When a child has been diagnosed with a life-limiting illness or a referral to palliative care has been made, family members may begin to explore or reconnect with their spirituality. There are many different types of spirituality, and many different reasons that bring people to consider the ‘bigger’ questions in life. People can be ‘spiritual’ without being religious, whereas most religions have a spirituality component.
Spirituality plays different roles in people’s lives. Some people don’t see themselves as spiritual while others think about it occasionally. Some might have spiritual practices or rituals, while for others, spirituality is at the centre of their lives and determines their values and guides their decision making.
Spirituality shapes beliefs and brings understanding and meaning to why we are here. It is those things that bring hope, purpose, comfort and a source of strength. It is often through connection with others, nature, or to something that has meaning or is sacred. It can be through religion, prayer, or belief in a God, being, or higher power. It can be through faith, prayer, meditation or time to reflect on your own or with someone else.
When a child has a life-threatening illness it is common for family, friends and community to reflect on the ‘bigger’ life questions - ‘Why is this happening?’, ‘ What is the purpose of this?’, ‘Why me?’. At these times spirituality can provide comfort, hope, or strength, and generally help people cope at one of the most difficult times in their lives. It can also be a time when people become distressed or confused- possibly even question their spiritual or religious beliefs.
Spiritual beliefs will be different for every child and family. It is therefore important that families talk to their palliative care team and other health professionals to ensure they understand your individual spiritual beliefs and how these may influence your decisions throughout an illness, during end of life and death.
Palliative care teams can also connect families to spiritual support services if required. We encourage you to talk with a staff member from your palliative care service if you would like to learn more about this.
The Children’s Hospital at Westmead
The Children’s Hospital at Westmead has a Quiet Room located on Level 2 for prayer, reflection, meditation and services of worship. It is open 24 hours. Further details can be found at http://www.schn.health.nsw.gov.au/hospitals/chw/food-facilities.
Chaplains can be contacted through the switch on (02) 9845 0000.
Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick
A non-denominational chapel is located on the grounds of the hospital that is available for patients, parents/carers, family members and other visitors to the hospital. Chaplains are available for most religions only for in-patients at the hospital, if you would like a chaplain you just need to ask the nurse looking after you on the ward. If you are out of hospital please contact the SCH Palliative Care Service for information about Chaplaincy support.
John Hunter Children’s Hospital, Newcastle
There is a chapel located on level 2 of the John Hunter Hospital. All are welcome to use the chapel for quiet prayer or reflections. There is a daily prayer session in the chapel -9am weekdays. Chaplains are available to visit patients, relatives and staff regardless of religious affiliation.
The chaplaincy service can be contacted 24hours a day via switch on (02) 4921 3000.
Courageous Parents Network