I'm still in school, but I'm working in a large, urban hospital and see a lot of death. Most are chronically ill adults, and many are dying from cancer.
It's almost normalized the dying process for me. I think most fears stem from the unknown-I'm not afraid of the dying process, but the idea of what comes after concerns me. I'm not religious. I tried to be (went to Catholic school most of my life), but I just can't.
I had an experiance that's hard to describe and would make me sound a little bit insane, but something did change my mind. I do think there is some kind of *something* in the universe, and that there's *something* after death. Call it love, life, ka, etc., I think there is *something*.
Still, that *something* is so, so nebulous. I like things to be concrete. I find it comforting that I know what the dying process from various causes is like. No matter how I die, I'm 95% sure that I'll know pretty much exactly what to expect. For myself at least, that takes away most of the fear. There are forms of death I would certainly dread, but I'm not afraid of them.
I hope there's something, I really do. But it's that What Comes After that makes me nervous about death.
As for others? I think we all fear mortality for different reasons. Some fear pain. Some fear having their lives be meaningless. Some fear unfinished business. Some, like me, fear the unknown of what comes after death. How you'd manage it would definitely be case-by-case. I know several patients almost need "permission" to die from loved ones before they feel comfortable letting go.
I don't think the moment of death is frightning. Most patients at the very end are very calm, even those who die very quickly. I myself was the passenger in a car that narrowly avoided veering off the highway (the driver was 100% sober and competant-the road was just in bad, bad shape). If we had veered off, we'd have died for sure. In the moment where I thought "we're going over" as we started to veer off, I was the calmest I've ever been in my life. And I have anxiety that's well controlled now, but wasn't then. It freaked me out how calm I was (I thought I may have a secret death wish) until I heard how common it was.