When someone we love dies, it is inevitable that questions of faith and spirituality arise. For some faith is challenged, for some it is dashed, for some it is a comfort, and for some it is a new exploration.
I believe we are all spiritual beings, although formal religious belief may not be a part of our life. Regardless, tending to the spiritual side is a part of the healing process, and I have found these following things helpful in supporting the spiritual side of the grief journey.
- Allow for the search for meaning within the grieving individual’s religious or spiritual values. Listen without judgment or advice. If they are angry with God, or confused, simply acknowledge by saying, “It’s hard to believe at a time like this.” Each individual will work through this search in there own way, and in their own time.
- Each individual grieves differently. Additionally, individuals grieve different losses differently. Be flexible, and gentle with yourself and others, and allow the grief and mourning to unfold naturally.
- Remember that for the young child, play is the focus of their world. Play is spiritually uplifting for a child. Children grieve in spurts, and may move quickly from sadness to play, and back again. By playing during somber times, they are not intending to be disrespectful, nor should we assume they are ‘OK,’ and not grieving. Play helps children cope and heal. Join them if you are up to it, and always make it OK for them.
- Seek the help of a grief counselor if your or your child’s spiritual struggle or doesn’t soften. Support groups where others are experiencing some of the same struggles are often very helpful.
- Include children in the rituals that surround death–funerals, memorial services, burials. They should never be forced, but included as appropriate to age. The very young may just attend with a loving adult. The adolescent may read a poem or speak. Excluding a child from these rituals does not protect them, and including them helps start their healing journey.
- Create new rituals that touch the spiritual side. Anything from lighting candles, to releasing balloons with notes, to quiet time at a grave side visit, to reminiscing with family and friends, to laying a flower on an altar. Rituals affirm landmarks in our lives – birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, baptisms, etc. The loss of someone we love is also a landmark in our lives and deserves the attention rituals give.
Faith and/or spirituality are a part of life and contribute to our mental health and ability to survive hardship. However spirituality takes form in your beliefs, embrace it for yourself, and nurture it in others, as they seek peace and comfort at such critical times in life.
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