Spiritual Support for Family or Friends (Part 3 of 3)
People who are very ill or experiencing anxiety often ask spiritual questions, in seeking comfort, meaning and hope. While clergy and pastoral care ministers may play an important role in spiritual care, family and friends can offer important spiritual support too. If you have the opportunity to provide spiritual support for someone living with crisis:
Be aware of spiritual pain and suffering
Spiritual distress is as real and powerful as physical or emotional pain. There are many spiritual and religious issues people may face with a serious illness:
– Meaning and Purpose: Many people who are very ill question if they have done anything positive or lasting with their life. Some people may ask “Why me?” or “Why now?” or “Why this illness?” The search for meaning may bring up a wide range of emotions, from anger and loss to relief and peace. Struggling with these questions can be a normal part of dealing with illness.
– Guilt and forgiveness: As people face illness, they may reflect on difficult situations and experiences in the past. They may feel guilty about or blame others for things that have happened.
– Loss of faith: Living with a serious illness can cause people to question their spiritual beliefs or faith. They may explore thoughts and feelings that differ from long-held beliefs. They may become angry with God, their religion, themselves, or with others who think they should believe a certain way.
– Issues with faith tradition or faith community: Faith communities may be able to provide support from clergy or members by offering prayer, visits, sacraments or rituals. While some people find these to be very helpful when they are very ill, others may feel their traditions or community cannot fulfill their needs at this time.
Remember that you are not in this alone
– As a friend or family member, know your comfort zones and your limits.
– Encourage the involvement of professional clergy, chaplains or other spiritual leaders with expertise in spiritual care when possible. Asking for support for your loved one’s spiritual care may offer them the privacy they need to feel autonomous and allow you both to explore your questions safely.
– Respect the truth that each person deals with spiritual issues in their own time and way. Their timetable may not be your timetable, so be patient with the person you are supporting.