Existential and spiritual concerns in dying patients' narratives (2010–2015)

This postdoctoral research generated knowledge about which existential and spiritual issues are experienced as significant for people living with incurable cancer.

Central research questions were: What strategies of support do people make use of when incurable cancer occurs? What are people’s viewpoints about God when life is threatened? Which (if any) biblical texts are experienced as significant, and which are not?

The project enrolled 14 adults aged between 32 and 78 (ten men and four women), all of whom regarded themselves as having a Christian view of life, all diagnosed with advanced incurable cancer, and all receiving palliative care. None of the interviewees were terminal at the time of the interview. The complex ethical and methodological issues of such a study were dealt with continuously.

The empirical research material shows first that the religious source of the Bible is experienced as significant. The interviewees link their illness story and life story to the broader biblical story and feel grounded in and supported by its message. Secondly, biblical texts about comfort, hope and future are emphasised – to the exclusion of texts that ask why-questions to God and texts about lament, suffering, illness and death.Thirdly, their different viewpoints about God in relation to own illness reveal a community effect in the interview material: The ways in which the interviewees reflect about God seem to mirror the underlying theology they are subject to in their respective communities of faith.

Principal Investigator: Marta Høiland Lavik

Dissemmination: There have been several publiations emerging out of this project.