Pastoral Thanatology Program Article on Spirituality and Death

Death is not the end to spiritual people.  Death is a continuation.  Many view death as primarily an end point and something to be avoided at all costs, but death is as part of life as birth and plays a pivotal role in our development.

Spirituality is key in death.  Many may view life in a more materialistic way, but even so, spirituality without a higher end can be beneficial to the dying.  Spirituality and a commitment to something higher or bigger than themselves.  The traditional ideal of spirituality sees this in regards to religion, faith and a God, while others may see it as a way of life, or giving to the greater cause of humanity.  Spirituality allows one to approach death with more dignity and understanding.

Spirituality is key in embracing death and understanding the nature of its role in life. Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Certification


In David Kessler’s book, “The Needs of the Dying”. he addresses five important stages and elements of spirituality. In some cases, death or the news of death bring about this stages and to them the benefits of death open one’s soul.  Spirituality is for the mind and soul, not the body itself.  Death can bring about a healing of the soul for the future existence.

Kessler points out that the first step is expression.  Expression is needed in regards to one’s physical ailment.  One needs to let the anger or grief out.  Many are angry at God for suffering and misfortune or why they have a particular disease.  It is important to express the feelings of death to be able to face them and understand them.  No particular feeling is wrong or right but are catalysts to understanding.

Following expression is a spirituality of responsibility.  One begins to take account of one’s life and begin to understand that not everything in life was everyone else’s fault.  Taking responsibility allows one to humble oneself and identify issues of life that were once so black and white and maybe see that the issues and common factors were oneself.  It can present an important spiritual transformation that without death could never occur.

Naturally following responsibility stems forgiveness.  One does not wish to die bitter and angry but instead looks to forgive. Death can bring broken and shattered families together in forgiveness.  One is able to set everything straight and see things far more clearly than before.  Petty arguments and proud stances become trivial when one is about to lose his or her life.

Acceptance of the death is also an important step in dying.  One may not desire to die but it is important to accept death when no other route is left.  One needs to learn from oncoming death what life truly is.  This is only possible when one faces death and accepts it as part of his or her continuing journey.

Spirituality in death helps one accept responsibility of life, forgive, accept and be thankful for life.

In this, spiritually, one should find some sort of gratitude.  Life is not defined by what was accomplished or how long one lived, but a life is defined by birth and death.  No life is incomplete.  Each life has a certain amount of time.  Gratitude for life and what has been given is key in spirituality when dying.  It cherishes what has been given instead of lamenting what was taken.

Spirituality is important in dying.  It helps one to understand the comprehensive nature of death.  Death is no longer an end point but part of a process and something that is as important to life as birth itself.  If  you would like to learn more about Pastoral Thanatology and the science of dying, then please review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Program and see if it matches your academic and professional goals.