Needs of the Spirit at the End-of-Life

The notion of death takes away our sense of control, often leaving behind struggles with hopelessness and helplessness. That is why spirituality is of the utmost importance at the end of life. Spiritual care helps to meet these needs, providing wholeness and peace.

Spirituality has many different faces and is not always related to religious practices. Spirituality may be found in such common things as connections, relationships, meanings, a love of nature, meditation, art, or music. On the other hand, some people facing the end of life may find deeper reservoirs of traditional faith than they ever suspected.

Regardless of the nature of a person’s sense of spirituality, there are several common needs and goals that many seem to share:

  • A need to sustain hope in the face of dying
  • The search for meaning
  • The need to sustain a sense of identity and community
  • The challenge of coping with change and uncertainty
  • Spending time taking care of unfinished business and the need for forgiveness
  • The fear of death and questions about life after death
  • The need to alleviate spiritual pain and suffering

This is where a visit with a chaplain can be so beneficial. Chaplains provide assessment of spiritual needs, as well as an empathetic presence, and provide prayer, rituals, and sacraments which are of special significance to patients and families.

Chaplains help with end of life care by:

  • Normalizing experiences
  • Assisting with life review
  • Exploring sources of hope and meaning
  • Affirming sources of strength and comfort
  • Helping patients and families prepare to deal with loss, dying, and death
  • Walking with patients and families on their journey toward acceptance and the end of life

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