/ life

How to Die

via The Atlantic

As a psychotherapist, Irvin Yalom has helped others grapple with their mortality. Now he is preparing for his own end.

Another of Yalom’s signature ideas, expressed in books such as Staring at the Sun and Creatures of a Day, is that we can lessen our fear of dying by living a regret-free life, meditating on our effect on subsequent generations, and confiding in loved ones about our death anxiety.

Obvious cultural distinctions aside, he says his foreign patients are not that different from the patients he treats in person. “If we live a life full of regret, full of things we haven’t done, if we’ve lived an unfulfilled life,” he says, “when death comes along, it’s a lot worse. I think it’s true for all of us.”

Also, to live a life of regret it we’ve done things to regret. Sometimes, I remind and ask myself if what I am or will be doing will cause regret as death approaches. It gives that space and time for reflection and possible changes in actions.

In his books, Yalom emphasizes that love can reduce death anxiety, both by providing a space for people to share their fears and by contributing to a well-lived life. Marilyn, an accomplished feminist literary scholar with whom he has a close intellectual partnership, inspires him to keep living every bit as much as she makes the idea of dying excruciating.

The other half and I occasionally discuss death. As a same-age couple, with females generally outliving males, the final years of my life will likely be without him. Keeping that at the back of my mind has definitely helped me to appreciate our relationship, chill out when petty issues arise and enjoy the time that we have together.