Religious support for dying and grieving
Clergy. Religious leaders, especially those who've been trained and educated about death and dying and about care at the end of life, can provide meaningful support and guidance for dying people and their families and caregivers. They will typically visit home, hospice, and hospital as needed.
What they offer: At the end of people's lives, clergy can:
- Represent the congregation in conveying a community of support.
- Offer trained theological support.
- Administer communion and other religious rituals.
- Help families plan funerals or memorial services.
- Help individuals discuss their feelings and beliefs about death.
- Offer grief counseling and support.
For more information: Contact local clergy or hospice groups to find out more about the possibilities of visits.
Chaplain services. Offered through most hospitals and hospices, these services offer pastoral care for patients, family, and staff. Such care is given regardless of religious affiliation. Affiliated chaplains are given special training in dealing with end-of-life medical issues, such as how to navigate hospital waiting rooms and emergency rooms and how to talk to someone who is dying.
What they offer: Trained hospital and hospice chaplains typically offer:
- Advice about common issues about death and dying.
- Prayer or spiritual counsel.
- Religious rituals or sacraments.
- Discussions about an individual's relationship with God or any need for spiritual guidance and direction.
- Spiritual support for patients undergoing medical or surgical treatment.
- Resource information about community religious congregations.
- Grief counseling and support (often for a full year or more after a death).
For more information: Contact a hospital pastoral care office or patient services representative for more information. If a patient is receiving hospice care, the care coordinator should be able to provide direction to chaplain services.
Faith communities. Many communities use one-on-one models of congregational care for dying and grieving members. Others with large congregations often use the "support team" approach. Support teams are groups of volunteers organized to provide support for people nearing the end of life. They pool their talents, creativity, and time to offer much more support than one volunteer can provide alone.
What they do: Volunteers are usually matched with members who need a variety of types of assistance. Their activities often include a combination of:
Practical support, such as help with transportation, respite, meals, errands, household tasks, and yard work
Emotional and social support, including visits, calls, and check-ins
Spiritual support, such as prayer, communion, spiritual conversation, and fellowship
Quality of life support, including transportation to social outings, gardening, help with hobbies, computer access, art projects, pet care
Advocacy and resource support, such as tapping community resources, help with problem solving, accompanying patients on doctor visits, and organizing records and bills
For more information: Additional information on creating and locating end-of-life support teams is available from Project Compassion.