Celebrating Día de Muertos Lessened My Fear of Death

“El que niega la muerte, niega la vida.” (He who denies death, denies life.) —Octavio Paz

Today and tomorrow during Día de Muertos, Day of the Dead, people in Mexico, the U.S., & parts of Central America celebrate the lives of loved ones who passed on. Tradition holds that the dead would be offended with grieving and sadness, so festivities honor them with laughter and joy.

Growing up with aggravated asthma and three recent visits to the ER gasping for breath led to my developing a deep-seated fear of dying. Since I began celebrating Día de Muertos with my children and students (I teach Spanish), my fear of death has diminished.

By joking, discussing, and celebrating death, we can confront our fears of imminent demise. Psychologists agree that naming fears helps take away their power.

Octavio Paz, famous Mexican writer, once said: “the Mexican … frequents [death], jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it; it is one of his favorite toys and most steadfast love.”

Carlos Olmeda explains, “For Mexicans, death was part of life. For us, it was like going from day to night so we didn’t feel something we were losing; it was just a step more.”

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