Pastoral Psychology

, Volume 68, Issue 1, pp 107–125 | Cite as

Moral Injury as Loss and Grief with Attention to Ritual Resources for Care

  • Nancy J. RamsayEmail author


Moral injury can be understood, in large part, as an experience of profound loss and grief with individual and systemic consequences. Through that lens, the author draws on several composite vignettes of veterans and their families situated in faith communities to explore the range of losses that is often entailed in an experience of moral injury and possible characteristics of grief arising from such personal, lifelong, relational, and generational loss. She also pursues the relevance and usefulness of theoretical concepts regarding grief such as ambiguous loss and resilience for understanding and responding to those affected by moral injury and their relational systems. The author also addresses theoretical frames such as intersectionality to illumine how contextual complexities of identity such as race and gender inform our understanding and strategies for responding to grief associated with moral injury. In addition to these theoretical resources, she draws on theological perspectives that are helpful in the face of radical, dehumanizing evil such as forms of lament and the relation between protest and hope. In particular, she explores the value of ritual for practices of care as resources for healing, both for veterans and their families affected by moral injury and for faith communities who may come to recognize their own complicity in moral injury. She also briefly considers the possibilities of public rituals for bearing witness to communal aspects of responsibility in moral injury. The author draws on Jewish, Christian, and Muslim resources for practices of ritual care.


Military moral injury Grief Ritual Ambiguous loss Compassionate resistance Lament Resilience Hope 



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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Brite Divinity SchoolFort WorthUSA

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