Some people find their religion a great source of comfort, inspiration, hope and peace in the lead up to death. But this isn’t always the case.
Religion may assist them very profoundly in how they view what is happening to them and facing up to the immediacy of the end of their life.
This is particularly true of people who believe there is something better to look forward to. But having a strong faith tradition doesn’t necessarily guarantee that people will not experience a level of distress.
For some people, religion actively contributes to their distress and makes them fear dying, particularly if they believe in a punishing God.
Other people may become extremely angry and upset, questioning what they have done to cause this and why it is happening, and asking ‘How could a caring, loving god do this to me?
Then they really go through that crisis of faith and that may leave them feeling angry and totally empty in terms of having nothing to hold on to.
When religion is the source of great distress, some people benefit from connecting with someone who shares a deep understanding of their faith. A priest or minister may be able to interpret a distressed person’s world view and counter any misunderstandings that may be causing grief.
Rituals associated with forgiveness can have a profound impact on someone who is deeply troubled by the things they have done.
Andrew Allsop is psychosocial and spiritual service support manager for Silver Chain and a Palliative Care Australia Board member.