Questioning God in the Midst of Illness
“I find myself doubting and questioning my beliefs and that is a very scary thing to be going through right now when I really need something to hold on to.”
What sets us apart from other living creatures is that we have a body, mind and spirit. When we are sick, all three aspects of who we are need care and attention. When you have a child diagnosed with a serious illness, your spirit is wounded and shocked by the news, your body has a reaction and your heart and mind spins. Your views on life and living are seriously challenged, if not shattered, at least for now. After receiving news of a serious diagnosis, people often experience post traumatic stress disorder and few would argue that the moment is not traumatic. The reactions are described as quite visceral, distressing and visual. Nothing magically fixes any of this, nor is there any word or gesture, medicine or treatment that makes the wounded spirit suddenly heal.
Most people have some kind of belief system; a way of looking at their lives, the meaning of their own existence, and a connection to something outside of themselves or a higher power. This view or connection will become a lifeline for many parents and children as they engage in their most challenging life circumstance. The very questions first asked are often spiritual ones. Why is this happening to my child? Why now? What does anyone do to deserve this? Where is God right now? How could God do this?”
These feelings are surely a cause for suffering and spiritual suffering for some. Relieving this kind of pain requires thoughtful quiet reflection, time alone or intimate conversations with family, a spiritual advisor or chaplain, and even yourself. You can start by asking yourself some of these questions.
- What has comforted you in past hurts or difficulties?
- How have you relieved heart and soul pain at other times of difficulty and deep distress?
- What can you do to restore your hope, resiliency and outlook that will serve you as you confront your child’s illness and begin the process of getting through it?
You may have a new life view that is the result of having lost (even temporarily) sources of meaning, hope, peace, comfort, strength and connections to life. Beyond words and definitions, how do you find peace in your heart with what has come into your life? Can you search for and create some way to find meaning in this trauma for you, your child and your family in ways that support healing, wellness and recovery cure?
Thinking about what spirituality is may help you find strength from within and from others.
Spirituality has been defined as a dynamic, living process that:
- Reflects and expresses human spirit as well as an attachment to values of spirit;
- Incorporates a sense of hope, self-worth, meaning, purpose and interconnectedness with others;
- Incorporates a sense of unconditional love, acceptance, forgiveness, presence of relationship and trust;
- Can be experienced as a connection with a higher power/being, nature and others and can feel they are living with a sense of freedom and destiny.
Spirituality has meaning for both individuality and communion, community of others, of needing both separation and being with others at times.
Religion is a more formal way of connecting to ones belief system, through a more organized group, worship and structure. For many, this brings an enormous comfort and source of support through ritual, sacred writings, community, tradition and familiarity. To others, it has no little or no role and may even be contradictory to what they value.
If it is important to you, now is the time to consider how faith may also play a role in your life, your loved ones or your children. It may be interpreted and valued uniquely by each of you. If religion has played a role in your life, even in the past, there may be a treasure of help that can be renewed or rekindled.
Your child’s care team will have a chaplain that can assist you in making a new connection, bridging the gap from a past one, helping to moderate a conversation that will yield some needed peace and comfort to you and your child as well during this time. Belief systems often have ways of identifying hope, sources of hope or helpful ways to look at situations to claim hope for your child.
Regardless of what your belief system is, you deserve to have all the support, respect and guidance available in your setting to strengthen your resolve to find hope, strength, courage and comfort. It is a basic right that you as well as your child will be cared for in a dignified manner that is indeed respectful of your spirituality, the meaning you find in this experience and how you see it through that belief system.
Despite your child’s diagnosis , there may well be moments of extraordinary splendor and love, joy and celebration that are beyond your words. This is the spiritual part of your lives. The deep fears and darkness you may feel now, may be lifted to some degree by seeking and embracing the insight and comfort your beliefs can offer. Hold on to them and allow them to feed you in ways you need for this journey and transformational period of life. You are not alone.
Article contributed by Liz Sumner, RN, BSN
Palliative Care Coordinator, The Elizabeth Hospice
Children’s Hospice & Palliative Care Coalition www.CHPCC.Org