Spiritual Support at the End of Life






Our patients are often faced with end of life decisions. Some of these decisions are medically related like; should they continue being dependent on the ventilator or do they want to get off and face whatever happens? Some decide not to have resuscitation should their heart stop beating.

Other decisions are financial and have to do with their family or lawyers.

The emotional and spiritual decisions are often left to the people who spend the most time with them, and in this case it’s the nurses.

For you to assist your patient with spiritual decisions, you have to begin with yourself. How is your spirituality? What are your beliefs about death and dying?

Like our patients, we too will face the end of life. We don’t know whether we will be on a ventilator or require daily dialysis or age gracefully and quietly die in our sleep. Whatever the path, we will all face the end of life.

The real question

Often, the real question is; am I ready to meet my maker?

Patients get anxious because they may not feel ready or prepared to die.

Some facilities are fortunate to have spiritual leaders who visit the patients on a regular basis. Others do not, and it becomes the nurses’ responsibility to give spiritual support to the dying patient as well as support their families.

People facing death may suffer from an inability to find meaning in this last chapter of their lives.

At the end of life, we become aware that we are spiritual beings.


You can support the dying patient in various ways.

If your patient is religious, remind them of their religious practices and encourage them to use them.

If they are not religious, encourage them to have positive thoughts about the best things they did or happened to them.

Aim to help the dying person die with a calm and positive mind. Anything you can do to achieve this will benefit the patient. Give good nursing care and pain relief.  Encourage the presence of a loving family and anything that can make them  feel comfortable and peaceful.

In this way, you will help the dying person make the transition from this life to the next as smooth and as meaningful as possible.

It is important to recognize the spiritual importance of this transition.


This post was written as part of the Nurse Blog Carnival. More posts on this topic can be found at This Nurse Wonders. Find out how to participate.


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  1. Very nice post, Joyce. I agree, it is important for the nurse to evaluate his/her own spiritual feelings in order to provide strength needed to assist the patient in this journey. Thank you for sharing

    • Joyce says:

      Thanks Cynthia for stopping by. I appreciate your comment.

  2. Thank you for this post Joyce. It’s a great idea to reflect on our relationship to spirituality. Like you, I also have a strong connection to spirituality. While it may be helpful to have patients reflect on positive things in their life, I have found the most important thing is to allow them to be real, regardless of how they feel – even if it’s not positive. Giving patients the permission to show up with anger, frustration or the belief that there is no afterlife can be freeing for patients to be completely who they need to be. In the meantime, we continue to reflect on our own relationship to death.

    • Joyce says:

      Thanks Eileen for this perspective.
      Yes, allowing patients to express their feelings is indeed liberating.

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