Leaha K. Carson
Spirituality and faith play a role in how the terminally ill cope with their upcoming death. Faith also plays a role in how parents cope with the sudden loss of a child. A person’s response to death can cause them to lean on his or her faith and in some cases may cause them to lose their faith. Pastors, counselors, physicians and lay people can help decrease a person’s death fear and anxiety. They can also help parent’s move through the grieving process and make sense of their child’s death.
Spirituality in Death and Dying
The process of dying is sometimes long and painful and at sometimes death is sudden and unexpected. How a person copes with a terminal illness or the loss of a loved one is different for each individual. Each person’s coping ability and technique is based on many different things. His or her culture, religious beliefs, spiritual outlook and life experiences all play a role in how he or she functions during and after a terminal illness and when experiencing the loss of a loved one. Their emotions, feelings and beliefs are affected by their cultural, age and religion. The loss of a loved one or a terminal illness can cause depression, pain, and fear. With the help of pastors, counselors, and health care team, patients can find comfort in their faith. Spirituality
According to Koenig (2009, p.289) 90% of the world practices some type of religion. Religion can refer to an organized church, an institution or to an internal spiritual belief system. But all provide “comfort, meaning and hope. Religion is related to better coping with stress and less depression, suicide, anxiety, and substance abuse” (Koenig. P.289). Reduced stress, lower blood pressure and better pain management were reported when a person has a strong spiritual or religious belief (Ungureanu & Sandberg, 2010, p.306). There are many definitions of religion and spirituality. The most broadly accepted definition is “feelings, thoughts, experiences, and behaviors that arise from a search for the ‘sacred’, with the former implying group or social practices and doctrines and the latter tending to refer to personal experiences and beliefs” (Chida, Steptoe & Powell, 2008, p.81). Spirituality occurs in private settings while religion is typically practiced in public social settings with specific practices and doctrines which refer to a god, an object or a sacred belief held by a person or group. The god or spiritual object for Christians is Jesus, for Jews it is Yahweh, for Muslims it is Mohammed. All three groups hold a deity in high esteem and look to him for help in times of difficulty. For the spiritual with no religious affiliation, this belief often refers to a higher power or the universe.
Spiritual beliefs can consist of positive experiences that refer to a heightened perception, an enlightenment that causes a feeling of well-being or an understanding of the universe that brings peace (Taylor, 2011, p.43). A spiritual experience can bring about a change in perception that gives a person hope when they had been experiencing hopelessness. Spiritual or mystical experiences are often interpreted as overwhelmingly positive experiences. They are frequently seen as experiences of rapture, in which the individual may perceive reality at a heightened intensity, feel a powerful sense of inner well-being, and experience a sense of oneness with his or her surroundings, become aware of a force of benevolence and harmony that pervades the cosmos, and so on. These experiences often result in reduced fear and anxiety. (Taylor, 2012, p. 31). Often a terminal illness or the loss of a child can cause a shift in a person’s religious or spiritual beliefs, resulting in either a greater strength in his or her faith or a complete loss of faith (Wortmann & Park, 2009, p.30).
According to Kernberg, (2010) those who conduct themselves with set rules of moral...