Suggestions for dealing with existential dread

I’m hoping that you have suggestions for one of our parents whose 10 year-old-daughter is struggling with something that you may have struggled with, too: existential dread or anxiety.

For a child, this can be very scary.  This anxiety that arises from the realization that we’re mortal, that we’re going to die, is worse at night. For the concerned mom who would like advice, her child feels as if her thoughts are “attacking her.” She fears bedtime and is “equating falling asleep with death.” She has asked her daughter if it would help to believe in heaven, but her daughter knows what we adults know: you can’t force yourself to believe in something you don’t believe in.

Sleep is, in a sense, a little death, and every night we step up and dive in.  When adults struggle with this, we have a drink, read, take a pill, reach out to someone who understands. As we age, we learn to control or push back against our thoughts. But for a child, these thoughts are new and terrifying. It can also be very lonely as sometimes those around us–friends, counselors–have not experienced this.

Do you guys have any suggestions for this mom? How can she help ease her child’s fears at bedtime?


51 responses to “Suggestions for dealing with existential dread

  1. Did someone close to her recently pass away? When I was twelve my dad died suddenly and, to this day, inexplicably. I had a lot of this existential angst. I don’t remember ANYONE being able to alleviate my fears. I went to sleep for a long, long time with either the tv or the radio on. It didn’t matter what was on, really, just so I had a distraction from my own thoughts.

  2. I remember this stage of my life – I was terrified of dying in my sleep and found it very hard to sleep through the night for maybe a year. I don’t have any suggestions sadly except to know that it passes eventually, maybe through the body/mind’s process of maturing. It sucks while it last though…

  3. I would start by explaining the purpose of sleep; to restore and heal the mind and body. It is not a “little death”. Sleep is a gift to the body and mind. Then make sure this child knows she is not alone with these feelings or thoughts. We are all in the wonderful adventure together, called, Life. Even though it must come to end for all eventually. Those that die make room for the next generation to take their turn, and thus continue the cycle of life for all. I like how the character in “Phenomenon”, George Malley explains death to the two small kids he grew to love. He tells then through eating an apple, even though the apple dies, and looks like it goes away, it really doesn’t. That nothing is ever lost or disappears it just continues on in another form. That someday through her own actions, words or deeds she too will live on through someone else.

  4. I think knowing that real people love you is just as powerful as believing that a god loves you. My suggestion would be to try to add in some kind of nightly AND morning ritual to make sure the child knows she is loved and important. Some suggestions: Lying on the bed with the child before bedtime and going over the events of the day, asking what her favorite parts of the day were, what she learned, something funny that happened, what she is looking forward to the next day. Reading a book together, something that has chapters so it is an ongoing reading over multiple nights (something to look forward to – what will happen in the book the next night?). I like to have my daughter ask me questions about when I was a child (reminds her that I was once a child, and that I have lived a long time before her). Anything that focuses on the child and your family that makes her feel important and loved. Then in the morning, something for her to look forward to…cooking breakfast together (even if it’s making toast – if it’s something that you can do one-on-one to make her feel a part of something), morning dance party or something silly that just the two of you do together every morning. Then make sure to do these things every night and morning til she starts feeling better!

  5. I’d like to suggest the mother give the little girl an in depth education on the powerful benefits of sleep (there is a great TED talk on that subject:) and what all happens to our body while we sleep. Sleep isn’t like death at all! Sleep is necessary if we want to live. Sleep is restorative physically and mentally — wow, does she know about lucid dreaming? I never learned to dream lucidly myself but I had a super rich dream life as it was. If she is having nightmares (her thoughts attacking her?) instead of magical, fanciful dreams, then the power of suggestion before she goes to bed will help her to sleep peacefully. When I was 6 and 7, I had terrible nightmares and was told to ‘pray’ before I went to sleep for ‘Jehovah’ to protect me. Yes, it worked:) And now I know that was simply the power of suggestion. Far from sleep being like death, I’d have to say it’s as close to a ‘heaven’ one can get. I’ve been wonderfully surprised and comforted seeing my parents and my grandparents in my dreams. If one approaches dreams as a mystery to be solved and understood (read books by Carl Jung, the great Swiss psychologist), then often even nightmares come off as not being so scary. In fact, the more I think about it, it makes me wonder if indeed the process of dreaming didn’t contribute to early man’s religious notions to begin with. Dreaming opens up a whole new world with a ‘higher’ self talking to us:)

  6. Ohhh this is sad. 😦 I don’t look forward to this stage of parenting, although I don’t think what this girl is going through is uncommon? I don’t think you have to “lie” about heaven if you don’t believe in it, but if it was something that would help – a protective Saint or a prayer – that would be nice. But, to think of something not-spiritual… I remember my mom giving me a spoonful of mineral oil when I would get really anxious… no idea if this is in practice anymore, but you could ask a doctor? Also, perhaps if you could get some children books on tape that she could listen to as she drifts off to sleep, that will keep her mind occupied until sleep sort of sneaks up on her, and she won’t lay there with her mind whirling? I remember loving the Polk Street books on tape around that age… she could listen to them until she drifts off? Or if she has a sibling of close age, would sharing a room help? I always thought sleeping alone as a young child would be kind of scary. I would also make a conscious effort to isolate her from scary stories, TV shows, books, or the news… try to keep her world as safe and isolated from danger as possible until she grows out of this stage. I’m not sure that was helpful, but those are my two cents. Have faith (haha, no pun intended) that this stage will pass, and I’m sure it will. Isn’t parenting fun…

  7. Just talk. And talk calmly, rationally and matter of factly. My 6 year old son is somewhat anxious about the idea of death, but we just talk. He tells me he doesn’t want to die, so I tell him it’s okay, he doesn’t have to yet. He says he hopes we will die together, hugging each other. It seems like a ca conversation about how death is just a natural part of life can lead to a conversation about how you choose to live your life. Always tell the people you love that you love them, don’t keep a bucket list of things to do “someday” do things now. Find joy. And when you’re finished you will go back tithe earth, and you’re energy is transformed into something else. Sometimes I wonder if the whole concept of an eternal soul was just that. Someone with higher understanding if science and nature trying to explain to an uneducated populace that energy doesn’t die, it is transformed. Becoming worm food is in fact our immortality. Our life force continues, transformed but still part of this amazing whole organism Earth. Think about it, don’t all faiths try to express this in some form or another? Reincarnation, heaven, afterlife. Obviously that’s probably a little too elevated for children. But you start by just talking and not offering made up fantasies to make them feel better. But show them the real wonder of being a living, breathing part of this wondrous organism we inhabit!

  8. Aw, poor girl. I was like that, have been like that most of my life. My reasons are much different, I was like that due to much neglect and abuse. I felt that it was my job to keep an eye out for my sisters. It also didn’t help that mom would take dad to work around midnight and I was really young and was home alone with all my little sisters. Even when I had lived with my folks as an adult, I would keep out a watchful eye over my family. I fight that kind of insomnia even now, but it’s better than what it used to be.

    I think Molly mentioned something about this being kind of normal. I tend to agree. I have to wonder if maybe a bit of this is just her age, whether it’s biological or hormonal, young girls go through very extreme emotions and thought processes as pre-teens.

    My oldest boy is eight and he’s very well aware of mythology and lumps Christianity with all of that. What is successful for him and my five year old is a consistent bed time. Kids at their ages need 10 hours of sleep and the same routine every night. We kiss, hug and love on them every night at bed time. We make sure they both know that we care for them and tuck them comfortably in their beds. They both prefer to either listen to a cd or a soft rock station as they sleep. Sometimes I turn off their radios as I go to bed, other times I don’t. We rarely let them stay up past their regular bed time. We usually keep an open dialogue with our children about safety, love, and support throughout the day on most days.

    Another person commented on whether this young girl lost someone close to her recently. I thought that was a good point, she may seriously need grief counseling. Whether she’s gone through that or not, I think it’s important to not make her feel abnormal as she’s going through all of this. I doubt if that’s something that her parents are doing to her because it sounds as though they really love her and are doing all that they can on her behalf. She’s fortunate to have that kind of love to back her up.

    I hope that there is great resolve for this young girl and her whole family. I know how painful it is to see a child struggle with sleep on a regular basis, my youngest one has had health issues that have kept him up often throughout his five years of life. I wish them all the best. may they find what works best for all of them. I hope she gets some good rest soon.

  9. Any thoughts of life, death, and eternity can definitely be pretty overwhelming for a kid at that age. I remember being just a little younger when I first tried to wrap my head around the notion of spending eternity in the afterlife … even Heaven. I pretty quickly began to feel a lot more comfortable with there being a hard stop than with facing a ceaseless existence … but I suspect that’s a personal thing.

    I admit even now I’ll entertain thoughts late at night about instead facing eternity not being after I die, and I consider the words of Mark Twain who said, “I was dead for millions of years before I was born and it never inconvenienced me a bit.” Non-existence may be frightening, but we’re not going to be around to experience it. If it didn’t bother us before we were born, it shouldn’t bother us now.

    I know, not very comforting for a kid of ten. Maybe this should be an opportunity for the parents to emphasize – knowing that this is the only life we know we have – that she should not only make the most of hers and find meaning and purpose in everything we do, but also see this as an imperative to develop the compassion needed to value the lives of others as well.

  10. @Senator Jason: I understand Mark Twain’s words and I do take comfort in knowing that what I don’t know/feel when I’m dead won’t hurt me. But it’s the hell up till then because I worry about my only child. I know how the death of my mother has affected me. She died in 2007. I don’t find comfort from my memories of my mother; only pain and loss and emptiness — even after all this time. SO it bothers me to think about the pain my daughter will endure long after my death. I haven’t found a solution to this conundrum yet:) It’s like — death isn’t the problem. Living is!ha!! How to stop the mental loops that torment us???

    • @Trishia…. Fear of the thing is usually worse than the thing itself. Losing a parent is extremely difficult, I’m sure… I don’t know if there is anything you can do to prepare her for that day?

  11. It’s kind of scatter-shot and might take a bit to resonate with a child, but I’ve always found Alan Watts full of comforting wisom. As he’s observed, we did not come “into” the universe, we come out of it. Just as an apple tree “apples,” the universe “peoples.” Our connection to eternity is we are part of the eternal now. It is always _now_ and has always been now. Watts echos Sagan (or vice versa) in the observation that we are star stuff come to contemplate itself. Let the child revel and wonder in the now. Ask the child if it knew what its existence was like before it was born, and explain that’s what it will be like after death.

    “Why should I fear death? If I am, death is not. If death is, I am not. Why should I fear that which can only exist when I do not?” — Epicurus Epicurus

    Some Alan Watts gems —

    “But we try to pretend, you see, that the external world exists altogether independently of us.” ―Alan Watts

    “But I’ll tell you what hermits realize. If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet, you’ll come to understand that you’re connected with everything.” ―Alan Watts

    “It must be obvious… that there is a contradiction in wanting to be perfectly secure in a universe whose very nature is momentariness and fluidity.” [The Wisdom of Insecurity (1951)] ―Alan Watts

    “The greater part of human activity is designed to make permanent those experiences and joys which are only lovable because they are changing.” [The Wisdom of Insecurity (1951)] ―Alan Watts

    “But we try to pretend, you see, that the external world exists altogether independently of us.” ―Alan Watts

    “You find out that the universe is a system that creeps up on itself and says ‘Boo!’ and then laughs at itself for jumping.” ―Alan Watts

    “The myths underlying our culture and underlying our common sense have not taught us to feel identical with the universe, but only parts of it, only in it, only confronting it – aliens.” ―Alan Watts

    “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” ―Alan Watts

    To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float. ~ Alan Watts

    I have realized that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is. ~ Alan Watts


    — and —

    And finally —

    I think I’ve discovered the secret of life – you just hang around until you get used to it. ~ Charles M. Schulz

  12. I think some of the suggestions already offered here are very good, namely explaining to her clearly the purpose of sleep and how it’s so very good for her, that it’s absolutely nothing to fear. Plus having a regular consistent bedtime routine of something that is comforting for her is vital – reading her a book, listening to music, discussing the day, etc. My boys haven’t had this type of anxiety yet, and I don’t recall it either in my childhood, so I’m probably not in the best position to give advice. All I can say is when I was anxious as a kid, about whatever it was, I always craved the refuge of my books. To this day a good book is my escape from the stresses of life.
    But that doesn’t work for everyone. When my kids are stressed, anxious, worried, I just try to intuit my way through it. What is it that they need most from me at that time? Do they want to talk about it, and ask me questions? Should I give them practical, real-life advice? Tell them what I did at their age. Maybe they just need to be physcial and get outside and move around, or I should joke and try to loosen them up and make them laugh. Should I just BE with them and put an arm around them and let them know I sympathise with their pain? I think most parents usually know what it is that their kids need from them.
    I am loving the Alan Watts quotes! A 10 year old will probably not relate to them yet, but if our parenting expresses that general attitude and acceptance of life, I think our kids will absorb some of it from us.

    • @Angie – Your advice and that of others was very kid specific and seemed as if it would be quite a bit more effective. That being said, while children are not mini-versions of adults, they will, with luck, reach adulthood and will find that many of their questions will still linger.

      “Whenever my children complain about the planet to me, I say ‘Shut up, I just got here myself’.”
      ― Kurt Vonnegut, If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?: Advice for the Young

      • @Lance – Another good one from Vonnegut. And I think, how on earth has it come about that I am in this position of trying to help young human beings grow? I can’t even sort out my own s**t!

    • Great quotes, LT.

      Angie, Thanks for sharing your suggestions. Being a parent is a work-in-progress!

  13. Oh my gosh, I am 45 and I still struggle with these thoughts at night! My armchair diagnosis is that I suffer from SAD too. Years ago, my husband pointed out that my mood dips at sundown – whether that is 5:00 in the winter or 9:00 in the summer. In the summer, I rarely have those dark thoughts but then I am just going to bed as the sun is.
    Here are a couple of the things that work for me: 1) I try to get some exercise around dusk or shortly after. I find the endorphin boost helps get me through the evening and into sleep. 2) I focus on the fact that everyone to the best of my knowledge is healthy and happy at this moment – really just try to live in the moment with all that entails (how my body feels against the bed, etc.) 3) I think about what dreams I want to have when I fall asleep. 4) I don’t know what this helps, but realizing I didn’t exist for billions of years and some day won’t exist again takes the fear out of death. Perhaps it is focusing on the long term of the universe and acknowledging that 45 years or 100 years – my life is still a blip and I need to enjoy what time I have.

    Good luck to the mother and daughter.

    One other thing . . I think This American Life did a whole hour on ‘the fear of sleep’. It might be interesting story to listen to and normalize these fears.

  14. As chance would have it, I ran across this on my fb feed today.

  15. @Michael B, thank you for the beautiful video!!!! I would never think to compare myself to Rilke but …. now I don’t feel so neurotic about coming to tears during my daily walks. I see and appreciate all the little wondrous things and then, wham! I’m hit with the recurring reminder that these are exactly the things I can’t experience when dead……It’s truly an existential bummer:)

  16. Sleep and dreaming might also be described to a child as a magical journey where anything is possible,like Peter pan and when you wake up, your body and mind are refreshed and ready for a new day and you are safe and happy in your bed. I find Sleeping to be just that, magical. I don’t really understand sleep, how or why or what happens, but you always wake up from it and even if your dreams were not so good or just plain bad, when you wake, the dreams are left behind in “dream land” and can’t hurt you. With practice, you can even take control of your dreams. I look forward to sleeping, so I can see what happens next in the “make believe world” that we all go to every day. Not scary, but exciting and fun. This is a wonderful web site with intelligent, thoughtful, reality based people reading and commenting here. I also put my faith in what’s real and not “fairy tails” invented just to control people and to collect tax free money from… My best wishes to all of you. Tim

  17. Thank you guys for all the great suggestions, stories and feedback. It’s much appreciated.

    I thought this bit of info I found in a medical article is very interesting and relevant for us. The author is Paul Offit, MD:

    “Can we learn to relieve symptoms with our own endorphins? Can we learn to upregulate and downregulate our own immune system, release our own dopamine, and affect our own mediators of stress, which can have broad negative effects? Yes, I think that is all true, and it is all studyable, and that is why I think that what you are saying is so important. I think Mehmet Oz, for example, will go on his show and will talk wondrously about acupuncture, which no doubt benefits people, and it may be because they are learning how to release their own endorphins.

    We don’t have to look to the gods to explain these things. We can look into ourselves and try and figure out the physiology so that we can then learn to evoke these behaviors at lowest risk, lowest burden, and lowest cost. I think that is important.”

  18. Treat death the same way you would the monster in the closet – open the closet and shine a light into it. Think about death. Imagine a world where we lived forever – we would run out of food and space to live, people would be piled on top of each other. Pollution would be insane. And nothing would ever be new, everyone would have done everything ten thousand million times before. It would be dreary. Ask the child if she would want to see a movie that lasted a billion years, and ask her if her favorite movie is bad because it has a beginning, a middle and an end. Or a song. Ask her if she doesn’t enjoy a bowl of ice cream because it’s a bowl and not a dump truck. Have her eat ice cream every day until she is absolutely sick of it and then ask her if more is always better.

    • @agnophilo
      Your comment reminded me of a Twilight Zone episode. It was about a guy who worked in the ER and somehow, someway, a wish was put out there for all of us to live forever. There was some sort of horrible auto accident and all of these people show up at the hospital with their skin completely burned off. Still, they wouldn’t die!
      I would love to live forever for my boys’ sake, but I wouldn’t want them to have to take care of me for decades then have to worry about who will take care of them forever as their health dwindled too. Could you imagine the burdens, drama, hurt, exhaustion and expense for everyone involved?

      • We could approach this dilemma 2 ways – 1) wish for even more impossibilities like living forever and instantly healing from injury, having unlimited food and space etc, etc. Or 2) coming to terms with reality, appreciating the positive aspects of the universe and life as it is, and be happy.

        Number one creates anxiety (because some part of us knows it’s not true). It’s like happiness, there are two ways to be happy, accumulate more of things or want less. Only one of them really works.

        • @agnophilo I think I’ll choose the second option, although it would be cool to live for a thousand years and see what happens to our species.

          • I’d rather hop in a time machine than take the slow route : ) After a thousand years I probably would be long past caring. Though it would be tempting to live a thousand years because you could do an amazing amount of good in that time.

  19. Don’t actually do that last one though, that’s just to illustrate the point.

  20. Remember being a skeptic means questioning the bad/depressing stuff too : )

  21. I didn’t have time to read all the comments and check if someone else said it. This girl should be keeping a journal. Journaling at night can be especially helpful. It helps get those thoughts out so they’re not on your mind. Writing it down can be so cathartic. You can read it over and feel like it’s out. She can work out her feelings on god, no god, or whatever heinous acts Miley Cyrus commits. I used to work at a therapist’s office and this was their “go to” solution.

  22. I applaud ALL of you…for your courage in honesty and of honesty. I am a former Evangelical Christian who has recognized my former belief is nonsense, but am lost now with nothing to hold on to. Some say that is the greatest place to be…but in the midst of it, I cannot be sure. Some of your examples and the video are exceptional descriptions of this angst.

    It is helpful to know I am not the only one who is or has gone through it.

    Were I a Christian still, and in my arrogant insensitivity, I would claim that what you all are talking about proves that you need God, proves that God is trying to “convict” your heart to follow after him…but then I wouldn’t have the courage to admit that my own life is so poorly lived in the light of all the “Truth” I claim is there. That was my experience despite all of my witnessing and claiming that I was at “peace” and had an “intimate” relationship with Jesus. And that was why I left Christianity, because I knew it was simply not true…and not real.

    But I (and this remarkable and wonderously sensitive 10 year old) are at this point.

    To the mother: please don’t let anyone pass this off as “depression.” It is so much more than a pointless need for humans to diagnose so they don’t have to face it…as the video suggests, it is what we, as humans, are. Please, hold her hand through this and walk by her side. A perscription to hide her experience is not the answer.

    And there is something to be said for witers like Alan Watts and Stephen Batchelor, the latter who is well known in the Western Buddhist world as a “Buddhist Atheist.” They do have a point…thoughts do not need to be our masters…especially if this 10 year old feels they are “attacking her.”

    I wish all of you well.

  23. Talk with her about her fears during the day. But at night, grab a book and read a story with your child at bedtime. It will help her by 1) not being alone when she goes to sleep 2) give her other things to think about before going to sleep and 3) strengthening the parent/child bond because you are doing things together.

  24. I really like the varied thoughts on this topic.

    Part of what made me realize god and religion was hocus-pocus make-beleive was the thought of mortality and immortality. The notion of death, either my own or others, has never bothered me. However, when I started to consider immortality, that scared the crap out of me. Religion seems to do everything in its power to scare people about death… but not the physical reality: rather, what comes after. The idea of continued consciousness after death is one of the most horrifying concepts ever created. As a result, I came to the quick conclusion that mortality is much, much better.

    Here is what I told my nephew when he asked me if I was afraid to die (or actually about death in general). I said that our mortality is rather like a gift. It forces us, when we think about it, to recognize we only have a short time in which to do the most good we can. We need to concentrate our actions and coalesce thoughts with as much deliberateness as we can muster. After all, what is eighty years compared to a million years? Or a billion years? Our personal time is a precious commodity and it is fleeting; hence, we must use it wisely. Mortality grants us the ability, if we chose to use it, to understand what is truly important.

    Granted, I did not use that exact language with him, but the points were the same. He seemed to appreciate that I was direct and honest with him about my thoughts, and I think he went away a slightly calmer kid that day.

  25. When my daughter was little, she had a problem with nightmares. I know this sounds hokey, but we bought a dream catcher that was “purified” by a native American with sage smoke. We hung it over her bed and the nightmares stopped. Whether it was the power of suggestion or not, it worked. She’s 18 now and it still hangs over her bed.

    • Seems to be the perfect use of a talisman. How many movies/stories have you seen where some bauble is given to install confidence, and when the bauble is lost, it’s revealed to be nothing but method to show the individual possesses the abilities thought to be imbued by the object?

  26. Life Is A Dance

    (Allen Shamblin/Steve Seskin)

    When I was fourteen I was falling fast
    For a blue eyed girl in my homeroom class
    Trying to find the courage to ask her out
    Was like trying to get oil from a waterspout
    What she would have said I can’t say
    I never did ask and she moved away
    But I learned something from my blue eyed girl
    Sink or swim you gotta give it a whirl

    Life’s a dance you learn as you go
    Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow
    Don’t worry about what you don’t know
    Life’s a dance you learn as you go

    The longer I live the more I believe
    You do have to give if you wanna recieve
    There’s a time to listen, a time to talk
    And you might have to crawl even after you walk
    Had sure things blow up in my face
    Seen the longshot, win the race
    Been knocked down by the slamming door
    Picked myself up and came back for more

    Life’s a dance you learn as you go
    Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow
    Don’t worry about what you don’t know
    Life’s a dance you learn as you go

    Life’s a dance you learn as you go
    Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow
    Don’t worry about what you don’t know
    Life’s a dance you learn as you go
    Life’s a dance you learn as you go
    Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow
    Don’t worry about what you don’t know
    Life’s a dance you learn as you go

    Life’s a dance
    Life’s a dance
    Life’s a dance
    Take a chance on love
    Life’s a dance
    You learn as you go

  27. I have had my daughter in counseling for about 3 months now, and part of it is for anxiety at bedtime (for different reasons… but the general idea is going to be the same). Consistency at bedtime is key. Also, having a low, non-florescent light in the room is ok, as long as it’s not too bright (My daughter uses a 10 – watt bulb in a normal lamp that is shielded from direct view of her bed… more than a nightlight, but way less than a useful lamp). At night, we light an insence stick in her room, which she reall likes. She has a CD that plays nature sounds with piano music, and her therapist gave me a story to read to her that specifically targets her brand of anxiety.

    While I understand the “explain what sleep is for”, it really depends on the age and emotional maturity of the child. At ten years old, the reasoning engine isn’t fully engaged yet. While this seems appropriate to an adult, it can actually re-inforce the fear in a child, because it keeps them focused on it. It keeps them saying, “Yes.. but…” I would look for hypnotherapy stories for anxiety specific to mortality, and use one of those nightly. It’s ok if she falls asleep half-way through the story… the message is still heard and felt on a subconscious level.

    I will say that all of these techniques, along with play-therapy, has been of immense benefit to my daughter.

    • I think that was what helped me. I needed to not think about it. I didn’t have a CD player, but the tv or radio served the same purpose. I kind of needed to be lost in something else for that time immediately before sleep, an escape of sorts. I really DID NOT need to have quiet space to think about what I was afraid of.

      As an adult just a few years ago when I began to shed my faith I went through the same thing again. Again, I needed some distraction at bedtime. I didn’t need to think about going to hell immediately before trying to go to sleep. Even though, as an adult, I could reason with myself that there is no hell thoughts at bedtime can be very irrational and once you’re asleep you have no control over where they go.

  28. Of interest:
    A Philosopher’s ‘Afterlife’: We May Die, But Others Live On
    by NPR Staff

    NPR – October 9, 2013

    Philosopher Samuel Scheffler doesn’t believe in a traditional afterlife — that is, he doesn’t think that a spirit or soul survives the body’s physical death. But he does believe in another kind of afterlife: Regardless of what we think about our own life after death, Scheffler tells NPR’s Robert Siegel, we all trust that others will continue to live after us. And, much like faith in a spiritual afterlife, that belief changes what we choose to do with our days on earth….

    • I think our actions in life have a powerful ripple effect (positive or negative) and we should strive to accentuate the positive (sounds like a good song lyric, huh?).

      We have already hit a high mark just being here —

      “My boy,” he said, “you are descended from a long line of determined, resourceful, microscopic tadpoles– champions every one.” ― Kurt Vonnegut, Galápagos

  29. all I can suggest is REBT (Albert Ellis); i.e. have a Socratic conversation with her about what it is exactly that she fears – keep on asking ‘so what?’ – and maybe at the end she’ll realise that what lies beneath her ‘awful-izing’ is not that bad actually

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