Following a phenomenological inquiry that set out to understand palliative care patients’ and caregivers’ notion about spirituality and the engagement of spiritual matters, it was found that there were diverse understandings of these constructs. With the reality of death looming, spirituality became a central focus for some participants. Closely associated with spirituality was the concept of resilience, defined as the ability to cope with adversity that develops following crisis, trauma and loss.
This study aimed to illustrate the development of resilience among palliative care clients and caregivers, explore the relationship between spirituality and resilience, and discuss the impact of spirituality and resilience on the dying trajectory.
Four clients and ten caregivers from across regional and rural South Australia participated in the more extensive study utilising van Manen's phenomenology A secondary analysis of the qualitative data was conducted to address the question, ‘How does spirituality facilitate resilience development? In carrying out secondary analysis, the aspects of resilience were re-examined and re-analysed to generate new knowledge.
In this study, spirituality served as an adaptive coping strategy. The palliative care clients claimed they were able to cope physically with the illness, and the process associated with dying through the aid of spirituality. On the other hand, the caregivers were able to cope psychosocially and emotionally with bereavement, grief and loss because of their spirituality. Spirituality proved to be an inner resource for most participants and a catalyst for resilience development. Findings were similar to reported literature.
Insightful understandings of the many ways used by participants to cope were gained. They remained positive and even hopeful, especially those with strong spiritual and/or religious convictions. The clients and caregivers drew strength from each other and God in coping. There were stories of human resilience in the study; all these need to be made explicit so that others in similar situations might benefit from such experiences.
Spirituality and resilience were connected. Spirituality propelled people into positive actions of coping. Resilience was a means by which the participants could overcome the challenges of life-threatening illnesses. Promoting it should be a critical component of palliative care.