I suddenly feared the nothingness of death last night

As I was drifting off to sleep last night, for maybe the first time in my life, I found the idea of no afterlife terrifying. The feeling has since passed, thankfully.

I tried to tell myself that I already “experienced” (if that’s the right word) nothingness before I was born, which is an argument I have used before to other people who found the idea of no afterlife unpleasant or unlikely. That didn’t help at all.

I think I simply thought about something else, and drifted off to sleep. My feeling on the subject today is back to my usual opinion, I see nothing at all to fear from nonexistence. I cannot even remember why I found the idea so awful. Maybe it was some form of basic self-preservation instinct that bubbled to the surface while other parts of my brain were shutting down for the night.

I’ve actually had panic attacks over death before.
It’s more the thought of not breathing and nothingness that freak me out.
I have a hard time falling asleep when the thought crosses my mind and no matter what I try to think of in it’s place, the thought of dying is still rattling around in there.

It scares the hell out of me. I can’t wrap my mind around the concept of nothingness. Whenever I try to confront it I get a headache, my heart starts to race, my stomach gets all knotted up and I become very paranoid, it usually happens when I am lying in bed trying to get to sleep.

I have to distract my mind by reading a book, watching TV or playing a video game. But it never truly goes away. I know it is back there, in the darkest, deepest recesses of my mind. Just waiting for me to let down my guard so that it can once again push it’s way into the forefront of my thoughts.

The closest I have come to such a feeling was in a gut response to a fake news story I heard on Paul Harvey several years ago (more like a decade) in which a supposed asteroid or comet was due to hit the earth with enough force to wipe out humanity.

It wasn’t so much my own demise that I cried for. It was the loss of everything Humanity has come to mean. I just had this sense of loss over our entire species being eliminated from the Cosmos as if it had never been. I don’t feel anything all that heavy about dinosaurs and other extinct critters. But something about the loss of all our forebears and our history and art and science and all that just seems the ultimate sadness.

Until such a thing wipes us all out, I can accept my own passage even if I will have left nothing significant behind to be remembered for. At least those who come later will have something to build on. Imagine being alone on earth with no memory of anyone else.

I’ve had a few brief moments of that and it has, in that moment, been terrifying. It’s especially odd since I normally have a very philosophical viewpoint on it. First, there’s the fact that I can’t be aware of nonexistence. When it happens, that’ll be it. Just nothing. You can’t be afraid of nothing because you can’t be aware of it. Second, I admire the transient in the world and so enjoy my life all the more for its briefness. Flowers that will wilt have far more meaning to me than the most beautiful ones made of silk or dried under glass. Watching some child I care for laugh and play is precious because, someday, that little boy will be a man and he’ll never laugh and play in the same way again. I’ll plant a tree and never see it attain its full height, but take pleasure in knowing that those who see it at its full height will never know it as a seedling.

But sometimes, I remember that I’ll never be younger than I am now and every moment of every day is taking me closer to my destruction and absence from this world.

And then I get over it.

Actually, it’s sort of weird. Even if it might be a moment or two of stark terror at the thought, in the next moment my mind will wander back to other topics and I’ll get caught up in life and have much better things to think about than my own death. It’s an almost callous dismissal of my own mortality, I guess.

I get the same thought from time to time. I try to find comfort by thinking of all the things that cause stress in my life, all the painful experiences and disappointments, and think of how those things will no longer matter. I’d doesn’t really help much.

I have no fear of death. But not so long ago I had a terrible fear of dying. I imagined my self facing down the wrong end of a gun, knowing that the weilder was most definitely going to pull the trigger. Or crossing the street, and looking at the speeding SUV that in no way could stop in time. Or falling overboard at sea, and looking at all those hungry dorsal fins circling me.

The thought of suddenly and unexpectedly facing an inevitable end freaked me the fuck out.

ake two Jesus-pills, and call me in the morning. :wink:

I feel the same way. On the other hand, I always found the thought of being around forever terrifying too. Just going on and on with with no way out? :eek: So neither one of those ideas ever brought me much comfort.

I’ve had a lot of that, too, recently. I just keep thinking that if there’s nothing, then…that’s it. We’re done. Death seems so much scarier. And if there is nothing after we die, then what’s the point of life? Existentialism is SO depressing.

For those who have reported this fear, can you post the age when you first experienced it? I’m curious if this might be a stage of life issue.

I was maybe ten the first time and I actually wrote out a “will” of sorts. Hey, I was ten.
My birth giver found the “will” under my pillow and ridiculed me for it. I’ve never mentioned this fear again until today.

My one and only time was described in the OP, I’m 37.

I’m also having a potentially life-threating health problem the past few months (I’d rather not get into the details), so that might have been a factor as well.

I was eight the first time I experienced it. This was fear of nothingness, too–not just fear of death. I became an atheist around the same time I stopped believing in Santa Claus. I was a very cynical child.

The first time I had that feeling I was 22. To tell you the truth, it still kind of freaks me out.

I don’t suppose I’ve really had it yet, and I’m well into middle age.

There was a time, though, that I haven’t told anyone else about, when I was 14 years old–and I know I’m going to get ridiculed for it here and now.

I was lying on the couch late at night, not doing or thinking about much, when all of a sudden I was hit by this absolute CERTAINTY that I was going to die. Not someday, NOW. I was too shocked to even be frightened, and started praying, not knowing what else to do. Eventually, though, I must have either fallen asleep or got up and went to bed.

The next morning my dad told me that one of my grandfather’s neighbors had been in to check on him, and found that my grandfather had passed away several hours earlier. He was lying on his kitchen floor.

Koxinga, don’t take this as ridicule, as it is not meant as such in even the tiniest way, but that was likely just a coincidence.

Richard Feynman mentions in one of his books that he once had the overwhelming feeling that his mother was dead. Turned out she was fine, and he figured that that type of feeling probably happens all the time, but we forget all the times when it turned out to be nothing. By only pure coincidence, sometimes the feeling reflects reality in some way, and then the incident is remembered.

There’s a poem I read once that I like to think of when I brood on the inevitable: The Garden of Proserpine by Charles Swinburne; particularly the last two stanzas:

*From too much love of living,
From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no life lives for ever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.

Then star nor sun shall waken,
Nor any change of light:
Nor sound of waters shaken,
Nor any sound or sight:
Nor wintry leaves nor vernal,
Nor days nor things diurnal;
Only the sleep eternal
In an eternal night.*
That doesn’t help much on those occasions where, like you, as I lie awake in bed at night, the sudden Terror of the Void engulfs me. As T. S. Eliot wrote, I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker, And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker, And in short, I was afraid. Usually, turning on the light and going to take a look at my sleeping children dispels the miasma.

I have had this experience as well…but upon reflection, what is there to fear? You will not be conscious of the external world (if you accept death as the end).So you cannot really experience nothingness. As your neurons cease to fire, all you will experience is a sensation of going to sleep. Of course, if you DON’T see death as the end, worse things may await you!

“There are worse things than death awaiting man.” -Count Dracula

The Jesus pills are of limited help to Christian who do not believe salvation is a given. I suppose they fix you right up if you’re convinced you’re already among the Elect on the Express to Heaven, but for those of us who believe in a personal day of judgment, when we will have to account for every gift we’ve squandered and every good deed gone undone, the night can be just as long as it is for anyone else.

ETA: There’s a great Angel quote about the lack of the afterlife, I’ll see if I can find it . . . .