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Spiritual Coping at the End of Life

A Case Study of a College Student

Meisenhelder, Janice Bell DNSc, RN, CNE; D’Ambra, Charae MSN, RN, PNP-BC; Jabaley, Terri PhD, RN

Journal of Hospice & Palliative Nursing: February 2016 - Volume 18 - Issue 1 - p 66–73
doi: 10.1097/NJH.0000000000000214
Feature Articles

This qualitative case study identified patterns of spiritual coping in a personal prayer journal of a 19-year-old woman fighting terminal cancer. A phenomenological instrumental case study approach with a content analysis identified common themes. Three positive clusters were continuous across the time span with equally strong representation: seeking God (42), asking God (38), and thanking God (39). The seeking cluster included prayers asking for closeness and offering her life to God. The asking cluster included solicitations for an ability to follow God and to help others. The thanking theme included expressions of trust, praise, and thanksgiving. The fourth cluster, questioning (17), represented turmoil and distress, coinciding with discovery of metastatic cancer following previously clear scans. The data provide insight into prayers of a young adult and evidence for positive spiritual coping via the mechanism of written prayers in a journal. Implications for nurses include combining journaling with a positive focus in meditation and prayer.

Janice Bell Meisenhelder, DNSc, RN, CNE, is professor, Emmanuel College, Boston, Massachusetts.

Charae D’Ambra, MSN, RN, PNP-BC, is pediatric nurse practitioner, MassGeneral for Children at North Shore Medical Center, Salem, Massachusetts.

Terri Jabaley, PhD, RN, is assistant professor, Emmanuel College, Boston, Massachusetts.

Address correspondence to Janice Bell Meisenhelder, DNSc, RN, CNE, Emmanuel College, 400 The Fenway, Boston, MA 02115 (

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

© 2016 by The Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association.