An existential-phenomenological investigation of the experience of "feeling grace" in being of service on a volunteer basis to the terminally ill

  • Gowack P
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Abstract

This dissertation uses an existential-phenomenological methodology to focus on the experience of "feeling grace" while in volunteer service to the terminally ill. The literature review examines the concept and history of grace in the Hindu and Christian religions, and how it is perceived in the discipline of psychology. Twelve co-researchers took part in this study; four men and eight women, all of whom had experienced grace though their volunteer service with someone who was terminally ill. They each wrote out a description of their experience, after which, they were each interviewed for further elaboration and clarification to obtain a deeper understanding of their experience. The data was analyzed in a method adapted from the work of Giorgi, Colaizzi, and Elite. The analysis rendered seven final comprehensive constituent themes across all twelve protocols. The seven themes are: Feeling Present in the Moment, Often with Heightened Awareness; Feeling Oneness or Connection, Often without Fear; Feeling Blessed and/or Loved; Feeling Energized; Feeling Guided; Feeling Peace; Feeling Joy. The experience of "feeling grace" while in volunteer service to the terminally ill is characterized as a transpersonal, transcendent, and mystical experience. The results of this study suggest that through the giving or oneself it is possible to experience a feeling of grace, and that the essence of this experience as revealed through this constituent analysis, is consistent with both religious and psychological theories regarding the nature of grace. The results suggest that love expressed through selfless service, at least when being with the dying, can help dissolve the boundaries of ego-self that keep us from the awareness of the presence of grace.

Author-supplied keywords

  • *Assistance (Social Behavior)
  • *Emotions
  • *Experiences (Events)
  • *Terminally Ill Patients

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Authors

  • Paul Gowack

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