Exploring Grief through Religion or Spirituality

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Coming to terms with the imminent death of a loved one is an incomparable challenge. The emotional toll intensifies when we must find the words to talk to our loved one about the inevitable reality of their death.

The ways we choose to cope with grief about a dying loved one exposes our own feelings and fears about death. Some choose simply not to discuss the impending loss. Yet this approach precludes our offering emotional support and sharing a powerful bond with our loved one when they most need us to help them face their own mortality.

For some, the right choice is to ask someone to communicate for us – like a minister, priest, or doctor. We hope that a professional will more expertly handle what we cannot bring ourselves to express.

Some prefer to find closure through the practical power of planning ahead – by creating a Will, Estate Plan, or an Advanced Healthcare Directive, for example. However pragmatic, this way of thinking does not address what happens to our loved one after death, a subject most often addressed through spirituality or religion.

Exploring grief within the framework of spiritual or religious beliefs offers an expansive perspective. For example, a religious guide or spiritual advisor may talk to us about how to resolve guilt about sin, or how to attain peace and redemption through the power of forgiveness and grace. They may encourage us to gain strength through the power of prayer, or to reflect about what may lie beyond our physical, material world.

Most importantly, religious or spiritual beliefs offer a physical place to go to find meaning when grieving for a deceased loved one. Churches, temples, and mosques provide opportunities to participate in bereavement discussions every week. Some also offer ways to explore alternative, nonreligious beliefs about death and dying.

Perhaps the combination of these perspectives provides the greatest sense of meaning and closure when grieving the death of a loved one. Despite experiencing the intense emotion that often accompanies grief, we can achieve peace through the resolve that comes from knowing that we have taken both a practical approach to planning ahead, and have explored the more existential possibilities offered through spirituality and faith.

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