I haven't worked as a nurse yet but I have worked with death and a lot of sadness (working with disabled persons whom are not accepted by society was especially depressing for me).
Do you know whats funny? Don't call me crazy yet but I think, after a while, my unconscious mind automatically tries to clean up the mess created up when it gets to hard for the conscious me to do it by myself.
I explain. I'm not particularly religious but I do, every once in a while, get a sense of spirituality and togetherness from my dreams which seem to restore my sanity and reconnect me to the world.
Example. I've been very stressed out and feeling very dissconnected lately and then, last night, I dreamed I was kissing, embracing Einstein. Now, I don't necessarily beleive in God, but Einstein, I think we'd all agree, is a very unifying, god-like/father-like figure in world history and can it really be just coincidence that this symbole of humanity and peace shows up in my dreams when I'm having a hard time?
AHA! I say.
So here's a hypothesis: Maybe, maybe even when people say that they have no real spiritual or religious coping mechanisms, maybe most people really don't notice how much their unconscious mind plays a homestatic role in giving them a sense of spirituality? Like, we automatically feed on some source of spirituality when times are streeful even if we don't know it. I don't know, kind of Joseph Campbell stuff.
Sorry for straying from the topic: I know u asked for us to talk about how religion/spirituality directly helps us cope, not how the subconscience indirectly goes towards religion/spritiuality.