Updated: Nov 26
I’m the first to acknowledge that not everyone has a spiritual belief or a religious affiliation. However, grief can affect your spirituality without your even recognizing it. Spirituality is loosely defined as what you believe about the universe beyond your finite existence. You don’t have to be religious to be spiritual, and you don’t have to be spiritual to have ideas about what happens to people once they die or what your purpose is on earth.
You can have belief in what science knows about the physical world, and that may be your version of spirituality. Alternately, you may have been raised in a religious community that is very devout, which may inform your spirituality. This post will talk about how grief affects your spirituality, even if you are agnostic or atheist.
Grief can shake your belief in a higher power.
One of the first things you might wonder when someone you care about dies is, “why would God let this happen…” If you believe in God. (Please feel free to insert whatever name you give the omniscient, omnipresent force most people think of when they consider the concept of God).
Even if you don’t believe in God, you might think that something else there is trying to punish you by forcing you to be separate from someone you love. It’s very natural to question your religious or spiritual beliefs during this time. You might think that you have been abandoned or punished by God, or that you cannot trust God anymore. As a result, may distance themselves from organized religion altogether, opting for a more personal, eclectic, or non-traditional spiritual path.
This can be painful and create a certain amount of anxiety. If no one out there is minding the shop, so to speak, what is to prevent someone else in your life from perishing? Anxiety can make you hypervigilant about your own safety or the safety of your loved ones who are still alive. You may seek reassurance that the people who matter to you are always safe, which is understandable but something that no one can really ensure.
You might experience intense anger at God for taking away your loved one, especially when the deceased was young or had to suffer considerably. Grief, especially from sudden or unexpected loss, rocks your world and violates your sense of safety and justice about the world. You may have already wondered how God can let children in poor parts of the world starve to death or why huge natural disasters kill hundreds or thousands of people.
How grief affects your spirituality by making you question your meaning or purpose in life.
You might even question what the purpose of being here is. Along with wondering about why God would let this happen, you might ask what is the point of being alive? Sometimes, loss doesn’t make any sense to you or the people around you. The person’s death might make you question why anything happens, and you may feel existential anxiety and despair. In addition, you may struggle to find meaning in life without the person.
Of course, you are likely to miss them and the ways they were special to you. However, if you find yourself wondering why you should live without them for more than a year, this could be one of the symptoms of Prolonged Grief Disorder. In that case, it is a good idea to seek treatment for the ways you feel stuck in grief.
Grief can bring you closer to your faith and your version of God.
There are those for whom grief and loss bring you closer to God and to your faith. You might find that your spiritual beliefs and prayer are a comforting resource to deal with the loss. You may also feel more connected to the person you lost if you believe that you can be reunited in the afterlife. Believing in the existence of a spiritual realm, which can provide a sense of ongoing connection and comfort.
You might change your religious or spiritual beliefs based on your experience of the loss, which could be a positive thing for you if you find something that fits better than what you were raised with. Alternately, you may become more devout, attending religious services more frequently or engaging in spiritual practices to cope.
Grief can be a transformative experience. It may lead you to embark on a spiritual journey of self-discovery and personal growth. You might use grief as a catalyst for positive change, seeking to live more authentically or to help others who are grieving. It may also give you a sense of comfort if you believe that the person you lost is “in a better place” or at peace.
There are so many ways that grief can affect you and that meaning that you make of your loss No matter how your grief affects your spirituality, it is an important aspect for your healing, even if you are not religious. You are welcome to discuss whatever your beliefs are in therapy, and doing this can help you integrate the meaning into your current life. If you would like to discuss this or any other aspect of your grief, please call me at 661-233-6771.