Finding someone to talk to

It may be that you find support from talking to friends or one of the medical team looking after you or a self-help group such as Maggie’s Cancer Centres. Wherever you find support it's important that it meets your needs and helps you face the journey before you.

Those we talk to may not have the answers we're looking for, and that’s OK. What’s important is that the person takes seriously the questions we're asking. Telling our story helps to bring both meaning and purpose to our experiences. Through asking questions and telling our stories we can hear our own hopes and fears, our worries and dreams and so we discover our own way forward which offers the potential for transformation and change.

Some people find it helpful to talk to a member of their own belief community. If you have a faith, you may find it a source of comfort and support. Some people, when faced with illness, may find themselves questioning their faith or deeply held beliefs and values.

If you think that it might help you to talk to a member of the clergy (minister, priest, imam etc) or a representative of a belief community - don’t be put off because you aren’t sure what you believe or haven’t worshipped anywhere regularly. Most faith groups are used to dealing with uncertainty and are usually happy to talk to you and give whatever support and comfort they can.

Spiritual Care Departments

Each Health Board and hospice in Scotland provides a spiritual care service consisting of a team of healthcare chaplains and sometimes a team of volunteers.

Healthcare chaplains are appointed as part of the wider healthcare team to provide spiritual care. They're trained in listening and responding to the needs of the individual - offering support to people of all faiths and those who hold no particular faith. If you wish to speak to a representative of a particular belief community, healthcare chaplains can help you find the appropriate person. Most departments have a list of contacts from the various communities and some have a system of honorary chaplains for belief communities where requested.

Spiritual care needs

Everyone, whether religious or not, have spiritual needs such as:

  • the need to love and be loved
  • the need for meaning and purpose
  • the need for support and hope
  • the need for dignity and respect

When faced with a life limiting illness many people welcome spiritual care especially when:

  • facing difficult questions about life and death
  • searching for a meaning in their illness
  • looking for help to cope with their illness and with suffering, loss, anxiety, certainty, despair, anger and guilt

Spirituality and the person

Spirituality is about more than just our beliefs or faith. It's about who we are as individuals, our relationships, it's what gives us meaning and purpose.

Humans are more than just a collection of cells and atoms. We are aware of the past. We have an expectation of a future. We recognise the finite nature of our lives. It is how we cope, how this impinges on our life, our relationships, our search for meaning or purpose or value, which gives us a sense of spirituality. For some people spirituality will involve religious, philosophical or humanistic beliefs and practices, which may provide support and comfort during difficult times.

The importance of spirituality for health and wellbeing is becoming better understood. Spiritual wellbeing enhances and integrates all other dimensions of health, including physical, mental, emotional and social.

A person’s spirituality isn't separate from the body, the mind or material reality, for it's their inner life. It's the practice of loving kindness, empathy and tolerance in daily life. It's a feeling of solidarity with our fellow humans while helping to alleviate their suffering. It brings a sense of peace, harmony and conviviality with all. It's the essence and significance behind all moral values and virtues such as benevolence, compassion, honesty, sympathy, respect, forgiveness, integrity, loving kindness towards strangers, and respect for nature. Spirituality creates and connects these virtues. It's about knowing, and experiencing deeper meaning and connection behind apparently random events and processes such as illness and an awareness of human vulnerability.

Ways to look after your own spiritual needs

For many people, looking after their own spiritual needs will include activities that help them reflect on their day to day experiences in a deeper way. Just as beliefs about spirituality and religion can be different for everyone, the activities which will help people tend to their own spirit will be personal to them. Some people will use lots of different ways to develop spiritually over their lifetime; others may have one or two particular things which they find most helpful. These might include:

  • going for a walk, appreciating the beauty of the natural world
  • making time to talk to someone you trust about important issues that may be on your mind and in your heart
  • taking part in the worship and rituals relevant to your own religious faith group (e.g. attending a church or mosque)
  • finding ways to explore your thoughts and feelings using art, music, drama or writing
  • using a meditation technique such as ‘silencing’ or spending time reflecting on what is happening to you either alone or with others
  • finding ways to meet others in a relaxed environment to discuss deeper questions that you want to explore

Last updated:
26 February 2020