The Vulnerable Self


  • Carol Campbell Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board



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.

Author Biography

Carol Campbell, Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board

Carol Campbell is lead chaplain of the Clyde Sector of Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board. She has a background in nursing and counselling and is currently working towards a diploma in Pastoral Supervision and Reflective Practice. She graduated in 2014 with a PhD which looked at the unique role of the hospital chaplain in delivering spiritual care to people bereaved by the death of a child.


Bruegemann, Walter. The Message of the Psalms. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 1984.

Graham, Elaine, Heather Walton and Frances Ward. Theological Reflection: Methods. London: SCM Press, 2005.

Killen, Patricia O’Connell, and John de Beer. The Art of Theological Reflection. New York: Crossroad, 2007.

Moltmann, Jurgen. Sun of Righteousness, Arise! London: SCM Press, 2010.

Robson, Colin. Real World Research. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2002.

Streubert, Helen J., and Carpenter, Dona Rinaldi. Qualitative Research in Nursing. Philadelphia, PA: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1995.

Swinton, John, and Harriet Mowat. Practical Theology and Qualitative Research. London: SCM Press, 2006.

Tacey, David. “Contemporary Spirituality.” In Oxford Textbook of Spirituality in Healthcare, ed. Mark Cobb, Bruce Rumbold and Christina M. Puchalski, 473-479. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Van Manen, Max. Researching Lived Experience. Canada: The Althouse Press, 1997.

Veling, Terry A. Practical Theology: On Earth as it is in Heaven. New York: Orbis Books, 2005.

Walter, Tony. “Spirituality in Palliative Care: Opportunity or Burden?” In Palliative Medicine 16(2) (2002): 133-39.



How to Cite

Campbell, C. (2014). The Vulnerable Self. Health and Social Care Chaplaincy, 2(1), 13–40.