Reactions to Loss
of oneís identification or affiliation with an organized religion,
spiritual doubts and questions may arise when a loved one dies.
Suffering a major loss usually causes us to confront and re-think our
basic beliefs about God, religion, death and the afterlife.
Some may turn to God as a source of strength and consolation at
the time of a loved oneís death and find their faith has deepened.
Others may question the religious teachings theyíve practiced all
their lives and find the very foundations of their beliefs shaken to the
core. Even those who had no religious upbringing at all may still feel
abandoned by God or angry with God for letting their loved one get sick
and die. Not all people respond to loss in the same way, and not
everyone shares the same cultural, religious or spiritual beliefs about
death and the afterlife.
forces us to confront the spiritual questions we may have been avoiding
or havenít taken time to address, the questions that get at the very
heart and meaning of life: Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going?
a strong religious faith will be a help or a hindrance in your recovery
from grief depends on what you believe and how your beliefs are
practiced. Like any other tool, religion can be used in healthy,
appropriate ways, or it can be abused in unhealthy, inappropriate ways.
can influence your fundamental view of life: you can see life as
temporary and death as permanent, or you can see it the other way
around ó death is temporary and life is permanent. Death may interrupt
a life that was very special, but it cannot cancel it. Religion can
provide the motivation required for grief recovery: it says youíre not
alone ó somebody has done it before. Griefís path isnít a dead-end
street; itís a well-marked trail. Religion can be a great antidote for
the loneliness that accompanies every major loss, and it can be a source
of strength and group support.
religion cannot do is give us immunity from loss or give us back our
lost loved ones ó nor can it provide us with a shortcut through grief.
In his wonderful book Life After Loss, pastoral counselor Bob
Deits identifies some religious beliefs that can be harmful:
∑ Death is Godís will and should not be questioned.
∑ The person was so special that God called him or her to be with
∑ There must be a grand plan or purpose (a why) for every
religious beliefs are helpful:
is a mortal, frail, imperfect world, and tragedies occur.
is no satisfactory explanation when loss occurs.
question is not why me, but rather if me, what can I learn
encourages moving from why questions to how questions:
∑ How can you work through this loss and achieve as full a life as
∑ How can you use this experience to help someone else?
∑ How do you find meaning in life without this person?
∑ How do you start anew?
for Coping with Spiritual Reactions
Consider talking to
a minister, priest or rabbi. Pastoral counseling can comfort you and help
you find a pathway to renewed faith.
Make space in your
schedule for daily meditation or prayer, which can be a source of great
strength and consolation.
Explore and question
the values and beliefs youíve accepted in the past, and formulate new
ones when you need to.
Consider grief as an
encounter with lifeís greatest mysteries: the meaning of life; the
promise of rebirth; the depth of love we share with one another.
© by Martha M. Tousley,
RN, MS, FT, DCC All