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Vol 3, No 1 (2004): Polish Palliative Medicine
Artykuły poglądowe
Published online: 2003-10-27
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Spiritual suffering in terminal illness

Wojciech Bołoz
Advances in Palliative Medicine 2004;3(1):57-66.

open access

Vol 3, No 1 (2004): Polish Palliative Medicine
Artykuły poglądowe
Published online: 2003-10-27

Abstract

Spiritual suffering is a specific ailment which stems from cognitive and psychological aspects of human nature. The patient’s discomfort is caused by reflections concerning wasted opportunities given by fate and current experience of existential concerns. It influences both personal life and the relations with relatives and God (in case of religious affiliation). Loneliness, lack of safety and adequate self-esteem are further aspects of spiritual suffering. Thus spiritual suffering is associated with a way of understanding the sense of human existence and acquired moral and spiritual values. This kind of suffering can significantly influence the patient’s quality of life and should be under consideration in palliative care. Moral deformities acquired by the ill person during his or her active life are present during the illness and therefore the spiritual suffering is even more difficult to counteract. These deformities prevent reconciliation with one’s fate and evoke feelings of absurd and lack of sense. As spiritual suffering is closely related to the ways in which religious and spiritual values are experienced, it can interfere with interpersonal communication between the patient and the caregivers, rendering the latter feeling incompetent and unable to satisfy the patients needs. Because of that, several laical and religious centers try to create and implement programs enabling caregivers to help the terminally ill in their spiritual suffering. The laical programs present death as a natural phenomenon and underline the importance of a patient’s wishes and opinions concerning the future events connected with his passing away. Religious programs concentrate on the role of death in reaching the transcendental goal of the human existence and present the religious ways of supporting the patient in this difficult time of his or her life.

Abstract

Spiritual suffering is a specific ailment which stems from cognitive and psychological aspects of human nature. The patient’s discomfort is caused by reflections concerning wasted opportunities given by fate and current experience of existential concerns. It influences both personal life and the relations with relatives and God (in case of religious affiliation). Loneliness, lack of safety and adequate self-esteem are further aspects of spiritual suffering. Thus spiritual suffering is associated with a way of understanding the sense of human existence and acquired moral and spiritual values. This kind of suffering can significantly influence the patient’s quality of life and should be under consideration in palliative care. Moral deformities acquired by the ill person during his or her active life are present during the illness and therefore the spiritual suffering is even more difficult to counteract. These deformities prevent reconciliation with one’s fate and evoke feelings of absurd and lack of sense. As spiritual suffering is closely related to the ways in which religious and spiritual values are experienced, it can interfere with interpersonal communication between the patient and the caregivers, rendering the latter feeling incompetent and unable to satisfy the patients needs. Because of that, several laical and religious centers try to create and implement programs enabling caregivers to help the terminally ill in their spiritual suffering. The laical programs present death as a natural phenomenon and underline the importance of a patient’s wishes and opinions concerning the future events connected with his passing away. Religious programs concentrate on the role of death in reaching the transcendental goal of the human existence and present the religious ways of supporting the patient in this difficult time of his or her life.
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Keywords

spiritual suffering; spiritual pain; dying; terminal illness

About this article
Title

Spiritual suffering in terminal illness

Journal

Advances in Palliative Medicine

Issue

Vol 3, No 1 (2004): Polish Palliative Medicine

Pages

57-66

Published online

2003-10-27

Bibliographic record

Advances in Palliative Medicine 2004;3(1):57-66.

Keywords

spiritual suffering
spiritual pain
dying
terminal illness

Authors

Wojciech Bołoz

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