Sacred healing stories told at the end of life

J Holist Nurs. 2012 Jun;30(2):69-80. doi: 10.1177/0898010111418116. Epub 2011 Oct 24.


Introduction: Cancer is a challenging disease to diagnose and treat, and oftentimes even with the best medical intervention, it spreads and is deemed incurable, requiring a shift from cure to end-of-life care. This study used a spirituality measure and the PATS© storytelling intervention developed by the principal investigator to better understand the experience of being diagnosed with cancer and being told no further curative treatments are warranted.

Purpose: The purpose of this exploratory study was to implement a storytelling approach to explore the experience of living with terminal cancer. Second, the study documented the presence of spirituality and healing in the narratives.

Method: The qualitative data were analyzed by narrative analysis developed by Riessman.

Findings: Seven synoptic stories were written and later sorted into healing categories. The narrative analysis yielded three themes. There were instances of religion and spirituality found in the transcribed stories. The participants' scores on the Spiritual Health Inventory indicated the presence of spirituality.

Conclusion: Storytelling allowed the seven study participants to share personal experiences and achieve a sense of connectedness and intimacy. The use of the PATS© intervention is a way to facilitate physical, emotional, and spiritual healing and provide holistic end-of-life care.

MeSH terms

  • Faith Healing
  • Female
  • Holistic Health*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mid-Atlantic Region
  • Middle Aged
  • Narration*
  • Neoplasms / nursing*
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Religion and Psychology
  • Spirituality*
  • Terminal Care / psychology*