Spirituality in the lives of people with disability and chronic illness: a creative paradigm of wholeness and reconstitution

Disabil Rehabil. 1997 Oct;19(10):427-34. doi: 10.3109/09638289709166568.


To date, research within the domain of critical life events, coping, and adaptation has been mostly fragmented, outcome-oriented, and neglectful of individual differences. The aim of this research was to add a holistic understanding of the domain by using a creative hermeneutic and phenomenological perspective to understand how individuals with disability and chronic illness survive and cope successfully with their lives in spite of overwhelming odds. The lived experience of 35 informants and 14 autobiographers, who represented a wide range of people with disability and chronic illness, was used as the basis for understanding the phenomenological world of chronic conditions. Through in-depth interviews and autobiographical analysis the results were content analysed and organized into paradigm cases, exemplars and themes. Five factors that facilitated coping and adaptation were identified. The combined elements of spiritual transformation, hope, personal control, positive social supports, and meaningful engagement in life, enabled individuals to empower themselves and come to terms with their respective conditions. An overall paradigm and model of wholeness and reconstitution was also developed, which identified the processes by which people reconciled their outer forms of disability, decay or suffering and discovered an embodiment of their own inner resources and strengths. These experiences led many people to realize their own inherent sense of wholeness and unity, and to experience and integrate a deeper meaning, sense of self, and spirituality within their lives.

MeSH terms

  • Autobiographies as Topic
  • Chronic Disease*
  • Disabled Persons*
  • Humans
  • Philosophy
  • Spiritualism*