Chats with the Chaplain: Finding Peace At the End of Life

A cross hangs from a Bible in front of a sunset.

Transitioning to hospice care can be one of the hardest challenges of our lives. Hospice patients often have anxieties about dying, leaving loved ones, and what happens after death. 

How can you or a loved one find peace during this final season? 

Chaplain Bill Niebuhr of Seasons Springfield shares how hospice chaplains provide spiritual care at the end of life and help patients find assurance in God’s promises.

Facing Our Mortality

Our bodies have limits. Physician and author Atul Gawande describes being mortal as a struggle to cope with the constraints of our biology. Science gives us the ability to push against these constraints in many ways, but this power is limited. Hospice meets people who are coming to this realization.

“We are meeting with people who are making the shift from pushing against their limits to making the most of them,” says Chaplain Bill. “It takes courage to confront the reality of one’s mortality.” 

Learning to cope with our limits without illusion or denial is easier said than done. Yet, it’s something many of us may have to do in the end.

Harnessing the courage to face our limits can give us a greater sense of wellbeing. It also opens the door to internal reflection, which can help us make the most of the time we have left.

Negotiating Overwhelming Anxiety

What’s the process of dying like? What will happen to my loved ones when I’m gone? Is there life after death? Will I continue to be in pain? Hospice patients often experience overwhelming anxiety because they face many unknowns.

For Chaplain Bill, helping patients cope with these anxieties may come in the form of a conversation, prayer or passage of scripture. 

“Our prayers don’t have to be fancy words. God understands our sighs and our groans. He hears them, and He cares,” says Chaplain Bill.  

God knows our hearts and the struggles we are facing. Praying over your anxieties and fears—in whatever way you are able—can help you focus on what’s important and find peace in your final moments.

What’s Important to the Patient?

Hospice teams help patients negotiate anxiety by simply being there for them. Our chaplains and caregivers listen to your fears, hopes, regrets and goals, while offering to pray about them with you. 

Chaplains are an advocate for the patient. “We explore what’s important to them with the time they have left,” says Chaplain Bill. “And we help them follow those wishes.”

Hospice patients may want to:

  • Tell their story through a life review. 
  • Give some final wisdom.
  • Pass on a family heirloom or cherished possession.
  • Settle relationships.
  • Establish a legacy.
  • Reconnect with God.

Our team helps patients explore their final wishes and come to terms with their closing chapter. 

Joining Together in Fellowship 

Some patients may be unsure of where they will go after death. If you have faith in Jesus, you have assurance in everlasting life. It is not just a hope but a reality. 

In the Bible, John says: I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 13)

Chaplains can help guide you to the Lord if you wish to receive Him or join you in fellowship as you find comfort in the promise of everlasting life. 

“I often pray to let a little light of heaven shine into their heart. That God will warm their heart with His love and they’d sense His presence,” says Chaplain Bill.

Helping Families Find Peace

When we begin the process of actively dying, our focus tends to shift from spending time with family to being comfortable. As an advocate for the patient, hospice chaplains help families let go of their expectations and accept that it is better for the patient to be comfortable—even if it means seeing their loved one withdraw from them.

“I might remind them of how good of a marriage they’ve had. Or what a wonderful family they’ve had and the time that they have had together. I’ll remind them what the patient wants,” says Chaplain Bill.

For those with faith, take comfort in God’s promise that your loved one will soon have a new body and everlasting life. Remember that nothing—not even death—separates us from God’s love.

Faith-Based Hospice Care

Our team at Seasons Springfield empathizes with your feelings and fears. As a faith-based hospice, we believe that healing for your spirit is just as important as comfort care for your body. 

We offer spiritual support for the patient and their loved ones during hospice and for a minimum of 13 months after the patient has passed. Together, we help patients and families on their journey to finding peace in the final season of life. 

Would you like to know more about spiritual support and hospice?

Contact Seasons Springfield today for more information about spiritual care at the end of life. 

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Seasons Hospice is an independent community health care provider, not a large for-profit organization. We would not be able to offer our hospice services if we did not have the support of passionate community members who understand the importance of cost-free hospice care. To simplify the hospice process for patients and families, we rely on the generosity of our donors.