Studying faith and hope in the face of death

After the recent death of 26-year-old aid worker Kayla Mueller of Prescott, Arizona, who was held captive for months by the so-called Islamic State, her parents released a brief, handwritten letter she had sent to her family.

“I remember Mom always telling me that all in all in the end the only one you really have is God,” Kayla Mueller wrote. “I have come to a place in experience where, in every sense of the word, I have surrendered myself to our creator. . . . by God [and] by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in free fall.”

Her words resonate with what a developing body of research is finding: religion can be a critical resource in reducing anxiety about death.