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Friday, 28 June, 2002, 01:00 GMT 02:00 UK
Spiritual belief 'helps grieving process'
Cross
The findings could help identify people in need of help
A strong spiritual belief can help people cope better with bereavement, according to scientists.

Researchers hope the information could now be used to target people who have difficulties adjusting to life following the death of a relative or close friend.

The study, carried out by the Royal Free and University College Medical School in London, studied 135 people close to patients at a London hospice.

They found that those who said they had no spiritual beliefs were still struggling to come to terms with their grief after 14 months, but that those who expressed beliefs coped better.


We are not suggesting that an intervention concerning spiritual matters is appropriate for people with no professed beliefs

Professor Michael King

Professor Michael King, of the department of psychiatry and behavioural science, said the researchers had been surprised by the findings.

They had already done a lot of research into whether a spiritual belief helped someone recover from a serious illness and found this was not the case, he said.

But he said that a spiritual belief did appear to help people grieving.

"Most spiritual beliefs whether or not associated with religious practice contain tenets about the course of human life and existence beyond it," he said.

Prof King added that most palliative care units, such as hospices, did try to involve family and friends and that some might include an element of spiritual care in this.

Terminal illness

The findings could now be used to identify people who might need further help and guidance.

"We are not suggesting that an intervention concerning spiritual matters is appropriate for people with no professed beliefs," said Prof King.

"Rather our finding might help in identifying people who are having difficulty in re-adjusting to life after their loss."

The study is now being extended to look into whether people suffering from a terminal illness cope better during their last few months if they have a spiritual belief.

The study was published in the British Medical Journal.

See also:

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