As a religious trauma therapist, I often work with individuals who grapple with the fear of hell. This fear often begins in childhood, after being exposed to fundamentalist religious teachings. The journey to overcoming this fear is deeply personal. However, you are not alone in your struggle. It's okay to feel scared. Hell is scary. As a religious trauma therapist, I want to guide you through some first steps you can take to start addressing this fear, even before you start therapy.
Acknowledge your Fear
The very first step is to understand that it's okay to be scared. Fear is a natural feeling, and it makes you human. Your fear of hell doesn't make you weak or flawed. It simply means you've been deeply impacted by the teachings you've grown up with.
If a child is afraid of the dark, we don't respond by saying, "Get over it; there is nothing to be scared of." We say, "I know it can be scary to be in the dark. Let's turn on a nightlight and sit together for a while." You deserve to respond to yourself in the same way. Instead of assuming the fear will always be there or shaming yourself for having the fear in the first place, meet yourself where you're at and be compassionate. No one knows what you have been through better than you.
Share Your Fears with a Trusted Friend
Look around you. Is there someone in your life who could possibly understand what you're going through? Maybe they've expressed similar fears or have shown understanding in the past. If so, consider opening up to them about your fear of hell. It's important, though, to choose this person carefully. Make sure they are someone who will listen without judgment, offer support, and respect your feelings.
When you're ready, invite them for a chat. You can tell them outright that you're struggling with something and would like to talk about it. If you're not quite ready for that, you can start by discussing broader topics related to faith and fear, then narrow down to your specific fear when you're more comfortable.
Talking about your fear can be a huge relief. Sometimes, just saying it out loud can help take away some of its power. And having someone validate your fear and offer their support can make you feel less alone.
Remember, it's okay if the person you talk to doesn't fully understand or can't offer solutions. The purpose of sharing isn't to get answers but to express your feelings and feel heard. However, if you don't have anyone in your life who fits this description, don't worry. There are many online forums and support groups where you can connect with others who are going through similar experiences.
Journal, Journal, and Journal Again
Writing about your feelings can be incredibly helpful when it comes to dealing with fear. It may not feel like it right away, but journaling gives us a chance to process our emotions on our own. Journaling about the fear of hell can help you see it from a new perspective and might even make it feel less scary over time.
Don't worry about making your journal sound good or correct; just let your thoughts flow out onto the paper. Try to describe your fear as accurately as you can. What does it feel like? What thoughts come with it?
Consider also journaling when you feel calm. Note down what helped you reach this calm state. Was it a certain thought or activity? Maybe it was a conversation with someone you trust, or perhaps it was just some quiet time to yourself. Recording these moments can help you find ways to recreate them when you're feeling afraid.
As you keep journaling, you may start to see patterns. Maybe certain situations or thoughts tend to trigger your fear. Or maybe you'll find that certain activities or thoughts help you feel calmer. This knowledge can be really helpful for understanding and managing your fear.
And remember, there's no wrong way to journal. It's your private space to explore your thoughts and feelings, so feel free to write in a way that works best for you. If you're not sure where to start, that's okay! Just open the notes app on your phone the next time you experience a fear of hell.
Learn about Different Religions
This suggestion may seem counterproductive, coming from a religious trauma therapist. However, it can be extremely helpful. Learning about how different religions view the afterlife can help expand your understanding of life, death, heaven, and hell. Those of us who have experienced religious trauma often have a limited understanding of other religions unless we seek out information ourselves. Make sure the information you are finding is from reputable academic sources rather than from religious groups.
Fear is a part of life, but it doesn't have to control our lives. Overcoming the fear of hell is a journey that involves self-discovery, courage, and support. Remember, it's okay to ask for help along the way. As a religious trauma therapist, I'm here to help you navigate your path to healing. Please don't hesitate to reach out if you need support.
Talk to A Religious Trauma Therapist
If you have read this post, I commend you. As someone who has worked hard to overcome my own religious trauma, I know the courage it takes to find resources to better yourself. If you are considering seeking professional help to overcome the fear of hell, I am available to help. Click the button below to schedule a free, 15-minute phone consultation with me. I would be more than happy to answer questions and discuss the process of religious trauma therapy.