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    @Anime – Yes, it is denabotbyl @ gmail . com

  • Ryan Biddulph

    October 8, 2009 at 6:36 am


    You are at peace with your life which is a blessing. I too am entering a similar peaceful zone each day. As I discover why I'm here and what God wants me to do the questions fade away.

    Loss is a difficult situation for any person. Time heals. Ultimately some amazing blessing moves into your life. God does not take without giving. My girlfiend lost her father to lung cancer 2 years ago. Although her grief has partially subsided she still has deep feelings, as we all do when someone we love so much passes on. Her positive memories of him have increased though, and she laughs about stories more instead of crying about them. And God has provided her with many amazing, fulfilling, life-changing opportunities as she has persisted in the face of despair.

    Know that your love ones pass on, NOT away. I spoke to someone yesterday who was pronounced dead for 15 minutes. She said it was wonderful. Walking towards a bright light with glowing energy. And my GF's dad in his last hours here started to say 'Hi' to his parents and his favorite dog, he even motioned to pet him as he was between worlds. That was one of the most remarkable things anyone can see, to know that it's not The End, but a Hand-Off.

    Thank you for sharing your story and a wonderful blog.


  • Dena

    October 8, 2009 at 8:25 am

    @Ryan – I thank you infinitely for your kind words, for this inspirational comment. I am so proud to hear that you, too, are entering a peaceful zone. It is a challenge and a gift to be so at peace in life.

    I live joy yet I am surrounded by others in pain. My aim is to spread my joy and ease the suffering of as many people as possible.

    Your kind and generous words mean so much to me. Thank you truly.

  • Until We Meet Again, Grandma: Evolving Thoughts on Death | evolution you

    February 12, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    […] out that my grandmother had stage 4 ovarian cancer, I was crushed. I wrote at the time about how I was not afraid to die but I was afraid to lose. Little did I know then that over the next couple of years, life would throw me a sandstorm of […]

  • Joana

    May 10, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    Thanks for your words. My father died 4 years ago, when I was 14. And I guess that I’m still trying to live with it. I’ll try to follow your example and as soon as I’ll find an answer I’ll share as well.

    thanks again

  • Susan

    September 14, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    I am sorry you are going through this right now I have been in a similar situation myself and I hope it can provide some comfort , my nana was an amazing person and a source of much love and joy to our family, I remember her opening the door when I came to visit once with a towel wrapped around her hair and as she stood there tiny only 4’10 my heart squeezed with love for her it was such a strong feeling I will never forget it. She passed on when I was thirteen but too this day I still think of her talk to her (in my head ifkwim) and still feel that love in my heart. There has also been occasions where I have dreamt of her and it’s so real I feel like she has visited. love really does last a lifetime and that feeling never leaves even when the person is no longer physically with us , all the best to you and your family x

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