The fear of cemeteries (coimetrophia) or tombstones (placophobia) is a very real thing—just as real as the fear of heights or crowds or any of those things that inhibit a person’s ability to cope in this world. For most people, a fear of cemeteries can be avoided by simply not going to burial grounds or being in any way affiliated with them. Though difficult, life can still go on as normal.
However, when funeral planning becomes necessary or when a loved one dies, these fears can come to the forefront. And because the fear is often so debilitating it’s not possible to go anywhere near the funeral plans, it can lead to quite a bit of unresolved grief and emotions.
What Causes Fear of Cemeteries?
As is the case with all fears, coimetrophia and placophobia don’t have any one cause. Oftentimes it is the result of a general fear of the unknown—especially as it relates to death and dying. In our culture there are so many depictions of cemeteries as creepy, unkempt places where danger lurks and the dead walk. It might sound like a horror movie plot to most people, but to those who truly fear cemeteries, there is a very real possibility of things like being buried alive or other tall tales.
The fear of tombstones can be even worse in some situations, since it isn’t the place of death so much as the trappings of it (caskets, hearse, etc.) that cause the problem. Funeral planning for these individuals is nearly impossible.
How to Tell if You Have a Fear of Cemeteries or Tombstones
Most phobias come with the same range of emotions and physical reactions. Symptoms include:
- Heart Palpitations
- Dry Mouth
- Heightened Senses
- Muscle Tension
- Intense Feeling of Being Trapped
Of course, the symptoms don’t have to be intense to signal a phobia. If the idea of cemeteries or gravestones makes you even mildly uncomfortable, you might be suffering from a low degree of this fear.
How to Cope with Cemetery Fears
Getting over a fear of cemeteries isn’t as easy as sucking it up and confronting the situation head-on. Many people require years of therapy and treatment to get over their phobias, and it’s generally viewed as a marathon rather than a sprint. Cognitive behavioral therapy is among the most common type of treatment, but some people have had success with medication or even hypnotherapy.
If this is a fear that affects you or someone you love, it’s probably a good idea to seek treatment before the death of a loved one occurs. Because there is rarely time to cope with the feelings in the days between death and burial, the result is often that sufferers miss important funerals.
Funeral pre-plans don’t always mean making burial arrangements—in cases like these, it means making the mental preparations necessary to say goodbye to those you love. This very real and debilitating fear can get in the way of burying family members and friends, and it may be a good idea to begin confronting your phobia under professional guidance before the unthinkable occurs.