Existential Distress is the term I learnt from the podcast titled ‘The Man Who Studied 1,000 Deaths to Learn How to Live’ by Tim Ferris with BJ Miller.
The meaning of these two words is: Existential distress at the end of life has been defined as hopelessness, a burden to others, loss of a sense of dignity, desire for death or loss of the will to live and threats to self-identity.
Existential Loneliness has entered the literature and “is understood as an intolerable emptiness, sadness, and longing, that results from the awareness of one’s fundamental separateness as a human being.”
However BJ Miller, who is an expert on Death and has witnessed about 1000 deaths, in the Podcast defines the term as;
When a terminal stage cancer patient thinks that he has lost an opportunity to live a meaningful life, he feels this – Existential Distress.
A life is almost gone and one can’t do anything about it. A life which could have been lived differently, meaningfully, beautifully, enjoying the small things, without grudges, for own happiness is now on the verge of collapse. These feelings make the patient suffer from Existential Distress.
Unless we see our death in front of us, these feelings never occur and we keep indulging n irrelevant, unimportant and self-boasting things. The point is: Is it only at the time of death, we should feel Existential Distress? That is the time when we can’t do anything about it except repenting. & therefore, should we not become aware of our daily life NOW? A question – How meaninglessly we are living our life? should not occur to us?
The whole objective of our life, what we have made out is to run after the money till we die. The money, which we will keep here at the time of death for someone else to splurge, waste or fight for. But unless we are terminally ill, we don’t realise that we are also going to die – if not in the near future than certainly in the foreseeable future.
Those of us who are not terminally ill should also wait till the time we are near death to feel Existential Distress? Or when we have a chance and time to make our life meaningful, we must become aware and act to make it meaningful?
Whether we are terminally ill or no, if the death is certain than whether we suffer from Existential Distress or enjoy Existential Satisfaction, our action should start much before our proximity to death. It is not necessary that only people with terminal illness suffer from Existential Distress, everyone can suffer from this state of mind if the life is not lived meaningfully.
The opportunity to do something meaningful, something which we loved to do, the opportunity to be helpful, the opportunity to forgive someone, the opportunity to pursue our dreams and hobbies will be LOST sooner than we realise. & we may not be terminally ill, but terminally aged.
Thinking about OWN death is the greatest moment of awakening about the life.
We all know about Opportunity Cost, in financial terminology; however, we are blatantly ignorant about Opportunity Cost when it comes to our own life choices. Terminally ills can have lessons for each of us on HOW to live a life.