Deep silences: a spiritual autoethnography: reclaiming inner space and silence as a locus of the sacred

Stirling, Ian Robert (2018) Deep silences: a spiritual autoethnography: reclaiming inner space and silence as a locus of the sacred. DPT thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Spiritual matters lie at the heart of a good dying. However, the shape and focus of spiritual care in palliative care has, I believe, shifted away from the original vision of hospice pioneers, such as Cicely Saunders. Assessing the value of spiritual care has become a priority to those who value a ‘scientific’ evidence-based practice. The issue this thesis addresses is whether there is a better ‘artistic’ way to evaluate the care given to dying people.

This thesis describes the current landscape of care and then argues for spiritual artistry, as a way to reclaim ‘inner space’ and ‘deep silences’ as sites of sacred encounters. This radical move takes the focus of spiritual care away from both evaluative endeavours and also beyond the alternative meaning-making and narrative models, which are currently offered. I hope to shift the focus towards a relational spirituality in which greater attention is given to spiritual awakenings. Dying and grieving can both be viewed as the space of spiritual quests. The challenge is to discover a new way of seeing these complex and sometimes chaotic spiritual contexts in which important things occur which sometimes are beyond measurement and communication.

An innovative methodology, spiritual autoethnography, which integrates creative arts, autoethnography and theology, is chosen to pursue this research. In the process of interrogating the silences enounterered in spiritual care at the end of life new insights and understandings are generated. I illustrate the deep silences that occur in times of trauma, shame, cognitive impairment, betrayal and grief, and how understanding these sheds light on marginalised areas rarely the focus of current models of spiritual care. However, the radically new insights gleaned from this research come from the construction of inner space and deep silences as a locus of the sacred. These heuristic constructs, offer a new framework to shape the role of hospice chaplain, and the delivery of spiritual care. In conclusion, spiritual artistry, founded on a poetics, is presented as enabling chaplains to inhabit ‘inner space’ and ‘deep silences’; to say the unsayable and delight in the gifts that accompany griefs. This new understanding of the role of the hospice chaplain, and of the delivery of spiritual care, benefits all those confronting their mortality and their grief.

Item Type: Thesis (DPT)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Spiritual care, palliative care, practical theology, silence, poetics, autoethnography, sacred.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BV Practical Theology
R Medicine > RZ Other systems of medicine
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Supervisor's Name: Walton, Professor Heather
Date of Award: 2018
Depositing User: Reverend Ian Robert Stirling
Unique ID: glathesis:2018-39013
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 17 Jan 2019 08:40
Last Modified: 13 Feb 2019 14:13

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