How can I use a hospice chaplain, especially if I’m not religious?
What if the chaplain is not from my religion?
By Ron King
Many people describe themselves as “spiritual, but not religious”. We recognize that religion and spirituality are not the same. They are connected for many people, but not for everyone. What is universal is a sense of spirituality.That part of our existence that goes beyond time and space. The realm of the spirit is also beyond words and description. This is what makes the spiritual connection important in hospice as we move from the known physical world to another.
A hospice chaplain helps you review and navigate spiritual life and choices. Questions of eternity, forgiveness, meaning and purpose become more important than ever at the end of life. As we become smaller in our own eyes and able to accomplish less, we need to know what matters most, what we have done that will last beyond our lifetime and what difference our life on Earth has made.
Hospice care is also a good time to find spiritual peace by deciding or reminding ourselves of the hope and cherished beliefs we hold. Pastoral care can also help you pass that faith along to future generations. A hospice chaplain can talk with your children or grandchildren about their own faith as a source of comfort and strength in their own loss as well.
We realize that religion has to do with the formal practices of different spiritual communities that have developed traditions, doctrine and self governing structures over time. The religious community, beliefs, and traditions that have been tested throughout history provide a solid foundation for many in their last days.
Although a hospice chaplain may not be from your religious tradition, he or she will be familiar with your faith and able to assist you in finding a religious leader from your own tradition if you desire. The chaplain is able to contact the local priest, minister, rabbi or imam as needed. In addition to the official services offered by leaders of your own religious community, the hospice chaplain will take time to listen and walk with you along the spiritual path you have chosen.
Your spiritual family may be the religious group where you are a member or it may be among friends and family who have shared your spiritual journey over the years. In addition to connecting with this community at the end of the path, it may be helpful to invite a new spiritual companion as well.
The hospice chaplain is able to bring a wealth of experience related to death and dying from being with others at this point in life. There may also be an advantage at times to sharing questions or details of your life with someone outside your closest friends and family. The chaplain can bring a different perspective or be the witness to an important story you believe may be difficult for your family to bear.
When presented with the opportunity to meet with a hospice chaplain, arrange a time that will allow you to discover a person who has come to be with you at such an important step in your spiritual journey.
To find out more about what a hospice chaplain does, go here.