What is spiritual healing? According to the Cambridge dictionary, it is the activity of making a person healthy without using medicines or other physical methods. According to Our Lady of Peace, it’s a critical element of hospice.
Studies have suggested that spiritual wellbeing may affect suffering at end of life, so spiritual care is important when caring for someone with a terminal illness. Spirituality provides meaning, purpose, and value in a person’s life. In hospice, at a time when physical healing is no longer possible, spiritual healing takes center stage with patients who are preparing their hearts and souls for departure from their physical life. It’s a privilege for our chaplains and every member of our care team to provide support through the spiritual healing process.
Chaplain Judith Oberhauser says Our Lady of Peace excels at loving patients and families. “They are our focus. There are struggles and there is pain from a hodge-podge of human experiences. Patients hold their pain close, but we listen with reverence. We don’t fix things; we simply allow healing to happen with the support of our hospice team of nurses, nursing assistants, physicians, social workers, and chaplains. We all wrap patients in an embrace, so they feel loved and supported. This happens with people of faith and no faith. I’m a listener and a learner. I see the human being, not their religious affiliation. You don’t have to be Catholic to experience spiritual healing at Our Lady of Peace Hospice.”
Judith describes the final days of a patient’s life as their “grand finale” or “swan song.” She says, “We want it to be beautiful, so we focus on resolving all the minor and dissonant chords of their lives, so they can go in peace.” She shares this patient story as a snapshot of a journey through spiritual healing….
Beauty amid the brokenness
“I had a younger patient who was physically disabled, fiercely independent, and emotionally distressed from surviving on her own for many years. When I visited her in her high-rise apartment, I sometimes had to wait to see if I would be granted entry. Once inside, the patient would tell me what to do. If I met her needs to her satisfaction, she would be fine, but if I didn’t, she would become angry. I needed to find a way to connect with her.
I’m not called to evangelize or be in charge. I’m called to lead with love. I’m a servant, and I feel I have no right to direct people. I held that position with this patient, and gradually she relaxed. I was compelled to create a neutral space where we were equal sojourners together.
She told me she liked to sing, and she knew all the words to Broadway musical songs. Eventually, I would come in and she would say, I have a song for you. She had found her own way to connect with me, and as she sang the songs, she moved her withered arm, and her eyes would sparkle. At this moment, I realized that she needed this relationship, and she was happy.
This person created a memory with me that led us to talk about her resurfacing, hurtful childhood memories. I was able to sit with her, affirm her, and feel her pain. I listened to her story, and gradually, she let me into her life, and I found intense beauty amid the brokenness. And, her spirit healed.”