Overview of Hospice Chaplaincy or Spiritual Counseling

Serving the spiritual needs of people with terminal diagnoses or those who care for them, is a good fit for people interested in providing interfaith spiritual care in a hospice or family/home settings. In Hospice Ministry the minister or chaplain meets people who practice a variety of religious or spiritual paths, sometimes within the same family.  The Hospice Minister must be open to any spiritual beliefs while comforting the patient and helping their families to grieve the diagnosis and other losses that come with illness. In this process the minister opens them to the grace, self worth, and connectedness that can lead to hope.

The role of a Hospice Chaplain or Spiritual Counselor:

  • Offers compassionate listening and understanding to terminally ill patients and their families and friends
  • Addresses issues of uncertainty, loneliness, depression, meaning, and anxiety in times of crisis and challenge
  • Helps patients make sense of what is happening and to develop appropriate coping mechanisms for themselves and their loved ones
  • Provides comfort through prayer, ritual, readings, visualization, or meditation if requested
  • Complements spiritual support provided by others in a patient’s spiritual tradition or community

Meet Rev. D. B. Binzak, Hospice Chaplain

Doug BinzakI heard my call to Hospice Ministry with growing volume during an 18-month period during which three people in my extended family died.  Before that time, I was exposed to the eastern teachings about death through yoga, meditation, and Buddhism. I found myself more open to "practicing" with death to live a deeper life.

My wife's beloved uncle died unexpectedly at the age of 52 just as he was hoping to renew his marriage vows with his wife.  The nurses and doctors were there and, the chaplain was called. I was impressed by how profound these moments were, how utterly real and authentic.  

Afterward, the chaplain told me that he was impressed with how I handled myself in comforting others and that I had a gift for this work. A year and a half later, months after my wife's grandfather passed away, my own father died.  He was in his mid-80's and had several significant health issues that were impeding his quality of life. We went to visit him at the time that my father decided to stop kidney dialysis and go onto hospice.  He lived less than a week longer, but the change in his mood, the many moments of seeing him smiling and laughing, the tear-laden conversations we were able to have, showed the value of the hospice program.

With the strong intention to work with the dying and their families, I started my CHI studies five months later.  I created a practicum experience at a local hospice, where I worked in the office, visited patients, and co-led an outreach program to dozens of local faith communities to discuss methods for engaging their congregations on the issues of death and dying.  Four months before my Ordination, the Spiritual Counselor at the hospice who was my mentor announced she was leaving, and she asked me to apply for her position.  After one round of interviews I was hired, and started two months before my Ordination!  I can truly say that the divine laid out a path and ushered me down it with focus and speed.  

I am extremely grateful for the ChI program, which prepared me so well for Hospice Ministry.  I am constantly challenged to forget myself and open to the person in front of me, to be a safe container for their pain and anguish, and a conduit for divine light, hope, and love to come through.  I give thanks for surrendering to the will of the one Guide, who through this process has put me exactly where I am supposed to be, to help myself by helping others.

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