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Why we are so afraid of the word 'terminal'

Photo: Unsplash/Carolina Pimenta

The word terminal stings. It cuts deep into our core eliciting fear and hopelessness. Websters defines terminal as “occurring at or constituting the end of a series, concluding.” Yes, it is a dreaded word full of uncertainty and cruel finality.  

We prefer to live avoiding and pretending this reality doesn’t exist. Our mortality stirs up raw emotion; we fear the unknown and the loss of what we hold dear. We think it must apply to others, and we hope and pray it is never associated with our name. Though, in fact, aren’t we all terminal?  

Our lives go through many seasons that inevitably come to an end. Change is unavoidable. Without the acceptance of this reality, we can get stuck in a life we pretend will not end, a “Groundhog Day” of sorts. 

Accepting that our current beautiful season is fleeting opens our eyes to see its rarity and all the gifts that it brings. We can savor it like our favorite dessert served only on special holidays. Recognizing its rarity, and knowing it will end, brings delight and the ability to appreciate each breath in the moment. 

Dear friend, we all live terminally. We have been given one physical body that will expire. However, YOU will never expire. The true you will never conclude. Even though your earthly body is mortal, your very being is immortal.  

You will go on in the hearts and minds of those you love, and you will forever remain in the safe embrace of your Creator, the One who holds you and all eternity in His hands. Yes, my friend, you are in Christ, and your future is secure. 

Our troubles here during this lifetime are nothing compared to the life we’ll have with God for eternity (2 Corinthians 4:17–18). And, I have some good news — one day, we will receive a new body, completely free of sickness or decay (Philippians 3:20-21, Revelation 21:4). 

Maybe part of our dissonance with this word points to a greater, deeper understanding of our hearts: we will never be extinguished. We are living souls whose future is safe and whose destiny is secure — life everlasting. Death is only a shadow.  

Christ’s victory over death gives us hope for the fullness of life today and continued life with Him in heaven. Yes, death has no sting because it is swallowed in life. We have the sweet assurance that our lives will never end. 

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.” — Ps 23:4 (NASB). 

“And when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then the Scripture will be fulfilled that says, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory (vanquished forever). O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?” — 1 Cor 15:54-55 (AMP).

Adapted from Dear Susan, Letters of Comfort, Hope and Peace for Women Facing a life-Changing Illness 

Ronda Barney, LCSW, RD is a writer, speaker and mentor for women facing a life-changing illness. She provides online resources, appears on podcasts and speaks at conferences sharing her messages of hope and resiliency. Barney is the author of “Dear Susan: Letters of Comfort, Hope and Peace for Women Facing a Life-Changing Illness,” published in March 2022. Ronda and her husband have two children and live in Dallas, Texas. Connect with Ronda at

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