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Spiritual Care in Difficult Times

Hands clasped on a lap

Pastoral Care is a core service of hospice care, an integral member of the interdisciplinary team that brings care to all hospice and palliative care patients and families.  During difficult times, many seek solace in their spirituality, while others have many questions, and plenty of doubt, about where to find spiritual support. 

It seems especially important to offer some reassurance while so many are struggling with current events.  On this page we will be posting a series on how pastoral care providers at Connecticut Hospice see their mission, and how patients and families feel strengthened by their support, whether they follow a particular faith system or not. 

Illuminated letters spelling Hope with light bulbs in dark

In the first of this series, Jamie Johnson, Connecticut Hospice Pastoral Care Volunteer, defines how she sees Spiritual Care, and describes how it is given to hospice and palliative care patients in our in-patient setting and to patients at home throughout Connecticut.

carved mosque window looking out on sunset

What is Spiritual Care?

Everyone has a worldview, a perspective on what is right or wrong, what is most important, what gives them comfort and inspiration, and why things happen. For many, their worldview is formed by their religion and faith communities.  Others look to their human connections, to nature, to service, to love, something larger than themselves.  This acknowledgement and embrace of something larger than ourselves, however you define it, is spirituality. 

Hospice Pastoral Care steps in

When crisis happens—unexpected change like losing a job, injury or illness, death—people turn to their sources of comfort and support, their spirituality, to make sense of what is happening.  Some people pray to God, light a candle, meditate, take a walk outside, speak to a friend, clergy, or a therapist, create art.  Sometimes, though, the crisis is so overwhelming they aren’t able to access that support.  At Connecticut Hospice, this is where the chaplains and volunteers of the Pastoral Care department step in.

All faiths and none

A sign in the Pastoral Care office reads:

Chaplains help create a sacred space for people of all faiths and cultural beliefs in stressful, life changing, or transitional moments to find meaning, hope, connection, and comfort by enabling them to identify and draw upon their inner strength.

Extended hands holding lights

This is spiritual care. Chaplains and volunteers offer their compassionate, calm, open presence to all people, from those in traditional faith communities to the “spiritual but not religious” and the “nones.”  They will listen and provide support based on the careseeker’s beliefs. 

Pastoral Careworkers do not preach or lecture; they do not judge or condemn.  They sit at bedsides, hold hands, and hold space for people to process what troubles them; they may also offer prayer, ritual, or readings as appropriate. 

Open Bible pages
Hebrew text
Open Koran pages

Inpatient Hospice Pastoral Support

If hospice patients or families need particular religious care, the department will contact local clergy.   A prayer room is always available for prayer and meditation.  Roman Catholic Mass is celebrated weekly, with communion available to those who can’t leave their rooms.  Interfaith services are also performed regularly. 

Help during difficult times

To support people of diverse beliefs, the Pastoral Care department works with the entire Connecticut Hospice team. 

Spiral of stained glass windows in a dome

The Arts Department provides engaging and inspirational art projects and music at the bedside.  Pet therapists bring dogs around for tender, loving care.  Social workers listen and guide. There are special, handmade blankets on each bed to surround patients with color and warmth.  Even our location on the shore of Long Island Sound offers a restorative breath of fresh air to patients and their loved ones.   

The Pastoral Care department is here to help and support you during difficult and challenging times. 

Jamie Johnson, Pastoral Care Volunteer,  Connecticut Hospice

Two men standing in a cornfield reaching out to shake hands

Further resources

For information about different religions and spiritualitiesHarvard Divinity School's Pluralism Project

For a series of inspiring podcasts on spiritual questions: Yale University's The Quadcast

To hear Yale University’s Shades of Yale perform uplifting spirituals: Amen & We Shall Overcome

To read A Prayer for Our Time, by The Rev. Frederick J. Streets, ’75 M.Div, Senior Pastor of Dixwell Congregational Church, New Haven, CT: A Prayer for Our Time

Resources on spiritual care and chaplaincy training:

Association of Clinical Pastoral Education

Spiritual Care Association

Association of Professional Chaplains

To learn more about Prayer Shawls and blessing blanketsPrayer shawl ministry

To donate new blankets to Connecticut Hospice, contact [email protected] or [email protected]

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