The Vulnerable Self
Keywords:Bereavement, chaplaincy, children, continuing bonds, hope, multidisciplinary team, reflexivity, spiritual care, theology, vulnerability
A sense of personal vulnerability in the face of death is the motivation behind this article. The focus of the research is first, on the lived experience of families facing bereavement in a children’s hospital. Using a qualitative hermeneutic phenomenological approach, the findings identify three key issues: Hope and struggle with God; A new experience of Community; A changed relationship with the child – Continuing bonds. Then drawing on theological resources, the author outlines a response to the emerging issues describing how a theological lens can bring a unique and appreciated contribution to the families’ experiences of loss, namely Theodicy: Sustaining faith and hope; Community: Being in community with God and people and Continuing Bonds: Facilitating expressions of remembrance, mystery and afterlife. Finally, consideration is given to the unique role of healthcare chaplains within the multidisciplinary team in a contemporary healthcare environment which is still negotiating the delivery of spiritual and religious care. The research confirms the valued and unique theological and pastoral contribution of healthcare chaplaincy within healthcare.
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