Chapter 1: Myth: Nothing more can be done

Involving religious or spiritual leaders

The grief expert says
Dr. Chris MacKinnon explains how to navigate the questions "Why has God brought this upon my family?"(3:22)Video transcript

Community clergy and other spiritual leaders are potential supportive resources. If the patient or family have a current or past connection to a faith group or other spiritual community, they may welcome the presence of a representative of this community. This person can remind them of both their faith and the support of their faith community. 

Even if the patient or family is no longer an active member, they may find comfort in the rituals of their tradition. For example, it’s not uncommon for lapsed Roman Catholics to request the Sacrament of the Sick. Similarly, many people, whether practicing their faith or not, appreciate prayers at the time of death.

Of course, involving religious or spiritual leaders requires conversation with the patient or family. 

Conversation Prompts

Does religion or spirituality play a part in your life? 

Are you part of a faith group or spiritual community? 

Is there a religious leader or someone else from your spiritual community you’d like us to call at this time? (If yes) What title is used for the leader (for example, minister, pastor, priest, elder, imam, rabbi)? What’s the best way to contact this person?

Sometimes patients or families stand in two spiritual traditions and may want the support of leaders from both. Occasionally, they may prefer the presence of a community member rather than the leader.

A spiritual care professional may be part of the palliative care team, or have had prior contact with the patient or family. They can help you and the family to connect with spiritual communities and to address other spiritual needs.

See also:Spirituality and Life-limiting Illness article