- Cancer Information
- Advanced cancer
- Facing end of life
- Emotional and spiritual concerns
- Spirituality at the end of life
Spirituality at the end of life
Spirituality is an individual concept. For some people, it means being part of established religious beliefs and practices, such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, or Indigenous belief systems. For others, spirituality is expressed as a personal philosophy.
For many people at the end of life, spirituality is a source of comfort and strength. Others find their beliefs are challenged by their situation and no longer find comfort in their spirituality.
It may help to talk about your thoughts and feelings with a spiritual care practitioner (sometimes called a pastoral carer or chaplain). A spiritual care practitioner is part of the palliative care team and has the expertise to discuss spiritual issues, whatever your beliefs. You may wish to discuss the meaning of life or your beliefs about death. A spiritual care practitioner can also provide companionship.
People often say that knowing they’re dying makes them feel more spiritual, and they want to think about and discuss these issues. In some cases, they may embrace a belief system that they have not been interested in before or abandoned many years ago. Although many people do look for meaning at the end of their life, others are not interested in spirituality.
Some people find comfort in prayer or meditation, and gain support from knowing that other people are praying for them or sending positive thoughts their way. Many religions have specific practices for when people are dying. If you want to follow certain rites in a hospital or hospice, it’s best to discuss this with the staff in advance. They will be able to help you find the space and time to do this, and your customs can often become part of your palliative care plan.
Dr Megan Ritchie, Staff Specialist Palliative Medicine, Palliative Care Service, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, NSW; Gabrielle Asprey, Cancer Support Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Rosemary Cavanough, Consumer; Louise Durham, Nurse Practitioner, Metro South Palliative Care Service, QLD; Tracey Gardner, Senior Psychologist, Cancer Counselling Service, Cancer Council Queensland; Karen Hall, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Linda Nolte, Program Director, Advance Care Planning Australia, VIC; Rowena Robinson, Clinical Advisor, Palliative Care Australia, ACT; Helena Rodi, Program Manager, Advance Care Planning Australia, VIC.
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