Understanding Spiritual Care

Document created by kbass on Dec 30, 2016Last modified by mcunningham on Jan 10, 2017
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What can family and friends do?


Spiritual Care can be provided in many different ways. Traditionally we think of spiritual care as provided by a pastor, a priest or other spiritual leader. However, it can be broader.



It is often difficult to remain present with someone when we feel the need to do something. However, just being “with” a person can bring comfort, a sense of peace and security. There is something powerful in the midst of silence.


Thomas Merton, a Kentucky theologian, practiced a meditation on the verse, “Be still and know that I am God.” He would repeat the verse removing the last word of the phrase. Upon completing his mediation the last word was simply “Be.” Sometimes providing your presence without saying or doing anything can bring exactly what a person needs.



Sitting with your loved one without taking over the conversation can be difficult. Sometimes out of our own discomfort we try to fill the awkward moments of silence with words. However, it is in these moments of silence we can offer the space for our loved one to share what is on their mind.


Offering space through silence or invitation can be helpful and bring peace to a person who then feels that their voice can be heard. This is an opportunity for your loved one to express themselves. The bigger point is not to interrupt, not to judge and not to fix.


Sometimes it is the few words that our loved ones say that we can carry throughout the rest of our lives.



Spending time with someone in prayer can be personal and emotional. It touches the very core of what we believe and hold dear.


For some, prayer can be an uncomfortable experience. Sometimes they don’t know what to say or it is not something normally done in front of others. These feelings are common. If prayer is important to your loved one, ask them what they would like you to pray about. This can guide you to create a thoughtful prayer about what is most on your loved one’s mind.


Don’t be afraid to pray for yourself in the midst of this journey. Opening up yourself through prayer can provide insight to your loved one’s struggles, joys and concerns.


Simple short prayers are generally more powerful than those that are long and drawn out. If you don’t feel comfortable creating a prayer, your pastor, hospice chaplain or spiritual leader may provide written prayers.



As your loved one gets weaker, reading may become too difficult for them. Ask them what brings them enjoyment. Sharing a passage from scripture, a favorite book or poetry can evoke deep meaning, peace and comfort for your loved one. While tackling the meaning of life questions, creativity is encouraged.


Life/Family review

Often as we near the end of our lives, it becomes important to review stories and family relationships that brought enjoyment, laughter and sometimes sadness to a person’s life. Sharing stories and evoking memories through conversation can bring about a sense of peace and completeness for a person.


Pictures are another way to explore this journey. It is helpful to listen and allow the person to tell the story. Allow them silence to reflect and replay their memories. Remember this is their story.


Offering music

For many, music can be an expression of their faith -- a deep sense of feeling and emotion that hits the very core of the person. It evokes memories and establishes a sense of peace like no other form of communication. Offer to play music. Have a conversation about what they like and what restores them.


As a caregiver, listening and offering your presence in the midst of journey can bring about the peace a person needs at the end of their life.



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