In her article, “My Obsession on Death and Dying,” from The Enneagram of Death, 5-Observer Michele Harrison tells us how her parents mishandled her fear of death. As a child watching news about Vietnam and Biafra children, she saw pictures of adults dying. She would cover her ears up with cushions so she couldn't hear what was being said. Day after day she was sure she was going to die and she kept telling her mother she thought she was going to die.
Michele wrote, “She was so concerned about me, as I was only about seven years old, that she spoke to our general practitioner doctor. He thought I was attention-seeking and told her to say something that made matters worse. One day my Mum told me, ‘go away and die then.’
“I then believed my Mum and Dad wanted me to die and were going to kill me. Night after night I had the same dream that they came during the night and suffocated me with a red velvet heart-shaped cushion. I can't remember when or why the dream stopped but it did.
“However, my fear of death didn't go away until I had a near death experience at the age of 40 after an operation that went wrong. I hemorrhaged and lost a lot of blood. I slipped into near unconsciousness and thought if this is death it's not that bad.
“But I still have the occasional fear from not knowing how and when I will die. My Mum took three days to die and was distressed throughout, although my brother died instantly. I fear not experiencing anything any more: sun rise, sunset, food, sights, sounds; not being able to have a conversation with the people I love, to tell them things or to touch them.
“At the period I told you about I believed that once you died you just ceased to be in body, soul, and spirit. Since then I have had some experiences that are convincing me that is not the case. I will only become totally convinced, however, when I do die, which I hope is not for a long time as I'm only 55. There are some things worse than death to me and I can totally relate to those who suffer so much they plan to leave their body.
“Having said that there are times since I developed myalgic encephalomyelitis, essentially the same as chronic fatigue syndrome, that on my darkest days I feel I would sooner be dead than carry on unable-to-live life. I know that if I didn't have four grown-up children and four grandchildren I would have taken my own life.
“But I wouldn't leave them with that legacy or grief.”
• For experiences around death and dying of several of each of the 9 Enneagram types, read Wagele’s The Enneagram of Death – Helpful insights by the 9 types of people on grief, fear, and dying.