Fear of flying: some tips for Christians

flying Fear of flying: some tips for Christians
I hate flying. I’m a tall claustrophobic control freak, so the entire concept of being crammed into a small space and barreling through the sky at 500 mph without being able to see where I’m going is just not for me.

I had an opportunity to ponder the not-for-me-ness of it all a couple months ago, when my husband and I were flying back from our trip to El Paso. The plane was filled to capacity, I got stuck in the middle of a row at the back of the plane, and the woman in front of me reclined her seat, which meant that I’d spend the rest of the trip with my knees just under my chin. Then we hit turbulence. Bad turbulence.

Just as I was about to descend into the sort of panic attack that would involve screaming “GET ME OUT OF THIS DEATHTRAP!!!!” while hyperventilating and possibly vomiting, it occurred to me that perhaps I should pray about how to handle this from a Christian perspective — I haven’t done much flying since my conversion, so this was a brand new idea for me. I spent the rest of the flight trying out various ideas, and I thought I’d share a few that worked:

9 Suggestions for Christians with a Fear of Flying

1. Pray for the pilot
To be honest, this one didn’t help me all that much mid-flight, but I do think it would have helped if I’d put a couple minutes into calm, focused prayer for the pilot (in particular for him to have wisdom, courage and steady nerves) before I got on the plane. Not that God cares how or when we pray, but it would have given me more peace of mind when I was on the plane and feeling panicked if I’d put in some quality prayer time for this intention beforehand.

2. Pray for humility
It was interesting to notice that certain aspects of my fear on that flight were connected to pride. The more I dove into a mindset of “littleness,” the more calm I felt. For example, my brain was INSISTING that it was 100% POSITIVE that this plane was doomed; it was comforting, then, to remind myself that neither I nor anyone else knows what will happen even ten seconds from now, and that it’s truly all up to God.

It also occurred to me that part of my certainty that this particular plane was headed for disaster was rooted in pride and self-centeredness. Despite the infinitesimally small chance of being involved in a major airliner crash (see #4), some part of my subconscious that specializes in egomaniacal absurdity probably flashed through images of the 24/7 news coverage of the accident, my name in the newspaper, the stacks of flowers at the vigil outside the airport gate and thought “that’s the way for me to go.” Next time I’m going to bring a printout of the Litany of Humility to say before and during the flight.

3. Choose an intention for which to “offer up” your suffering
As soon as the first air pocket sent the plane bouncing through the air, I thought of a person who was particularly on my heart, and I formally prayed to unite my suffering with Christ’s for that individual. I’ve written about my understanding of that concept before, and, once again, it did feel like a truly love-generating act to suffer with Christ for someone else’s sake.

4. Know the facts
Speaking of other people, it helped me a lot to remember that there are thousands of other people on airplanes all over the world at this very minute. I thought of this cool Live Flight Tracker website that shows the number of flights in the air at any given time (as of this writing there have been a staggering 44,905 flights in the past 24 hours!) Even if you knew for sure that some plane somewhere in the world was going down at this minute, the odds are still very low that it would be yours.

Even in the worst of the turbulence, it gave me some measure of comfort to remember that the odds of dying in a one-hour flight on a major airline are literally 1 in 1,000,000. I’d be more likely to be struck by lightning (1 in 576,000) or die from being bitten by a dog (1 in 700,000).

5. Recognize fear based on unfamiliarity
I’m sure there are exceptions to this, but I’ve noticed that even people who fear flying tend to get used to it if they do it enough. When my husband and I used to travel once or twice a month I almost never felt scared on planes. My husband once pointed out that we’re land-based mammals; we’re not designed for rapid vertical motion like you experience in a plane. It takes some getting used it. So, for some of us who don’t experience it that often, some caveman part of our brains starts screaming “THIS IS VERY BAD AND WRONG!” at the first bounce of turbulence. It helped me to mentally parse through my fear, identifying how much of it was simply my body having a visceral reaction to the unfamiliar.

6. Pray about why God allowed you to have this fear
Not everyone has a fear of flying. It was surprisingly soothing to meditate on why God might have given me this particular cross, and how he planned to bring good out of it. Maybe it’s about working on my issues with control? Or perhaps I’m supposed to work through it, take what I’ve learned and use it to help others (by, say, posting about it on my blog)? I didn’t get any thunder-and-lightning insights, but it did keep my mind wonderfully occupied, and allowed me to acknowledge my fear while leaving out the bone-chilling terror aspect of it. Unfortunately this line of thought required way too much focus for some of the more scary moments up there at 30,000 feet, which is why I recommend the next tip…

7. Pray the Rosary (or other similar prayers)
rosary edmisten Fear of flying: some tips for ChristiansI found the Rosary uniquely helpful for dealing with my airplane panic. First of all, it doesn’t require reading. When we hit choppy air I was able to cling to the rock of memorized prayers, which were tremendously helpful since it was too bouncy to read and the only spontaneous prayer I could come up with was “GAAAAAAAH! GET ME OUT OF HERE!!!” (Which I’m sure God wouldn’t mind, but it wasn’t very comforting for me.)

Second, it was so strengthening to have something to literally hold on to. I wrapped my clammy palms around the tough cord of my twine rosary, which I thought of as being like a rope that tethered me to God. Enacting that symbolic gesture really helped me stay steady in my faith while the irrational part of my brain was freaking out.

Finally, I found indescribable comfort in the mysteries. I’d recently had my epiphany about meditation and the Rosary, and praying about each mystery led me to realize what a unique opportunity I had to relate to a certain aspect of the life of Christ: as I thought about our Lord’s earthly experiences, it occurred to me that for the Creator of the universe to place himself on a planet run by bumbling, simple-minded humans would be like one of us getting on a plane piloted by a drunk dog.

I thought deeply about God’s incredible humility in subjecting himself to human hands, and realized that I could share in some miniscule way in that experience if I would embrace this moment of being out of control, forced to trust in the Father and in the imperfect humans he’d put in charge of my destiny. I prayed the mystery of the Agony in the Garden over and over as the plane lurched ominously in the clouds, feeling a little closer to Christ with every jolt.

8. Trust in grace
At one point during takeoff, the plane started slamming up and down so violently that the other passengers began to gasp and yelp. That is probably the closest I came to having an actual panic attack. The thing that kept me sane — and I’m convinced it’s the only thing that stood between me and an all-out freak-out — was to trust in God’s grace. What I mean by that is that I chose to believe that if this plane were going down, that God would give me the grace to have peace amidst my surface-level fears; and if he didn’t, then it must mean that the plane was going to be fine.

Now. I realize that it’s probably more complicated than that. I’m not sure it’s theologically correct to say that 100% of Christians always feel the palpable peace of Christ in the moments before their deaths. And normally I’d have a great interest in making sure that I don’t believe anything that’s based more on emotion than solid truth. But in this case, I just feel like God and I have a deal that I will feel his peace amidst my animal-level fears if it’s his will that my earthly life end in a plane crash, and I’m going to go with that.

9. Have a glass of wine
I know, this one isn’t for everyone, but I’ll just say that having a glass of wine helps me calm myself when I feel tempted to fashion my jacket into a makeshift parachute, head for the emergency exit and take my chances. (I know friends who don’t drink but have gotten prescriptions for Xanax for a similar purpose.) One day I hope I’ll be able to have such a rich prayer life that I’ll have no need for such worldly crutches. But until then, you can count on seeing me flag the stewardess the first chance I get and ask for a big ol’ glass of cabernet.

I’m happy to report that all of these ideas were actually helpful to me — as I said above, I wrote the draft of this post in mid-flight on that bumpy ride back from El Paso. (Though I can only imagine what the other passengers must have thought to see me crammed into my seat with not enough leg room, clutching a rosary in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.) I almost look forward to the next time I fly so that I can test these ideas out again. Almost.

Anyone else have tips for dealing with a fear of flying?

New here? Take a moment to introduce yourself, or say hi on Twitter at @conversiondiary.



Enter the Conversation...

41 Responses to “Fear of flying: some tips for Christians”
  1. Big Tex says:

    10. Discuss the safety aspects of commercial aircraft in general with engineers/technicians who currently or used to work on them. Such as, most critical systems are triple redundant. Also, things like the wings are strong enough to survive 150% the worst case force it could conceivably be subjected to. Lastly, there are these things we call regulations (FAA) that govern just how safe/reliable these flying machines are supposed to be.

  2. Catherine Post says:

    My dad was a pilot, flight instructor for the military, and he also used to be in 'air shows' where they do those crazy acrobatics with a plane. As you might imagine, I do not have fears of flying. But I do have some info on how to cope. ;-)

    My father told me that, if you do not want to feel turbulence, the best thing to do is to sit above the wings of the plane, and just slightly behind them. This is because, when the plane encounters rough weather outside (which is the cause of turbulence), the nose and the tail go up and down in response. The wings, the center of the plane, is the part least affected.

    Another thing that helps is to know that, as you go up and come down from high altitudes, this creates inner ear pressure. Now, for some people, this can feel disorienting; especially, I would think, if they do not know this is going to happen (happens to everyone), and they are already frightened. When you feel your ears 'pop', or feel like they become plugged, SWALLOW or YAWN. This will help your head to adjust to the fast change in pressure associated with changing altitude, and I believe the ability to quickly adjust will also help you calm the visceral fear.

    Finally, I would like to tell you this, Jen: my father told me "Do not fear turbulence. It is not danger. It is just turbulence." What he went on to explain is, pilots have many cockpit controls and ways they have learned to compensate, that is, to adjust the plane itself, for the influences of bad weather. Some of what passengers feel is the weather's impact on the plane; some of it is the pilot's adjustments. But NONE of it is 'danger'. Turbulence is not engine trouble. It isn't potential engine failure. There is no system that is under attack or at risk with turbulence; it simply scares passengers, who do not understand what is happening.

    It has helped me, at times when I felt tossed about a bit by turbulence & got scared too, to remember that this does NOT equate to problems with the plane or its internal functioning. It's a thing of maintaining "balance" under stress (bad weather influences), like walking on a balance beam. Imagine doing THAT in high winds. ;-) But your body is still 100% fine even if there is stress outside —- and so is an airplane!

    Hope this helps. I love your blog and I am a Catholic too. :-D

  3. Rebekka says:

    My low point of fear of flying was crying the entire completely calm flight from St Petersburg to Copenhagen (2 hours). The flight attendants were really sweet but I felt bad because I was obviously making the other passengers nervous.

    I don't drink while flying, it makes me queasy and light-headed and therefore more likely to be hysterical. (Paradoxically, on the ground alcohol puts me to sleep.) Avoid things that make you more hysterical.

    The true mark of a control freak: if you are so afraid of flying that you refuse to take tranquilizers because you need to be completely alert for every flaming, free-falling split-second of your demise. (This used to be me.)

    To just let it all hang out, the antidepressants I take for depression and anxiety have the positive side effect that I don't really mind flying now, in the sense that I'm not afraid to make plans for after the flight. I still get a little twitchy during takeoff, because for me it's really there where you – literally and figuratively – have to let go of the ground. After that my limbic system seems to accept that things are out of my hands. But during takeoff I derive great comfort from repeated Hail Marys (particularly, strangely "now and at the hour of our death", which is obviously NOW).

    And this is perhaps a little weird, but as a nurse I've seen enough people die that I'm not afraid of death anymore. And fear of flying is definitely also about despair and fear of death. It was one thing to believe in life after death and that Christ's death on the cross removed the poison of death for us, but having been around the dying and the dead, I KNOW this is true at the basically animal level. So that has also really helped (not that I'm interested in being blown into a red mist in-air, you understand, but death itself does not frighten me as before). So I can only recommend for those who are terrified of death in spite of their faith that they seek this out, maybe volunteer with a hospice organisation and pray, pray, pray.

  4. Noblese says:

    Very nice post! I also had flight fears for the reasons you have mentioned. One thing I always do is praying and relaxing techniques.

    Some airlines offer workshops for people with flying fears. I went to one of those and it really helped. One learns about fears and how to keep them under control. In addition to that exercises in correct breathing and relaxing. The workshop included a flight to a nearby city and back, with the trainer.

    You might want to check it out.

  5. Sibyl says:

    A Catholic psychologist, Dr. Raymond Lloyd Richmond, who is also a pilot, has fear of flying pages (and valuable information and insights on other topics)at his website, guidetopsychology.com

  6. Delores says:

    Wow, you express my thoughts really well… and my fears. Here is my main fear of flying (but not limited to it): fear of death because I am afraid I have it all wrong and that there is no God and then right after that I fear damnation because I don't have enough faith. So, I have learned over the years to "intellectually" acknowledge this irrational thought pattern, offer my heart to God, thank Him for His gift of faith and His gift of mercy, and just try to move on.

    I hate flying. We lived in the Middle East for about 5 years and flew back about once or twice a year. I don't know how many times I gave my "last confession" on those flights. One was so bad the pilot announced over the loudspeaker while we were over the Gulf that he wanted the flight attendants to review emergency landing procedures. My husband, who is incredibly awesome and compassionate and patient, is also a flight instructor and he explained it all to me many times. It did not really help too much, but his soothing attitude did help immensely. And I second the wine!

  7. George @ Convert Journal says:

    Pray for the other passengers on your flight.

    If you are suffering, they may be too. It's hard to do in "survival mode", but putting other people first in your mind takes the focus off of yourself.

  8. Michelle says:

    Great tips! And those would be good for any sort of personal trauma. I have found the Rosary to be quite helpful in many different situations (as have you, it seems). Peace.

  9. Mary says:

    I'm not afraid of flying. My Dad is a commercial pilot for small aircraft and I used to go with him for his simulated in-air disaster recovery training. We had a few emergency landings for real over the years too but for me it's like any other vehicle.

    I find that Patrick Smith's Ask the Pilot is good for giving perspective on some of the potentially scary things that can happen on a flight. He often talks about statistics and helps separate out the fear-mongering that is common in the media. I think it's natural to be nervous in the air given how much negative information about flying and horrific accidents we are bombarded with. I never realized how much of this we actually get until I started reading his column.

  10. Dawn Farias says:

    It's interesting that you mentioned humility. I never would have made that connection. And isn't the Litany of Humility great?

  11. cindy kay says:

    This may sound odd, but this post strikes a chord with me in relation to my life circumstances right now. Every one of your points is applicable to me in the out-of-control, almost claustrophobic turbulence of my life at this point.

    I can pray for the "pilot"–my husband. I can pray for humility, offer up my suffering. I can recognize that most of my fear is based on the unfamiliarity of the path I'm on. I can go back to the daily prayers I had been doing–I can even maybe try a glass of wine when I get too anxious! And I'm going to choose to trust in God's grace… Somebody, please pray for me….

  12. Barbara C. says:

    Once I was in a situation where I flew somewhere and then had to make a long drive back. On the way back we saw three really horrible car wrecks; the last one was particularly scary looking. I commented then that I bet not one commercial airplane crashed that day and how I wished I was on one instead of passing the burned out hull of a car that looked like it had crashed into a wall of rock.

  13. Lacey says:

    This is not a spiritual tip. And it's probably overly simple, but whenever I start to have a minor freakout on a plane during turbulence I watch the flight attendants. I figure if they're freaking out, things are bad… but they're usually completely calm and doing their job. Now, it is possible someone might blow my theory by saying they're trained to behave that way even in the case of imminent disaster, but if that's the case I'd really rather not know.

  14. 'Becca says:

    I've had a gradually increasing aversion to flying since 1992, and my meditations on your #6 have led me to make flying my last-choice method of transportation. Here's my reasoning:

    *My fear, statistically unjustified though it may be, is a sign that I should consider the whole issue carefully rather than just doing it because "everybody else" does.

    *Airlines now treat passengers with a combination of suspicion, mandatory inconvenience, and disinterest that is unique among modes of transit. I am paying hundreds of dollars for this trip; can I buy a more pleasant experience?

    *Biological objection to unusual gravity, air pressure, and speed (your #5) is not a "simple" thing to be brushed off but something worth minimizing, for my health.

    *Even more so, my feelings of disorientation after spending just a few hours traveling thousands of miles are reactions God gave me for a reason. I should not force myself into this unnatural state if I can avoid it.

    *I travel with my child, age 5. To help him develop coherent understanding of distance and time, we should avoid taxing him with super-fast, context-breaking travel.

    The result is that I've taken 3 plane trips this century and my son has taken 1 in his life. Right now I am planning a visit to relatives 1,400 miles away and starting the process thinking of flying as a non-option. If we fly, it will be because we worked through all the other options and truly couldn't come up with a feasible plan.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I always pray that God;s angels will hold the plane up in the air. Silly, I know, but I have survived every flight.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Read this article on how to survive a 35,000 foot fall!
    http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/aviation/safety/4344036?page=1

  17. Frances says:

    You must have been the perfect picture of Hilaire Belloc's loveable quote:

    "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
    There’s always laughter and good red wine.
    At least I’ve always found it so.
    Benedicamus Domino!"

  18. Anonymous says:

    My advice is already on your list. I usually pray the rosary when I have to fly. The memorized prayers really do come in handy. Once when I went to France, a lady sat next to me and she was so terrified, she asked to hold my hand during take off! (yes, awkward moment!) I said ok, if she prays the Our Father with me. She actually calmed down and she was fine the rest of the trip! God is good.

  19. Tari says:

    I HATE TO FLY. I could write that on a sign the size of the roof of my house and it wouldn't adequately express exactly how much I hate it. The only thing that comforts me – and it's completely illogical – is a quote from C.S. Lewis's The Last Battle. When Aslan tells the children there was a real railway accident, and they are staying in Narnia forever, he says "The term is over; the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning." I read that and finally realized that, if the worst thing that could happen is we could crash and I could be with my Lord for eternity, then I could fly occasionally and be JUST FINE.

  20. Debbie says:

    Great post! I used to fly alot for my job in the 80s and a beer at 7am (once at the airport) was not unusual. Here's typically what I do now. As the plane starts rolling down the runway I pray the Our Father. It's been interesting to see how different model planes take off faster than others and light/heavy loads make a difference. Then once airborn I pray the Hail Mary, all the while looking out the window, and ask the Blessed Mother to bless our flight to let it be safe. Once all the turns are finished and we're on our way, I break out crossword puzzles. The not-too-difficult thinking and writing helps push the fear out of the way. Must be a right brain/left brain thing. If I can talk to someone once we're cruising, I do that otherwise every movement of the plane makes me jump and worry. Once we land I thank God and breathe easy :)

  21. Christian H says:

    Agree with looking at the attendents to see if they're freaking out. I do that, too.

    Also, I take a Graval before the flight so I won't feel the turbulence so much. I also bring Advil in case I need to counteract the headache from change in pressure. I bring something to distract myself, like books or a pad of paper. I try to fall asleep before any turbulence. And, if all else fails, I make peace with the thought of death before we get to such a point where it even feels likely, however unlikely I know it to be.

  22. MaryBeth says:

    Loved this whole post – it was like my own thought stream on paper as I try to convince myself to not be afraid to fly, too! Especially love the image of you with the rosary in one hand and wine in the other…. no true Catholic would have batted an eye – as Catholics all know that these are both divinely ordained "helps" from our good and wise God – but you may have scarred a few fundamentalists for life!!! :-)

  23. Polly says:

    I'm with you; I too hate flying. Even when I flew regularly, I hated flying. The only time I've *not* hated flying was during my childhood, when I didn't really understand that a plane might not stay in the air.

    And the worst nightmare I've ever had involved flying–and waking up *everyone* in the house with my insane screaming. Fortunately that nightmare had one key visual trigger that, if I ever see it at an airport, will have me booking it to the nearest rental car agency. So far, so good.

    I don't deal well w/ it. I review my will. I pray. And on transatlantic flights I sit and watch the little airplane on the radar screen while everyone else is sleeping or watching movies. Somehow knowing we are, say, near Iceland helps me feel soothed.

    It's one of my least favorite things about myself (control freak) and something I hope my child doesn't inherit. At the same time, I think it's more natural to be on the ground, so I don't beat myself up over this fear.

  24. Dorian Speed says:

    Tip-wise? I got nothin'. My husband is working on his pilot's license and I'd love to not be afraid of flying, because it would be great to jet around the world in our lottery-purchased aircraft, free as birds. But I did just endure a flight back from New Mexico, which may have seemed unremarkable but was an occasion of much anxiety and gnashing of teeth for me.

  25. Roxane B. Salonen says:

    Jen, I loved this line: "So, for some of us who don't experience it that often, some caveman part of our brains starts screaming "THIS IS VERY BAD AND WRONG!" at the first bounce of turbulence." Too funny and true! I never was afraid of flying in my younger years, but things changed when I had children. That could be another reason your fear has increased. For me, everything changes in the area of risk-taking once kids enter the picture. Suddenly, it's not about me and my great adventure, but whether I'll survive the trip so I can continue to mother my children. Yes, still fear-based, but I find it interesting how that changed for me in mommyhood. I've utilized quite a few of the steps you propose here. Mainly, I just say, "Jesus, I trust in you," and then let go as best I can. For me, landing is worse than takeoff. Takeoff is fun, but landing freaks me out. How is it possible they can take a plane zooming through the air and in seconds, have it land on a strip of pavement on the earth? How? So, I have some work to do but feel I have a fairly good grasp on it at this point. I did, however, cancel plans to attend a friend's wedding in Canon Beach, OR, after 911 (October 2001). Just could not do it. And I don't know that she's ever forgiven me. *sigh* (She wasn't a mom yet…)

  26. April says:

    I love this. During my last flight in January, when I was away from my husband and four of my kids, I was terrified of never returning. I did what you did, with one additional action. I actively sought to go to sleep BEFORE the plane took off. I prayed the rosary in a quiet mantra chant, and it worked. When I was a child, sleeping in the car was the best opp for passing time, especially when driving through Texas. Now which is worse? Flying? Or driving through Texas?!!!!

  27. Cathleen in the NL says:

    Longtime stalker, first time commenter…love your blog, love the post. You mentioned the Litany of Humility. I've recently discovered the music of Danielle Rose who does an absolutely gorgeous version of the "Litany of Humility." Check it out on iTunes…you won't be sorry. Her whole album was inspired by Mother Teresa. BTW, Danielle Rose is no longer making albums because she became a nun…

  28. Emily says:

    I love this post! I have no fear of flying (unless I have my kids with me, then I actually think about it a little bit because I realize how horrible it would be if something happened while they were on the plane with me), so it seems random to me to have a whole post about it… that said, I love the way you are able to find God in every day things like this. (And I love that you write about things that are sometimes random!) You really have a gift of discernment, and I feel like I always learn something when I read your blog. I'm a longtime reader, first-time commenter, and I just think you should know that I wish we could be friends in real life because I would totally stalk you for your coolness. =)

  29. Anonymous says:

    OMG, Jen! It must be worse for you than it is for me, because you're tall! I'm just chubby, and my fear of flying has gotten worse as I've gotten wider. I don't fear the danger aspects but the claustrophobia — being wedged into a small space, crowded, boxed in, and with no way to escape.

    I had to fly to Orlando alone to meet my husband and the only seat available was a window seat, and my two seat-mates were two big, REALLY BIG, HUGE guys (not overweight, but the kind of guys who could play catch with a Volkswagen), and they were friends, so they brought their in-flight entertainment: a small laptop to watch a movie, which they did immediately, pulling down the trays in front of them to put the laptop on and block my egress. And yes, the person in front of me reclined her seat, too.

    And to make it worse, we had to taxi for an hour before takeoff!

    SUGGESTION: A good way to prevent such a situation is to volunteer to sit by the emergency exits. If you're a healthy sound adult (or two … I think they look for couples), not flying with small kids, you can do this.

    There is MUCH more room in front of you, and as a bonus, we had all three seats to ourselves, as much room as first class.

    All you have to do is study the emergency card and agree to take responsibility in case of need. My husband and I did this on the flight back. If you're a control freak, hey, here is something you can DO, a form of power you have, a task you can perform if worst comes to worst.

    The first half of that flight, I studied and re-studied that card, and quizzed my husband on where one would grasp the exit door, how heavy it would be, etc., (lighter or heavier than our grandson?) even though he was probably the one who would do all the work.

    Rosemary

  30. EverErin says:

    I commute via plane for my job. I love to fly, but every once in a while, think about how quickly I could die if something goes wrong. Not just in a plane, but a car going 70mph, a terrorist bombing, anything shutting down in my body, etc. I am not afraid of death, but of the dying, in particular, of the pain. A plane crash is a pretty quick way to go.

    I am not catholic, but have a good friend who convereted. During one particularly rough approach, I strarted thinking about what a poor job I did at reading my bible and praying that week, thinking "I should have done that more!" I quickly caught myself and, preaching to myself, said that it is not my works that save me but Christ's work on the cross. I remembered what my friend explained to me of why Catholics cross themselves, then crossed myself and found a great peace- that even if something did happen, and I did die, I would get to be with Jesus! Being a Christian means living with conflicting emotions, such as our survival instincts vs. wanting nothing more that to sit at the feet of my Lord! (Talk about finally experiencing your faith fully!) I try not to think about the great things I would miss, or the people I leave behind but of what I would gain. I don't know anything about the catholic doctrine of purgatory, but keeping an eternal perspective helps me face my fears.

    It doesn't make a rough ride feel smooth, but it makes me feel secure.

  31. eulogos says:

    I don't have any fear of flying for myself, and to be honest, a little turbulence is exciting, as it enables one to feel a sense of danger while really knowing it isn't dangerous.

    But if any of my kids is flying, without me, I am terrified. I think of the story from the plane that went down in a field in PA on 9/11 , where the mother was talking to her daughter and then there was silence and she knew her daughter was dead…and I just freak.

    I am not really afraid of sudden death for myself. I do say an Act of Contrition and try to mean it, when I go on an airplane, even though I know it would make more sense to do this when I get in my car…or everymorning when I get up for that matter, but I do feel that airplanes are dangerous. I just feel it would be a quick death and OK as long as one was in a state of grace.

    But my kids. They mostly aren't believers and I hope to have time in heaven to pray for them before they die. The thought of losing one of them…and not knowing his or her eternal destiny , is just too awful. They know about my fear that they will die on a plane (but not about my fear for their eternal destiny) and therefore try to tell me only AFTER they have flown to Germany or Mexico or Egypt or Korea…(all places one of the other of my kids have been.)

    Susan Peterson

  32. Kerri says:

    EverErin summed my situation up… it's not the fear of death, but of the dying. Or I guess you could say the fear of the fear in the moments before death. I will not fly at this point in my life and I am fine with that. There is nowhere I'd rather be than home right now, anyway.

  33. Jaime says:

    Math. You switch your brain to another problem and it stops the fear cycle. Sometimes.;)

  34. Kathy Firth says:

    I like your tips for surviving the plane trip. I've only flown twice, back and forth to San Antonio for my son's graduation from basic training in Lackland several years ago. I started having panic attacks about flying 2months before I ever boarded the plane! Xanax, and those little bottles of Amaretto they give you on the plane got me through it. I wasn't Catholic at that time, so if the opportunity presents itself for me to fly again, I'm going to give your advice a try.

  35. Susanne in NM says:

    I think you and I must have flown out of El Paso on the same day! I flew from there to San Diego on the morning of March 10, and it was the most turbulent flight I had been on EVER! We get these crazy winds out here in the spring… What helps me is having my ipod loaded up with different artists singing hymns (2nd Chapter of Acts, Selah, Fernando Ortega, etc.) and plugging in to block out all the noise outside my head. Then I close my eyes and brace myself against the seat in front of me, and it actually puts me in a very peaceful place. Thanks to Cathleen for recommending Danielle Rose. I will we adding her to my flight playlist. Btw, no reason for her to stop producing music… ever hear of John Michael Talbot? ;-)

  36. TRS says:

    My dear friend has terrible anxiety about flying. I do not. Makes it terribly hard to relate to her fear.

    For those (you) who hate for your neighbor to recline their seat in your direction… I had a boss once who says he offers his neighbor $20 not to recline. Usually works.

    I am small… but I recline my seat because A) it is my right and B) that thing you people refer to as a neck support is a push-your-head-forward-into-a-very-uncomfortable-position bump for me. So… ah…it's your knees or my neck sister. And my neck wins – even if you offer me $20!!!

  37. Anonymous says:

    I don't exactly have a fear of flying, but I absolutely dread takeoff/landing and turbulence. And I can never decide if I'd rather shut the little window flap and pretend like I'm not miles up in the air, or open in and feel less packed-in-a-tiny-space. Anyway, the last time I went on a flight I closed my eyes and recited Our Fathers, Hail Marys, and Glory Bes repeatedly whenever I was getting nervous. I also prayed to God for a safe flight before takeoff. It helped calm my nerves.

  38. Mark says:

    This story is uncommon, rare, and miraculous, but I heard it recently and it pertains to fear of flying.
    My parish priest's parents came to give a talk to college students (my peers) about Marriage. I don't remember how it came up, but at some point the husband was talking about his extreme fear of flying and how he conquered it. He said something vague like, "Our Mother is my comfort," but then paused as if he wasn't sure if he should continue. His wife gave him a smile and he went on: The first time he ever got on a plane he started praying the rosary immediately, asking for the things you mention here. As soon as he made the sign of the cross, he closed his eyes and kept them shut the entire flight. At one point, he heard a soft voice say in his ear, "[Name], take my hand, we are coming up on some turbulence," and he felt a gentle hand take his. Immediately, the plane started rocking and swaying, but her hand never left his, and he felt complete peace coursing through his body.
    He said he follows the same routine to this day on every flight, and just before the plane hits rough patches, Our Mother takes his hand and guides him through!
    Never underestimate the power of prayer and the comfort of Mary! :)

  39. Jen from PA says:

    Thank you for this! I am a Christian and affraid of flying and am going on a 5.5 hour flight this summer. I HATE flying, but with Gods help I know I can do it! THANK YOU FOR POSTING THIS!

  40. Jen from PA (again) says:

    Thanks again Jen! I am flying again this year and read this…don’t delete this!!! :)

Trackbacks

Check out what others are saying about this post...
  1. [...] timely that the esteemed Jennifer has posted faith-based tips for the terrified traveler – air traveler, that [...]