The Many Relationships Spirituality has Impacted

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    When we were younger many of us did not quite comprehend all the complexities, qualms, strengths, and weaknesses of our family. But, before you know it, you feel you are an integral part of your whole family dynamic even though you had been all along. As I continue to grow and find my way in this ever-so-changing world, I finally realize how important my upbringing was in building my core beliefs, morals, and values that will remain with me wherever I go and help guide me to healthier decisions not only for myself, but for my patients.

    Spirituality is a concept that has resonated with me throughout my life. To me, spirituality is about love and relationships whether it is the one you have with yourself or the ones you develop with family, friends, co-workers and your patients. It is one word that mirrors my personal and professional goal in life; being a driven person living in the present moment always opened to new ways to enhance my personal well-being and growth. My personal journey of self-discovery has made me understand who I am and who I wanted to become. I will identify some components of my family history which may explain why we act the way we do and how spirituality has a fundamental relationship to nursing.

    Understanding as well as contributing to the structure of my family is something of personal importance to me. Knowing the reasons behind my family structure or family dynamic is crucial when trying to decide how to contribute to it. I believe everyone needs to have a voice in a family, and this is why I am so lucky and proud to be in my family. We do not judge and we always hear the other person, regardless if we disagree. We are a Catholic family of an Italian descent; however we do not attend Church regularly. We are not so much religious, though we are spiritual and still believe in Jesus, have faith, and pray to God in our own ways. My mother always was and still is the backbone of our family, whose presence was never debatable. My mother's advice is priceless because she always allows her heart to guide, which enabled us to learn about our true selves and listen to our intuition.

    We all know the heart is the most vital organ in the body; but it is also so much more than that. Our heart is the soul of our emotional and spiritual existence. As nurses, we need to have an endless amount of compassion. Compassion for human life is unlike any other dimension. We have the capacity of becoming a hero in the eyes of our patients. If that is not the most rewarding feeling and achievement then I am sure to say that nursing is not for everyone. It takes a fine, rare breed to be a nurse. Praising every single nurse in one way or another during my day has become not only routine, but something I take pride in doing.

    I will always cherish the quality of independence that my mother instilled upon me at a young age. It is those little things that actually end up being so powerful later on in life. This has done wonders for paving the way upon entering the nursing field. I am open-minded, approachable, passionate and able to think effectively under pressure-all thanks to my mother. My family is a very verbal group of people who always share what we feel and rarely bottle up emotions. I never had to lie to my parents because I always felt I could go to them with whatever problem I had without the fear of rejection or disappointment. This is the exact way I want my patients to feel around me. One phrase that expresses the type of family we are is "what you see is what you get." Honesty was always a fundamental feature in our family.

    What I especially love and respect about my parents' home, is that there's never a time when it feels cold and disinviting. The household I grew up in had a very warm, genuine, and inviting presence to it. With that being said, I want to make it clear that my family is nowhere near perfect-we can be very loud at times (which is not for everyone), but our Italian heritage mixed with the personalities of my family members blessed us with a tremendous, even overwhelming amount of passion for life and compassion for people-owing to our very big hearts.

    Through constant contact, guidance, and constructive criticism from family members, my family figured out its own way on how to make togetherness work. It also allowed us to function as a team so that we were able to offer one another as much stability and harmony that we were capable of in a very organic way. This is something that I want to bring to my nursing career; making togetherness work is essentially teamwork. Teamwork is so important in a nursing milieu.

    It is intriguing to know that the standards we practice were related to and adopted by our ancestors. Sunday dinner starting no later than 2pm is a tradition that has been passed down. We usually get together with my mother's side of the family for holidays. However, March 18, 2005 marked a very tragic family event. My aunt Donna, my mother's only sister, died of Breast Cancer at 51 years old. She battled the disease for many years but then was in remission. When the cancer insidiously returned, it not only was in her breast, but rather had spread to her brain and many other organs. This continues to be a very heartbreaking loss our family encountered; no more Aunt Donna, no celebrating the holidays with her, and no time to catch our breath.

    Three months to the date, June 18, 2005, my very clever, wise, and exceptionally warm-hearted grandfather had passed away unexpectedly. He was driving to New Jersey to get gas, something he often had done because prices were lower there. He then started to feel confused. He knew enough to park his car near a stranger's home and asked them to call for help. Within hours, my adored grandfather had suddenly passed away from a CVA or stroke. My mother loves and has the most admiration for her father. This was always evident, as they both got along very well because of their very similar nature. It is safe to say that soon after these two catastrophic events, my family was in a state of depression; not just a sadness but relatively in a state of shock, denial, anger, depression, and grief. To this day, holidays are not the same; Life isn't the same.
    When we see the word family in the title of an article or a treatment plan, we quickly make many assumptions about its possible content based on our own ideas of what family means through personal experiences and professional training" (Bomar, 2004). This can lead us to either positive or negative thinking depending on how we perceive our own family. Stances on a constructive family dynamic must comprise both "connectedness and uniqueness" (Bomar, 2004). There are many clinical measures and characteristics of healthy families that are currently still being evaluated. "Clinical measures have been developed to evaluate dimensions of family interaction, strengths, coping with life events, and functioning..." (Bomar, 2004).

    Without the support of one another, we would not have gotten through that rough time period. Strengths we never knew existed inside us suddenly awakened, and my immediate family never missed an opportunity to comfort one another. Whether it was just sitting quietly with one another or venting so loud our neighbors could hear, there wasn't anything we weren't willing to do. All of these hardships have made me a better person because I had my family to fall on for support. All of these happenings led to lessons learned and a greater opportunity to utilize our spiritual beliefs. This is what is going to make me a dedicated professional able to evolve in the nursing profession.

    To my dismay, less than three years after my grandfather and aunt died, my maternal grandmother who I am thoroughly connected and close to, suffered a Transient Ischemic Attack (mini stroke). Excluding many of the details, she is immobile, her ability to speak is gone, and her quality of life diminished right before our own eyes. She has a one on one aide that comes over every day.

    My uncle comes over quite often to help with my grandma. My grandma lives with my parents and everyone does such a great job at making a very drastic life change manageable. I have two of the most unselfish and very patient parents out there. My grandmother suffered another stroke about a year and a half ago and is no longer the grandma I remember. I visit her often, but I frequently need to dig up the countless memories we had together to relive the good old times. I have made it my mission to create new memories with her, by treating spiritual needs with the same level of attention as physical needs.

    There is a lineage of heart disease on my father's side and stroke and cancer on my mother's side. I do not have the best odds going for me. My father had Coronary Artery disease and has had two Myocardial Infarctions (heart attacks). He underwent Triple Bypass surgery eighteen years ago due to atherosclerotic narrowing. I was young at the time, so the memory is quite vague. Now that I am old enough to understand what had happened, I see the severity of the situation and it worries me for his sake and for my future health status.

    My maternal grandfather lived life to the absolute fullest; therefore I believe his stroke was predominantly caused by lifestyle factors such as unhealthy eating. The same is true of my father; my grandpa and dad were best friends and truly enjoyed a life spent together eating big, elaborate meals. Put it this way, food in the Italian culture isn't necessarily the healthiest. We are never concerned that we may run out of food. There is always more than enough to go around.

    I have been in the health education/health promotion field for 11 years. My family's health history and my interest in the field helped my family adopt and implement strategies to promote optimal health.

    My brother had a Wilm's tumor at the age of 5. It is the most common form of kidney cancer in children. When many doctors gave my parents a bad prognosis, they still never gave up. They sought second, third, and fourth opinions from highly reputable doctors. My brother only has one kidney but he functions better than most healthy people. He is very health conscious and treats his body entirely like a highly functioning machine. Overall, my whole family is into health and wellness, aside from my father. My father was an avid smoker his entire life. Two months ago he decided to call it quits and has not had one cigarette. I am very proud and I am also keeping my fingers crossed.

    I feel that one of the main notions consistent throughout my life has been about healthy relationships. We have relationships with many different kinds of people; and those relationships differ depending on many factors that are associated with our own belief systems and ways of operating. The basis for the types of bonds and styles I use in communicating with others was introduced in my early childhood and continues to be existent into my adulthood. The way we treat people can be attributed to what we witnessed as children. "Families function to monitor not only internal interactions but also interactions with social, cultural, political, educational, and other systems" (Bomar, 2004).

    Positive relationships between family members has a direct correlation to how we interact with those not in our family. Knowing where we stand in regards to our own spirituality will help us become better nurses. The key to a successful life is having a support system that you can depend on. And with that being said, what better support system is there than your own family who will love you unconditionally?

    Last edit by tnbutterfly on Jun 8, '13
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