International Journal of Existential Positive Psychology

Exploring Attitudes Towards Death and Life Through Story and Metaphor

Zvi Bellin, Ph.D

Loyola College in Maryland


In the summer of 2007 I joined a chaplaincy training program in a mental hospital. The trainee is forced to explore within themself their relationship to life and to death. In the mental hospital, there were not many deaths that occurred, though there was a threat to life and a threat to existence. What came into question for me was the nature of reality. The picture of life that I had did not include a place for people who struggle to hold a sliver of existence. Most people were walking a tightrope between mental stability and psycho-social-spiritual annihilation.
This experience has deepened my phenomenological grasp of death. It may have very little to do with the final breath leaving the body. The physical death may or may not be preceded by emotional, mental, and spiritual deaths. To truly face death is to explore one’s vitality in life. The heart of this exploration can be touched through the unit of the existential—through story and metaphor.
Following is an existential fictional work which challenges the reader to think about the possibility of living a dead life versus seeking out opportunities to reawaken and find meaning in a dying world. The story is written in the thick physical language of the existential narrative. There is a story within a story, and multilevel access to meaning. The intention though is that this is one story about facing death in life and life in death.

PDF article download available to INPM Regular Members only. Login or Join now or purchase this article here