Like most of the world, I’ve been praying for the passengers of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. Depending upon the headlines I find myself oscillating between being hopeful for their survival, or be fearful of their loss. Either way, I feel that I can eventually accept the outcome, because I personally believe that we are part of a Divine bigger picture – and this gives me a sense of purpose and meaning in life. For me, hope that our suffering will be temporary and justly rewarded in the end, makes it easier to bear trauma, grief, loss, and all of life’s challenges. Call this a coping mechanism or call it conviction, but it helps me get through life.
Numerous studies have been done on the psychological resiliency that spirituality can give to people. Christian faith encourages an absolute trust in God’s grace, while the Islamic faith embraces a complete surrender to His will. Hindu philosophy is dominated by a belief in reincarnation – this life is temporary, and death is a transition to the next life. Buddhist healing takes into account the mind, body, and spirit. The first of the four noble truths taught by Buddha was “life is suffering » -this expectation of suffering leads to an acceptance of it. In Judaism, being part of the Jewish community is central to one’s identity and approach to life.
Hindus and Buddhists regard this life as a transition to the next, so death is just a bridge over to the next life. Christians, Jews and Muslims believe in a hereafter, where good people will go to heaven, so death is a step into another, hopefully better existence. For spiritual people, death is not viewed as a final calamity, but as a natural course leading to something beyond. These various perspectives of how religious people connect with the universe, provide examples of how spirituality helps them live with their problems, not just helping them cope, but actually helping them heal and keep moving forward.
In my experience, my clients who have a deep spiritual foundation are naturally predisposed towards better healing of emotional distress because of their belief in a Higher Being, their feeling of being connected to the universe, and their ability to make meaning of death. Doesn’t this make for a compelling argument for us counselors to address the spiritual needs of our clients?
Does spirituality make it easier for the anguished family members of the missing 259 passengers and crew aboard MH370? I certainly hope so. And for those who don’t have the protective factor of spiritual faith, I pray God blesses them with acceptance, patience and courage.
Charbonneau, C., Clark, N. H., Gall, T. L., Grant, K. (2005). Understanding the nature and role of spirituality in relation to coping and health. Canadian Psychology, 46(2), 88-104.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA