Developing an appreciation of the rituals associated with various
religious belief systems aids spiritual care-giving for oncology
patients. As spiritual needs such as meaning, purpose, hope, love,
forgiveness and gratitude, or spiritual issues such as fear, anger,
guilt, shame, or sadness are identified, patients may find hope and
comfort in the practices and rituals of their religious beliefs.
Although religion and spirituality are different, the rituals of
religion may be an avenue to the spiritual connectedness with self,
others, and God and help with questions of suffering or an afterlife.
Rituals alone can become mechanical but with faith they can give shape
to the more abstract beliefs one holds. The practice of a particular
ritual can be the means that we outwardly express an inner belief or
prepare our hearts and minds to inwardly accept a divine intervention.
Rituals can point to the sacred, the holy, the transcendent.
Rituals belong to the social life of society. They can remind us of
who we are or to whom we belong. They place a present circumstance
into the traditions of history and those who have gone before us. For
someone that has long been alienated from their religion, a cancer
diagnosis may the catalyst for a return to the practice of one's
faith. A life review may remind a patient of times of religious
support or meaning. Oncology nurses can assist in mobilizing
spiritual resources as they are familiar with the rituals of one's
religion. An awareness and respect of the rituals at the end of life
are essential in compassionate caregiving and will have continual
effects as they may help to meet the spiritual needs of loved ones who
are left to grieve, mourn and find meaning in their loss.