Epicurus said that we should be happy for “Death is nothing to us.”
What did he mean?
Epicurus (341–270 BC) wanted to live a happy, cheerful life. And after pursuing a philosophy of life that could lead to happiness, he began to preach in public his message, gathering disciples to himself. While his teaching had depth, he regularly simplified his message.
At its heart, Epicurus wanted to cure anxiety and make people happy. The Epicurean philosopher Philodemus of Gadara summarized this Epicurean: “Don’t fear god, don’t worry about death; what’s good is easy to get, and what’s terrible is easy to endure.” By following this fourfold cure, a person could expect to live a happy life.
First, Epicurus taught that while the gods exist, they don’t care about us. They live in eternal bliss. Why would they care about our worship? So we should not live in fear of them—in fear that they might smite or harm us. They simply don’t care about us.
Second, Epicurus taught that we should not worry about death. Death means we do not exist. Why worry about not existing when we exist? Epicurus explains, “death is nothing to us.” Why? “So death, the most frightening of bad things, is nothing to us; since when we exist death is not yet present, and when death is present, then we do not exist.”
Third, what is good is easy to get refers to gaining what we need like food, water, and shelter. Epicurus believed that removing pain was pleasure, and that if we could be satisfied with the simplest things in life, then we would find that what is truly good is easy to get. It is only when we endlessly desire things like wealth, rich food, and expensive items that we create anxiety—lose our happiness.
Fourth, Epicurus taught that mental suffering happens when we think overmuch about our physical suffering and death. So don’t. Sickness is usually brief. Acute pain for a time. died from kidney failure but was reported to be cheerful because he remembered the kindness of friends instead of focusing on the agony of mental anguish.
Behind these four principles lies the notion that “we do everything for the sake of being neither in pain nor in terror.” And to avoid such things, we call that pleasure. Thus, “pleasure is the starting-point and goal of living blessedly.” This does not mean choosing every pleasure or avoiding every pain. It means pursuing what you need to avoid the pain of hunger and thirst. Epicurus explains, ”barley cakes and water provide the highest pleasure when someone in want takes them.”
Here Epicurus is often misunderstood. He believes prudence and sober calculation about what pleasures to pursue to avoid pain lead to a pleasant life. He does not advocate for opulence. Far from it. To be free, for Epicurus, is to pursue what is easy to gain—food, drink, and shelter. Once you have what you need, the pains of that lack are gone. And one can accept that limit, and so be cheerful.
 Unknown title, Herculaneum Papyrus 1005, column IV, lines 10–14. Cited Brad Inwood and L. P. Gerson, trans, The Epicurus Reader: Selected Writings and Testimonia (Indianapolis, Hacket: 1994). The citation is from the introduction by D. S. Hutchinson.
 “Letter to Menoecceus,” in The Epicurus Reader, §124
 “Letter to Menoecceus,” §129.
 On this see, Hutchinson, The Epicurus Reader, viii.
 “Letter to Menoecceus,” §128.
 “Letter to Menoecceus,” §129.
 “Letter to Menoecceus,” §131.