Research reveals that during periods of profound loss, one’s cognitive world may be turned upside down. The assumptions that guided one’s life— that life is fair, that people get what they deserve, that God is benevolent, that the old die before the young, and so on—are strained and sometimes shattered. This collapse in beliefs and assumptions about the world and one’s place in it has can lead to a spiritual crisis. Whether faced with our own imminent death or in coping with the death of a loved one, we confront the challenge of reconstructing our assumptions about the world.People have much to learn about spiritual experience, cognitive upheaval, and psychospiritual transformation in the face of death; however, they do know that personal philosophies, religious belief systems, spiritual explorations, and the search for meaning are especially important at such times. Professional and voluntary caregivers are becoming more aware of these spiritual needs and the obstacles that prevent some individuals from fulfilling them.
This new research on dying, mourning, and spirituality suggests that the ways in which people rediscover meaning—such as belief in traditional religious doctrine, the afterlife, reincarnation, philanthropy, or a spiritual order to the universe— may be less important than the process itself. In other words, in the midst of dealing with profound loss in our lives, the ability to re-ascribe meaning to a changed world through spiritual transformation, religious conversion, or existential change may be more significant than the specific content by which that need is filled.
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