Faith and Spirituality in the Face of Loss

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.

Photo Credit.


  1. Alisha said on March 17, 2010 at 7:02 pm ... #

    So, so well said. Someone once told me that if you pretend you’re not angry at God, you’re only kidding yourself, because God knows you’re angry anyway.

    Encouraging people to be honest about their struggles with (or without) faith is such a reassuring thing to do.

  2. Claire Forsyth said on March 30, 2010 at 2:41 pm ... #

    What a helpful article! This rings so true with my experience. Thanks.

  3. Kevin said on March 26, 2011 at 5:00 pm ... #

    This article has made me think that maybe it is all about the anger I feel that has made me lose faith. I still catch myself trying to talk to a God I state I believe isn’t there. The whole concept of a God just so rapidly stopped making sense. It was like suffering a stroke. Now I am wondering why I continue to reach out to something I say I don’t believe in.

  4. Betty said on January 14, 2012 at 11:32 am ... #

    I have seen some of that anger in my son since his dads death as well as some anger that I have experienced in my own way, although I truley know it isn’t Gods fault I think just knowing that I no longer had that person that meant so much to me a part of our lives, it was devastating, I have been able to work through it and so is my son we have a great relationship.

  5. Anonymous said on March 24, 2012 at 3:28 pm ... #

    I continue to contemplated God’s existence in my life.

  6. Malette Lagarde said on April 17, 2012 at 8:05 am ... #

    I will always question why God chose this path of pain for me. First my best friend, then my son and six weeks later my father. My life is forever changed. I miss them all but my son was 23 years old and I prayed every day and night for God to protect my children and guide them every day. So yes I am very angry at God.

  7. Margie Hagberg said on April 27, 2012 at 10:51 am ... #

    I have been unable to receive any comfort from my catholic faith since my 22 yo daughter died suddenly 51/2 years ago
    I keep trying but the rituals of mass and communion seem empty to me as if I am looking in from another place
    I feel as if I lost my precious daughter and my faith

  8. serenity soul said on January 29, 2013 at 8:16 pm ... #

    So many struggle with faith issues, even those who thought they were doing everything right. We must remember, we are living in a fallen world. God gave us free will and when we exercise this free will, we can hurt ourselves and others. Free will is in everything: in corporations that poison our environment with deadly chemicals that cause cancers; in the drunk driver that kills an innocent family; in the shooter who kills kids in schools. We suffer the consequences. Rather than being angry with God, be angry with the terrible choices others are making. And then draw close to God and ask Him for comfort and guidance. When we make a commitment to know God and obey Him, He is there for us. Pain will enter our lives, but God is our Comfort.

  9. jeff said on March 14, 2013 at 7:44 pm ... #

    One thing that really gets to me is if god is going to take our loved ones and assuming we are religious why does he not come to us or send an angel to come down and comfort us letting us know that our loved one is truly doing well and is waiting for us when the time comes. If this simple act was done it would take away so much of the pain and allow us to move on. Not knowing or getting an answer from god really hurts it’s a pain like no other.

  10. Daniell (Male) said on March 18, 2013 at 8:16 pm ... #

    i just lost my mother who i considered my best friend a week ago…i’m only 18. she took up most of the place in my heart and i am completely lost without her. i am feeling angry, deep deep sadness, regret, and hopelessness all at once. we just had her service on friday down in utah (she lived here in casper,wy across the city with my 15 yo sister) i keep questioning whether or not there is a god, an afterlife, or even such thing as a soul now…..i miss her so much, i keep listening to this old voicemail with her on it over and over again, and i keep losing it… i have always been agnostic but now i feel like this life is it…i am confused and hurting…someone please help….

  11. jolene said on January 30, 2014 at 6:59 am ... #

    I tragically lost my -28 days away, from being my husband- in a horrible accident involving heavy equipment, in our back yard 7months ago today.(it’s Jan 30 2014) I would not wish the gruesome picture I see of this on my worst enemy . He did not believe in God – I was raised Lutheran & up till he died I had some faith & believed that there might be a higher power. To this day – if there IS a God, why do babies & children suffer in SO many unspeakable ways ?? Why do GOOD people die & pieces of s**t live ? Why the suffering ?? Why should I believe ????

  12. susan said on March 15, 2014 at 11:55 pm ... #

    My heart truly goes out to all of you. Watching someone that you love die from this horrible disease is Horrifying, Agonizing, and just fills your whole being with excruciating pain. I am watching my dad die from brain cancer and the sorrow is just like a storm that never passes. I am so angry at God sometimes that I must tell him to Go Fuck Off a million times a day. I have come to realize that this is a hard cross to bear and one that I thought I would never have to deal with. May God help me get through this and may God help all of you. I feel your pain and truly understand your feelings.

  13. Gretchen said on July 26, 2014 at 12:43 pm ... #

    My mother died 4 weeks ago. I was with her the 2 weeks before and stayed with my dad for 2 weeks after.I saw so many signs of God,s existence and grace all through the time. My parents instilled a great love of God and strong sense of belief that I passed on to my children. I have felt such comfort from this belief. Just this week thoughts of worry about mom have started creeping into my daily thoughts.How do I know heaven really exists? What if everything I believe is a lie? I’m frightened these thoughts are happening. Is this normal?

  14. WOB said on August 8, 2014 at 5:46 pm ... #

    Susan … you pain is palpable. You sorrow,seemingly unbearable. You lash out at God, yet you know in your heart and very soul that it is HE and HE alone who can provide the peace you so desperately seek and need. I pray that God’s gracious peace and mercy will flow over you as water over a dam. That you will find peace, rest, and assurance, despite your terrible travails. May God bless and keep you.

  15. Maps said on March 8, 2015 at 5:15 am ... #

    I lost my mom my best friend 11 months ago…I also questioned Gods existence…is he real…is there an after life? I have rebuilt my faith over the recent months…I refuse to allow myself not to believe in him…as hard as the process has been I cannot afford to live the rest of my new life without him…he is God and he knows why he allowed me to go through this…Daniell…I still listen to her voicenotes all the time…the emotions are different each time…I hope u are in a better place now since your post…

  16. Amckoy said on March 13, 2015 at 1:07 pm ... #

    My greatest love was taken away from me at the age of 13. I always had a solid foundation and belief in the will of God and all it entails. As my son layed dying of Brain Cancer I beleived that God would heal him or could heal him if it was his will. Well, he didn’t. I feel so disappointed. Why didn’t he protect my son? I have come to realize that I am not only grieving the loss of my baby boy but also the loss of my faith.

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