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It’s the end of the world as we know it, do you feel fine?

How you are supposed to prepare for death, according to the experts

It’s finally here – the day we’ve been waiting for for what feels like forever: Dec. 21, 2012 a.k.a. Doomsday a.k.a. Armageddon a.k.a. the end of the world.

 You can call it whatever you like; the consequences are the same – earth will be no longer and neither will you nor I.

According to NASA, this ominous (and fast approaching) prediction originated when the ancient Sumerians discovered another planet called Nibiru, which they believed would collide with and eventually destroy Earth. The original date for this catastrophe was scheduled for sometime in May 2003, but since the world didn’t end then, doomsday was later rescheduled for the end of a cycle in the Mayan calendar, which happens to be tomorrow’s winter solstice.

At work, there was plenty of discussion on what it would be like if the world were to end in 24 hours.
Some spoke of opening their Christmas presents early, just in case they wouldn’t have a chance to later on. Others wondered if they should even come to work tomorrow. After all, wouldn’t you rather have your final resting place be a nice comfortable bed than a back-breaking office chair?

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What would I do? I have no idea. I’ve never thought about death in a real way. I’ve known people who have died, and they have been tragic and terrible circumstances, but I have never been able to comprehend what death would mean for myself.

Are we supposed to think about our own mortality? Is that normal?

But seeing as that I may be clocking out of life in about three hours, I figured that I should think about mentally preparing for the end and learn what the experts had to say.

The first advice comes from WebMD, and focuses a lot on coping and finding closure with your relationships. 

Psychiatrist Dr. Gerald Shiener writes, “[Y]ou can prepare yourself by trying to review your relationships and tie loose ends.” He suggests that we assess regrets, resentment and negative feelings and really give ourselves a chance to speak our minds about our feelings.

“If you know death is coming, value the time you have left. It’s not about being afraid to say goodbye and saying the things you want to say,” writes Dr. David Baron. He adds, “Don’t be afraid to share your fear, frustration, and anger.”


The Dalai Lama, however, has a different take on preparing to die. He tells us:

“If you develop an appreciation for the uncertainty and imminence of death, your sense of the importance of using your time wisely will get stronger and stronger.”

In fact, he encourages us to think about death, for he says it will help us prepare for it and also improve our mental perspective.

For those of us who eschew thoughts of dying and death, “the actual arrival of death is likely to bring with it great discomfort and fear.”

Whereas, a person who “thinks about impermanence is much more courageous and happy while dying.”

Ultimately, he says, “Reflecting on the uncertainty of the time of death develops a mind that is peaceful, disciplined, and virtuous, because it is dwelling on more than the superficial stuff of this short lifetime.”

And, according to the Meditation Society of America, the best way to deal with impending death is to meditate and “cease and desist your illusion of being your body.”

After all, we are not our bodies, nor our minds, and not even our emotions. Our true self is simply the “consciousness that can witness physical, mental, and emotional reactivity and activity.”

In essence, we need to let go of the idea that our bodies have anything to do with who we really are – they are just temporary placeholders made out of atoms. 

Hmmm. After reading these ostensibly comforting words, I don’t feel very comforted or prepared.

Instead, I’m worried about an assignment I have to turn in to my boss tomorrow and trying to figure out where I’m going to park my car next week. I’m also worried about my exorbitant credit card bill and my slow shower drain.

 In some ways, I realize, the end of the world would solve a lot of problems for me.

And then I think of that old saying, “Live every day like it’s your last.” Which is something I rarely do. Perhaps, this is the best way to prepare for the end… Do something you love.

 So tonight, during my remaining 2.5 hours on this planet, that’s exactly what I’m doing.

 

Follow me on Twitter @thisjenkim (at least for a couple more hours)

 

Jen Kim is a former Psychology Today intern and a graduate of Northwestern University.

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