By Becky, Tjapkes, MDiv
“I’m not religious.” This is something I hear often as a Spiritual Care Counselor/Chaplain at Harbor Hospice. People hear the words “spiritual care”, or “chaplain” and they think this is something they don’t need or want because they do not go to church or identify with any particular religion. Perhaps they are afraid that a chaplain will try to preach at them or convert them to a particular faith.
My experience is that even those who do not consider themselves to be religious are still spiritual. There are things that they value and that give them a sense of meaning or purpose. There are things that bring joy or sadness. There is a sense of wondering about one’s place in the world. There are fears or struggles that come to the surface when we go through challenging times. These things are common to us all, regardless of our faith or religious beliefs.
When we face a terminal diagnosis – when the end seems inevitable and close – these sorts of questions have a way of coming to the front of our attention. Even if a person is not religious, this can cause a spiritual crisis. This is where a chaplain or spiritual care counselor can help. We come alongside people of all faiths and of no faith. We listen. We accept each person where they are with no hidden agenda. Our goal is not to convince you of a certain belief system. Our goal is to help you to make sense of your situation in a way that is meaningful to you.
In my work at Harbor Hospice, I have had the privilege of coming alongside people from many different circumstances. People of different faith traditions. I love the opportunity to get to know them and to learn about them and to learn from them. Some people I visit have a deep faith. They enjoy listening to hymns, reading scripture, and prayer. Others are not interested in talking about God or faith at all. One person I meet with tells me, “I like you to visit as long as you don’t preach at me.” She gets it. That is exactly what I am there for. Simply to be with her at this time in her life. To listen to the things that are on her mind. To provide emotional, and even spiritual support – all without a mention of God.
Article published in Senior Perspectives May-June 2022 Issue (distributed and published by Senior Resources)
About the author
Becky Tjapkes is a Spiritual Care Counselor for Harbor Hospice. She is a graduate of Calvin Theological Seminary and Calvin University. Prior to attending seminary, Becky worked in the social services field at various nonprofit organizations in West Michigan. She lives near Spring Lake, MI with her husband and has two young adult sons.
Harbor Hospice and Harbor Palliative Care is committed to alleviating patients’ symptoms and providing choices to help the patient achieve optimum well-being. For four decades, Harbor Hospice has provided experienced, compassionate end-of-life care for terminally ill patients and their families, focusing on medical, emotional, and spiritual needs regardless of ability to pay. Serving residents of lakeshore West Michigan, their team of professionals and volunteers connect patients and families with resources to align their goals of comfort and improved quality of life.
Learn more at HarborHospiceMI.org or by calling 231.728.3442 / 1.800.497.9559.