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How to Offer Spiritual Support to a Seriously Ill Loved One

Spiritual Support

While chaplains and other spiritual guides do have a lot of experience and training, you don’t necessarily need to be a professional to provide some level of spiritual support to a loved one who is seriously ill.

Ways You Can Offer Spiritual Support

If you find yourself in a situation where you’d like to offer spiritual guidance to a loved one, here’s an idea: help the person explore spiritual questions, rather than trying to provide answers. Here are some other ways to offer spiritual support:.

  1. Be there. One of the most important things you can do is to be there for your friend or family member. Don’t be afraid to visit, even if it means sitting in silence. Your presence can be a great spiritual comfort to someone who may be feeling alone.
  2. Don’t dodge spiritual issues. If your friend or family member wants to discuss spiritual topics, it’s important to listen and accept his or her need to talk about these matters, even if it’s difficult for you to hear.
  3. Actively listen. It’s important to pay close attention as your loved one talks about spiritual matters. Keep an open mind and ask only supportive questions.
  4. Avoid clichéd replies. Phrases such as “It’s part of God’s plan” or “Everything happens for a reason” are used so often they’ve lost all meaning. Respect the gravity of the situation. If at a loss for a reply, repeat what your loved one has said in your own words to show you’ve heard what he or she has to say.
  5. Take the other’s lead. If your loved one or friend wishes to pray, read from spiritual texts or participate in spiritual rituals, join in these activities to show your support.

Honoring the Spiritual Journey

What are your core beliefs? During a life-changing event, did you find strength through your spirituality? Have you ever questioned your faith? If you have a terminally ill friend or family member, asking yourself questions about your own spirituality will increase your understanding and provide you with the empathy you need to comfort others as they search for their spiritual anchor during a difficult time.

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One of the most important ways to offer spiritual support is to recognize that everyone’s spirituality and experiences are unique. Your sick friend’s or family member’s beliefs may not be the same as yours. Despite any differences you may have, it’s important to honor others’ beliefs, wherever they are on their spiritual journey.

Understanding Spiritual Pain and Suffering

Spiritual distress at the end of life comes in many forms, such as feelings of abandonment, anger or betrayal by God or religion.¹ Past situations may come to mind, accompanied by feelings of blame, guilt or the need to forgive or to be forgiven.

When facing the end of life, it’s not unusual for individuals to question the purpose of their lives. Asking “Why me?” is common as they struggle for meaning to their lives on a deep and spiritual level.²

By working to understand the spiritual journey at the end of life, you will be able to provide better support to your loved one, when the time comes.


¹Kramlinger, Maureen. When Death Has Passed: Living from Here.” VITAS® Heathcare, 2010. Print.

² Click here for source

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Importance of Talking About End-Of-Life Care

Hospice Chaplain Story: Making a Difference in a Disheveled Life