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Support Care Cancer. 2002 Nov;10(8):637-46. Epub 2002 Jul 10.

Creating a language for 'spiritual pain' through research: a beginning.

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  • 1Leukaemia Foundation's Psycho-social Research Program, Department of Religion, School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia. pam.mcgrath@bigpond.com

Abstract

The findings presented in this discussion seek to make a contribution to fostering an appreciation of the importance of research on spirituality, a previously neglected dimension of health care. Qualitative research methodology based on open-ended interviews with 12 survivors of haematological malignancies was used. The interviews were transcribed verbatim and thematically analysed using the NUD*IST computer package. The preliminary findings from the study indicate a need for the development of a new language for articulating spirituality. The present discussion is an introductory attempt to begin to explore the notion of, and language for, the idea of 'spiritual pain'. The findings indicate that individuals need a strong sense of meaning-making and connection with life to be able to deal with the demands of aggressive, invasive treatments. Such a connection can be threatened by a break with the normal or expected relationships and satisfaction with life through physical, identity, relational and existential challenges and losses. When the disconnection is acutely painful (a subjective phenomenon depending on the individual) it then is experienced as spiritual pain, creating a void that challenges the individual's ability to derive any meaning from their existence. This study is seen as preliminary work, the first step in a series of articles aimed at beginning to develop, through research, a language of spiritual care.

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