Faith often plays a role in how people deal with death, and for hospice patients it’s no different. Kathleen Stock, VNA’s Hospice Chaplain, shares that faith can be a comfort at the end of life, but the experience of faith is different for each patient.
“I think [death] is such an individual thing for each person,” said Stock. “I often say that people die the way they live their lives.”
Some people want to explore death before they die, but some are hesitant to talk about dying with her. The experience of God and the supernatural is often difficult for people to wrap their minds around, and Stock said that it is essential for a hospice chaplain to, “honor where a person is coming from” in their faith journey.
“For me personally and professionally it has been an amazing growth experience to practice in my own religious tradition and my own spirituality to learn from others and to honor their journey,” said Stock.
She shares that death is a topic we don’t want to talk about compared to other big events in our lives, and there is less ritual around death.
“It’s become even more important in some ways for people, especially who are working in hospice, to help people acknowledge that and honor that it’s really important for something to happen [after death],” said Stock. “Faith communities can help those at the end of life feel more connected to others,” Sometimes the religious experience is more for the family than for the patient because the patient is so sick.
Families may worry about who will be at the bedside of their loved one, but sometimes patients need or want to die alone. “Whoever is supposed to be at the bedside at the time of death is going to be there,” Stock said she often tells families. “Often times that’s no one.”
One of the biggest things that Stock tries to do with patients listen intentionally to what it that a person’s important life experience has been without judging their actions.
“There’s not really time in ordinary everyday life to talk about those experiences to delve into those life experiences,” said Stock. “People at the end of life need to process important moments in their life as they near death.”