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Monatophobia- The Fear of Dying Alone

The fear of dying alone represents one of the greatest fears for many people. The urban dictionary recently included “monatophobia,” meaning “fear of dying alone.” This new word combines thanatophobia (fear of death) and monophobia (fear of being alone).


The process of dying can be terrifying. Dying alone without people to support you is even more terrifying. The idea of facing death on your own might even feel like abandonment.

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Did you know, that beginning with the first world war, dogs were used in a paramedical role? These mercy dogs/ambulance dogs/Red Cross dogs/casualty dogs were outfitted with a first aid kit and trained to sniff out the wounded after a battle. One more important role they served was to lay down next to a critically wounded soldier so they would not die alone. I can imagine how much comfort this companionship brought. As the article states (see source 6) “To a wounded man, their presence meant help was coming. To a dying one, their soft fur, gentle breath, and beating heart meant that the man wouldn’t have to die alone.”

 

In Japan, however, the word for fear of dying alone is known as “kodokushi” or “lonely death.” This term's used when someone dies alone, and their death isn’t discovered for a long time after. The fear of becoming a statistic under these circumstances can be paralyzing.


Here are some suggestions of things you can do to overcome the fear of dying alone:

1.    Have an open conversation with loved ones about what you want: The ability to have this conversation will depend on relationships, ability to communicate, and the culture of the family. Death doulas are great at facilitating such conversations. Or perhaps attend a Death Over Dinner event or a Death Cafe to explore the topic by yourself first.

2.    Designate people in your life to check in on you: Asking for help is a healthy thing to do. Asking a few people who support you for help can ease your anxieties.

3.    Re-think what it might look like to die alone: Reframing dying alone from another perspective can be powerful. Working with a medical social worker or a chaplain can help in talking through what reframing dying could look like for you.

4.    Consider what it means to live well: Living well can still happen when you are dying. Considering that while you may be limited in some ways, knowing that you still have agency is empowering.

5.    Look for a therapist in your area with expertise in death and dying, loss, and grief: You can find a mental health professional on an online therapist directory.

6.    Get information on hospice programs: Hospices are excellent resources for family members and patients who need counseling and support services to deal with death and dying, grief, and loss. They offer individual, family, and group counseling. They also offer nursing, medical care, pain management, dietary specialists, and respite care.

7.    Use technology to connect with loved ones: With advancing technology, loved ones can set up tablets or laptop screens to be present from an alternate location when they can’t be there in person.


If you are experiencing monatophobia know that it is a possible to manage it. Some cases will involve learning coping mechanisms, while other more severe sufferers would benefit from psychotherapy to help you understand your fear.

 

Sources

1. https://www.joincake.com/Why You May Fear Dying Alone (And How to Cope With It), updated 5/4/2022, by Dr. Alejandra Vasquez, JD, CT

 

3. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/Coping With the Fear of Dying Alone Written by: Iris Waichler, LCSW Reviewed by: Rajy Abulhosn, MD Published: March 24, 2023 


4. Glenn K. Wakam, M.D., John R. Montgomery, M.D., Ben E. Biesterveld, M.D.,Craig S. Brown, M.D. Not Dying Alone-Modern Compassionate Care in the Covid-19 Pandemic (2020). New England Journal of Medicine. June 11, 2020. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp2007781. Retrieved from https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmp2007781


5. Talking about death won’t kill you by Dr. Kathy Kortes-Miller

 

6. https://allthatsinteresting.com/Meet The Mercy Dogs, The Unsung Canine Heroes Of World War I, By Kaleena Fraga | Edited By Erik Hawkins, Published December 29, 2021

 

 

Photo credits: 'The Uninvited Guest'©Public Domain (an 1844 painting by German realist painter Adoph Menzel, suggesting that death, is, although uninvited, a respectful and sympathetic guest)


 


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