Addressing Spiritual Concerns Across the Cancer Continuum
What is spirituality?
- The ways individuals seek and express meaning and purpose.
- How individuals experience connectedness to a moment, to their being, to their relationships, to the world around them, to the sacred and to god/higher power.
- Highly individual.
- Expressed in many ways including:
- Attending organized religious/spiritual services or activities
- Creative expression (i.e. music, art)
Serious illness can change the way we answer "the big questions."
- Who am I?
- What is life all about?
- Do I have a purpose?
- Why am I here?
- Why is this happening to me?
- Why is there suffering?
What are some common spiritual concerns when facing a cancer diagnosis/treatment?
- Am I going to die?
- Who am I?
- What is important to me?
- What will I become?
- What does life mean to me?
- Loss, grief, and mourning:Loss is common throughout the cancer experience:
- Loss of ability to work
- Loss of hair
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of energy
- Loss of fertility
- Loss of life
- Spirituality and religion can help us grieve for that which is lost.
- Spirituality and religion can also help us discover what can be gained.
- Maintaining Hope
- Maintaining optimism
- Re-framing hope: If cure or control is not possible, what is the next best thing to hope for?
What are some symptoms of spiritual distress?
- A concern with the meaning of life and death and/or belief system.
- Anger towards God/the Ultimate (as defined by the individual).
- Questioning the meaning of suffering.
- Verbalizing inner conflicts about beliefs.
- Verbalizing concern about our relationship with God/ the 'Ultimate' (as defined by the individual).
- Questioning the meaning of one's own existence.
- Changing usual religious or spiritual practices.
- Displacement of anger onto religious/spiritual support persons, caregivers, and family members.
- Increased anger, crying, hostility, withdrawal, and apathy.
- Viewing illness as a punishment.
What are the benefits of addressing spiritual concerns and incorporating spiritual practices into my cancer care plan?
- Can assist with adjustment to your cancer diagnosis and its treatment.
- Increases quality of life.
- Provides a sense of strength and belonging.
- Highlights the potential for growth.
- Provides a positive outlet for hope.
- Helps to address "unfinished business" and repair fractured relationships.
- Provides an opportunity for life review.
- Offers a sense of inner peace.
Who can help me address spiritual or religious distress in my cancer experience?
- A religious leader from a church, mosque, synagogue, or other institution.
- A spiritual guide.
- A chaplain at your treatment center.
- Other healthcare team members including your doctor, nurses, and social worker.
- Your family and friends.