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Issue #9: Spirituality: A Deeper Dialogue


1. Grappling with 'Deeper Dialogue'

2. What Role Does Sprituality Play?

3. Want to Discuss Spirituality?

4. Ways to Weave Spirituality Into Your Outreach

5. A Model Steering Committee


Since the day of my birth, my death began its walk. It is walking toward me, without hurrying. -- Jean Cocteau

Spirituality is an integral part of dying. The dying, and those who care for them, frequently grapple with questions about who they are, why they are here, and why they are now leaving. Some explore these issues within the context of an organized religion, turning to pastors, rabbis, imams or other spiritual leaders. For others, these questions of meaning are dealt with outside of traditional religious practice. For that reason, we have decided to devote almost an entire newsletter to the subject of spirituality. It is our hope that in doing this we can look beyond the surface issues involved in death and dying and engage in a deeper dialogue with ourselves and our loved ones.


Ultimately, each person must answer this question for himself or herself. What role does spirituality play in your perception of a dying experience? If you were given a terminal diagnosis, what would you want to accomplish before your passing? Would there be friends to whom you would want to say goodbye; a fractured relationship you would like to heal? What do you see as your mark on this earth and would you feel that you had done all you could to leave that mark?

Some see spirituality from a faith-based perspective. Many believe that death is the end of the physical, but not the spiritual, life. Many also feel that how we spend our time on earth will determine where we spend eternity -- heaven or hell, or perhaps being sent back to earth for another chance to learn life's lessons. If a belief in the hereafter is important to a dying person, what kind of comfort is afforded in this belief?

Or do you believe that faith does not play such a significant role in today's more scientific-based society? Has the role faith plays in death been diminished by the legal issues and health care advances that have an impact on our dying experience today? Some believe that death is the end of our existence -- that when we're gone, we're gone. Is it necessary to believe in an afterlife in order to come to terms with this life? If you are dying and you don't believe in the hereafter, do you have a different set of spiritual needs?

And how will a person's belief affect the way their caregivers comfort and heal them? How can we be supportive of a dying person's spiritual needs? How can we talk with a dying person about spirituality? Do we need to talk? Do we need to listen?

For an exercise in reflecting on your own spirituality, read 'Taking a Spiritual History' in the Leadership Guide at: out/leader_guide/taking4_11.html


Hopefully, this newsletter will strike a chord with you. Spirituality must be a part of any discussion about death and dying. Maybe you have pondered these very questions; surely you have questions of your own. Perhaps you feel you have some answers. Visit our discussion forums and share your feelings on spirituality and the dying process at: onourownterms/forums.html


Spirituality is a difficult concept to truly get your arms around. How can we address issues of spirituality in the outreach effort? One way is by getting together to share questions we have about dying and our feelings on what we each hope for in our own death. Gather groups of friends, or your family, and exchange thoughts on the importance of spirituality in your life and death. If you are part of a book club, discuss a book that deals with these issues. Your religious institutions may be interested in studying how eternal life is presented and understood in their sacred writings. Look in the Leadership Guide for help on how to create atmospheres for conversations on spirituality and other issues surrounding death and dying. Read it online at: onourownterms/out/leader_guide/taking3.html


Please remember to assign a member of your steering committee to post your activities on the discussion boards! We would love to highlight your steering committee in an upcoming issue.

In this issue we are focusing on South Dakota. We felt it was important to highlight the activity in this state as an example of people using the boards as a means to come together. Oftentimes, people have heard about the outreach effort surrounding this series, but they have no idea how to join up. By going to the discussion forums and presenting themselves as interested parties, others who are active are able to bring them into the fold. In this particular case, you will see how the Director of Outreach, Catherine Smith, was able to act as a bridge. Read about South Dakotašs steering committee online at: Forum44/HTML/000001.html