What Is Spiritual Support?

At Cadence Hospice, we are 'inspired by caring' for the whole person, and we believe that care includes Spiritual Support. We offer high quality, compassionate spiritual care. Our chaplains are a vital part of the services we provide for our patients and families. Some patients and families may hesitate to accept a visit from the chaplain, we hope that the information we share on this page will help you in making the best decision for you.

Spiritual care attends to a person’s spiritual or religious needs as he or she copes with illness, loss, grief or pain.

There is no one definition of Spiritual Support but in general, it:
  • is something everyone can experience
  • helps us to find meaning and purpose in the things we value
  • can bring hope in times of suffering and loss
  • encourages us to seek peace with ourselves, others and what lies beyond.

Spiritual Support is typically the work of chaplains, who work with local religious and spiritual leaders to help provide support for patients near the end of their lives. The goal is to help the person feel comforted, accepted and connected.

Spiritual vs Religious
Spirituality is a dynamic and intrinsic aspect of humanity through which persons seek meaning, purpose, and transcendence, and experience relationship to self, family, others, community, society, nature, and the significant or sacred. Spirituality is expressed through beliefs, values, traditions and practices. Spiritual distress can be defined as the impaired ability to experience and integrate meaning and purpose in life through connectedness with self, others, art, music, literature, nature, and / or a power greater than oneself.

Religion, on the other hand, is defined as “a subset of spirituality, encompassing a system of beliefs and practices observed by a community; supported by rituals that acknowledge, worship, communicate with, or approach the Sacred, the Divine, God (in Western Cultures), or Ultimate Truth, Reality, or Nirvana (in Eastern Cultures).”

Not everyone is religious. Everyone is spiritual. Religion can be the expression of our spirituality, however, just because a person is NOT religious, doesn’t mean that they have no spirituality. Our spirituality needs support, even if there is no religious connection. The Chaplain is there to help define, refine and strengthen the patient's/families’ own relationships with God, fellow-man and family.


The chaplain’s role is the practice of Spiritual Support. The chaplain will help to explore, identify, and work to facilitate or coordinate the feelings of comfort, acceptance and connection. That’s the goal in providing Spiritual Support - that's what our chaplains are trained to do.

  • What is Chaplaincy?
  • Do I need the Chaplain?
  • How can the Chaplain help me?
  • What will the chaplain do?
  • Religious/Cultural Practices/Prayer
  • What is the Chaplain's Chat?
The calling of hospice chaplaincy is unique. The Chaplain will "come alongside" the patient and their family; to be a calming, reassuring presence. The Chaplain’s role is sometimes to speak a fitting word in a timely moment, or perhaps not say anything at all. Chaplaincy is a “joining”. It is the picture of empathy, compassion, and genuine caring.
Chaplains are often asked, "Why??? Why is this happening??" A Chaplain may not have the answer to all of life's questions, but the Chaplain is there to help navigate the way through the questions. To come alongside the patient and their family, to hold them up, to console their hearts, and comfort their spirit.
The chaplain can help by exploring 3 essential components in our ability to cope with difficult situations. These components can be explored by asking these 3 simple questions:
1. Who/what makes you feel comforted?
2. Who/what makes you feel accepted?
3. To whom/what do you feel connected?

This approach helps to define the foundation of our own support system, and helps us answer the question of; “How are you getting through this?” Or “What is it that gives you strength?" For some it may be prayer or faith, for others it may be family or relationships - maybe even their pet, maybe certain music, art, memories, accomplishments, education, or personal experiences - just to name a few. Nothing can compare to that special moment when a patient discovers the strength of their own foundation to feel comforted, accepted and connected.
The chaplain will respect boundaries and provide appropriate care. The chaplain will provide Spiritual Support based on what is appropriate, requested or applicable in each individual situation. Spiritual Care is always based on religious, cultural and personal preferences. The needs and desires of the patient/families are the driving force in developing a plan for spiritual care.

The chaplain will be present. A common misconception about hospice chaplaincy is that the chaplain's role is to deliver the Last Rites or final prayers at the moment of death, but Spiritual Support is not always based on religious rituals or specific prayers. Chaplains have learned all of the religious liturgies and spiritual formalities, but the chaplain is more than a representative of the religious/spiritual community. The chaplain can also be a friend. The chaplain will speak respectfully, listen carefully, think wisely, or sit quietly. The chaplain will be present to promote peace and calm.

The chaplain will listen. The chaplain provides an essential component of Spiritual Support by actively listening to the patient/family's concerns, fears, or anxieties. Feeling heard and cared for relieves stress and reduces anxiety. The chaplain is well trained to offer a variety of interventions, but one of the best tools the chaplain has to offer is to listen.
Religious/Cultural Practices - The chaplain realizes that sometimes Spiritual Support comes through poetry, readings, peaceful meditations, or positive affirmations. For some, these can be just as comforting and supportive as a prayer. Chaplains are trained to provide support at the patient’s level of comfort. The chaplain can incorporate other ministers, volunteers and representatives from various religious communities who are trained, and prepared, to provide the religious rituals and practices in a tradition familiar to the patient. In short, whatever the religious/cultural practices of the patient, the chaplain is trained to help coordinate and facilitate those practices.

Prayer - Prayer is a wonderful tool of connection and can have a powerful impact. A prayer fitly spoken makes a patient feel heard, validates their concerns, and invites the love of God and family to surround them. Every patient/family need to feel heard, loved and surrounded by God's presence.
The Chaplain’s Chat is an online forum designed to provide inspirational, encouraging words to bring hope and positivity to all; no matter where they are on their spiritual journey. It is also a resource for other chaplains who are searching for content to meet their obligations in providing inspirational and encouraging words in their workplace or ministry setting.