Culture, spirituality, and illness

Culture and spirituality shape the way you live, how you make choices, and how you find meaning in your life. When your child has a serious illness, it can be harder to live according to your culture and to follow your own religious and cultural practices. Your culture and spirituality will affect your ideas about illness, treatment, and death.

Culture, Spirituality, And Illness

Culture is a term that refers to the values, beliefs, customs, goals, and behaviours of a particular group of people. It includes religion, food, clothes, language, and how we act with other people. People who live in Italy have a different culture than people who live in Iran. It’s also true that people who live in a big city have a different culture than people who live in a small town. 

Each person and each family also has their own individual way of seeing themselves. They have different ways of understanding and relating to others and to the world around them. Culture is shared by members of the same social group, but it feels different and has different meanings for each person.


Spirituality refers to the ways that people look for meaning and purpose in their lives. It’s about the way they feel connected to others and to something bigger than themselves. Some people think about spirituality in terms of religious beliefs, while others have spiritual ideas or experiences even if they do not have religious beliefs. Religion is an organized set of beliefs and practices that includes spirituality. It is usually shared by a community or group.

When your child has a serious illness, you, your child, and other family members may have difficult questions that have no easy answers. You may wonder about suffering, hope, death, and the meaning or purpose of your life. You may have a firm belief in life after death or you may struggle with questions about what, if anything, happens after death. You may try to reconcile what you believe about life and death and how you feel about your child’s life coming to an end. The ways that you think about all these issues is shaped by your sense of spirituality, whether or not you are religious.   

“I am a person of very strong faith. I don’t see bad things that happen in the world as punishments. The God I know is a God that truly loves me and everyone around me. I know that my God was weeping with Jack, Wendy, Bailey and I at that moment. I am very grateful that my faith says that we as human beings don’t get to understand 100 per cent of everything that happens to us in this world. There are mysteries beyond our control.” – Steve, father of jack

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