X. Don't End your Search for Spirituality
"Don't talk to me about faith. Where were you, God, when I desperately
needed you? Why didn't you stop the illness before it began? You tell me
to believe and trust. How can I?"
My eyes have grown dim with grief;
My whole frame is but a shadow.
-- Job 17:7
Grief is not only physical, emotional, and social. It is also
Spirituality has been described as the art of "staying connected in a
disconnected world." More than 250 studies demonstrate a positive link
between spirituality and good mental health.
Dying and death is a journey into the unknown. There are questions that
you may not have been prepared to delve into before you were confronted
with the prolonged illness. Spirituality is something you may wish to
not lose, with a wisdom that has nourished the souls of humankind for
untold generations. And sorrow can be a spiritual pilgrimage.
Regardless of whether you have a religious affiliation or not, you may
be spared from a crisis of meaning. Lengthy sickness changes life's
purposes. Death makes you question beliefs as you struggle for
Do prayer, a faith community, a belief in a world-to-come make sense?
you find the inner strength of "staying connected in a disconnected
world?" William Faulkner's spirituality was in evidence when he
the Nobel Prize for Literature: "I believe that man will not merely
endure; he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among
creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a
capable to compassion and sacrifice and endurance."
Evidence in the mystery of light and life may be discovered in the
of darkness and death. You may find that no event separates you from an
Absolute, however you define it. "I rise before day and cry for help. I
have put my hope in Your word" (Psalm 19). You may no longer feel so
and forsaken. You may feel forgiven for whatever you feel you did and
not do. You may feel comforted even when perplexed with unanswered,
bewildering problems. You may have renewed strength to transform the
memory of the dead to meaningful memorials for the living.
You might find consolation in prayer. Prayer need not involve words.
Trappist monk Thomas Merton said, "I pray by breathing." Through your
devotions you may gain a feeling of genuineness, empathy and caring, a
consciousness of the power of love and the interconnectedness of all
Rituals may help you express personal feelings of loss and sorrow.
Symbols have the capacity to touch not just on an intellectual level,
on behavioral, emotional, and spiritual levels as well. They are
events which can help heal deep wounds and affirm one's truest self.
Rituals may alter a state of mind by bringing something buried deep in
subconscious out in the open. Rituals are not the path; they are the
reminder that there is a path.
Being part of a faith community can be therapeutic. John Donne said so
long ago, "No man is an island." You do not stand alone. Each person's
is a joy to you and each person's grief is your own. In a community of
faith, you come together because in being together you share the power of
heritage, tradition, and spiritual beliefs. You begin to recenter
yourself, enabling yourself to begin to make that painful transition from
prolonged illness and death towards life.
As you seek spiritual responses to the profound issues of good and evil,
you may begin to release feelings of helplessness and guilt and discover a
measure of comfort, belonging and hope. Unfortunately, studies show that
the spiritual concerns of dying people and their families are often
overlooked in health care literature. In a holistic approach to death and
dying, the patient must be viewed not only as a physical entity but as a
whole person with biopsychological and spiritual needs as well.
Spirituality may not take away heartache. But spirituality may help you to
better live with adversity and to accept the unacceptable.