Spirituality As a Coping Skill for Grief & Loss
By: Leticia Gutierrez, MS,
Research shows that incorporating spiritual coping mechanisms is an effective tool for clients who have experienced grief and loss. Studies also show that bereavement causes spiritual change and prompts people to challenge their own assumptions about human existence. Researchers have also looked at factors like a client’s attachment to God to determine the effectiveness of using spiritually based coping mechanisms for healing. Many articles point out the fact that spiritual coping mechanisms help an array of people from all backgrounds and age groups including but not limited to teens, college students, adults and older adults.
David Balk, a research scientist focused on studying spiritual change and loss, purports that bereavement is a life crisis that we all experience and this experience leads us to undergo a spiritual change or shift. Some people may argue this and say that after a traumatic loss they feel less connected to God. I believe this is part of that spiritual change as well. As eventually anger dissipates and one tries to find meaning. Another important thing to point out is that Balk found that recovery from grief involves cycling between grief work and grief avoidance. Just a reminder to clients that whatever people feel during loss is normal.
Other research indicates that ones level of attachment to God can help “buffer people from depression and grief” meaning that using God and spirituality as a coping mechanism can help people understand loss better compared to those who do not subscribe to spiritual based coping. People that have a deeper attachment to God have “more meaning, greater stress-related growth, and more positive religious coping”. Researchers found that the level of attachment one has to God can help provide greater resilience when faced with traumatic loss or grief.
To conclude, research has shown that spirituality can be an effective coping skill that can be used to heal and find resilience when encountering a traumatic loss. Therefore, if you are someone who has experienced a traumatic loss or has lost someone close to you, using your spirituality as a coping mechanism can help you navigate the grief process with more resiliency and understanding compared to others who do not use spirituality as coping mechanism. If you are interested in incorporating spirituality in your treatment be sure to discuss this with your therapist.
Written By: Leticia Gutierrez, MS, LICENSED MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPIST #111858
Balk, David E. 1999. bereavement and spiritual change.
Ungureanu, I. & Sandberg J. (2010) Broken together: spirituality and religion as coping strategies for couples dealing with the death of a child” a literature review with clinical impressions.
Muselman D. & Wiggins, M. (2012). Spirituality and loss: approaches for counseling grieving adolescents.
Kelley, M. & Chan, K. (2011). Assessing the role of attachment to God meaning, and relisious coping as mediators in the grief experience.
Damaianakis, T. & Marziali E. (2012). Older adults response to the loss of a spouse: the function of spirituality in understanding the grieving process.
Captari L., Hook, J., Hoyt, W.,Davis, D., Mcelroy-H., S., Worthington,E. (2018). Integrating clients’ religion and spirituality within psychotherapy: a comprehensive meta-analysis.