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What Is Death? Looking at Fear Around Death and Death As a Rite of Passage

Death is a term we are all familiar with, and yet, what is death? Different people have different understandings of what death is and it often brings up a lot of fear. In this article I share my understanding of death with you.

Death is transformation. It is transformation from one stage to another. It is the releasing of one form and the shifting into another.

Every day we encounter death. We may not perceive it this way, but that is what we do. Every day there are little deaths in our life. These include such things as:

  • Lighting a match or a fire - the wood dies to us in its wooden form and is transformed into ash.

  • Reading a book that touches us in some way - here the person we were before we read the book is transformed into the person with the new knowledge, the new thoughts, the new understanding

  • The hair that comes out when we brush it is dead, and a new hair is already growing in its place, yet the old hair still exists, just now it is detached from our body

Death comes to us in bigger ways in our life as well:

  • The breakdown of a friendship or relationship is a death that impacts us emotionally and the relationship that existed no longer is. Each party still lives on, and is now living a life that is transformed through the loss of that relationship

  • Through losing or leaving a job we are transformed again, no longer defined by that role, but by the new place we are in, whether that's another job, unemployment or retirement

  • Moving house is another significant death that we encounter, as we leave behind the events, the memories that are stored in the house and move on to new pastures, another new beginning

The death that people think of as 'death' is another such transformation. The examples of death above show that nothing really dies or ends. There is no period of non-existence, yet this is what many many people believe death to be: the complete ending of a person. Energy exists in different forms and may transform itself or be transformed, but it doesn't ever not exist: water changes from fluid to solid upon freezing. They are two different substances made from the same molecules. When water freezes, the fluidity is lost and ice is born. When ice melts, the solidity is lost and water is born. So it is with human life. We exist on earth in physical bodies, yet the bodies are not who we are. The bodies are simply a means for us to experience living in a physical world. When we die, when our physical body stops working, then the body is released to the ground and transformed back into the earth. When we die our spirit is released from the physical form and is no longer visible to most people. At this point we return to the spiritual realms. It is not that we no longer exist, it is that we are now in spirit form.

Whenever we encounter death, there is a certain amount of apprehension or fear. The bigger the death, the bigger the fear, because the change and transformation is bigger and so is the unknown that we are stepping into. People may stay in relationships they no longer want to be in because they are more afraid of what it would be like being single than of the discomfort of staying in the relationship. People who are made redundant often have a lot of fear to overcome because the future is unknown and it may feel that their future is out of their control. Whilst there may be excitement about moving house, there is also likely to be some trepidation at the thought of moving to a new neighbourhood where they will need to make new friends, make new contacts, where everything is unfamiliar to them. Yet once we make the leap, once we choose to be single and in a healthy relationship with ourselves rather than an unhealthy relationship with someone else, or once we decide that actually we hadn't been enjoying the job anyway and this is an opportunity to take the trip around the world we'd been saving for, or once we meet the neighbours and are welcomed, then all those fears are laid to rest. We begin a new chapter in our lives and we move on. In each of these cases we will have moved out of the lives of other people, but we are not dead. So it is when our bodies die, big death. We may hold fear around it because we don't know what happens when we die. Not many people come back to tell us! Yet, what if we embraced this transformation as a rite of passage? Then we would look upon it in an entirely different way. A rite of passage is a celebration of a stage we have reached in our lives, a developmental stage. The following are examples of rites of passage:

  • reaching puberty and our bodies become capable of creating new life

  • turning 18 and being seen as mature enough to make our own life decisions such as voting and getting married

  • graduating from school or university

  • getting married or formally committing to a long term relationship

  • having a child

  • reaching menopause

So if we add death to this list, then this would be a rite of passage of having completed what we set out to do in this lifetime in this physical body. It is a completion and yet also the beginning of the next stage. With all rites of passage, it doesn't mean that we have come to the end - it is a marking of a significant event along our life journey. It is noting our achievement and that this achievement paves our way for the next step. So death is also noting our achievement and paving our way for the next step.

Through Loving Transformation, Ruby Starheart provides a unique service to parents and siblings grieving the loss of a child in their family. She supports you through grief and grieving, into healing and then on to find or rediscover your passion in life and then helps you to achieve it. For more information visit: []


Mimi Rothschild

Mimi Rothschild is the Founder and CEO of the Global Grief Institute which provides Certification training programs forGrief Coach, Trauma Coach, End of Life Coach, and Children's Grief Coach. She is a survivor who has buried 3 of her children and her husband of 33 years. She is available for speaking engagements and comments to the press on any issue surrounding thriving after catastrophic loss. MEDIA INQUIRIES:

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