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 or a worldview.

For many people at the end of life, spirituality is an important source of comfort and strength. Some people, however, find their beliefs are challenged by their situation. They may feel abandoned, and no longer find comfort and strength from their religion.

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 religion or even if you are atheist or agnostic. You may wish to discuss life’s meaning or your beliefs about death. A spiritual care practitioner can also provide encouragement and companionship.

People often say that knowing they’re dying makes them feel more spiritual, and they need to think about and discuss these issues. In some cases, they may embrace a belief system that they have never been interested in before or abandoned many years ago.

Although many people do search for meaning at the end of their life, others are not interested in spirituality, and dying doesn’t necessarily change that.

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. They will be able to help find the space and time for you to do this, and your customs can often become part of your palliative care plan.

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on facing end of life.

This information was last reviewed in January 2017
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