By Darci L. Graves, MA, MA, MPP, Health Power Editor on Spirituality, Culture and Health, and Aging. 


  • Mary started quilting at the knee of her grandmother.
  • From that loving knee, she learned the stories of the generations that came before her.
  • It was also there that she began to feel the larger connection to those before her, when bringing different pieces of fabric together.
  • Mary still quilts, but not as often as she would like – the eyes and hands are not what they used to be.
  • However, when she does thread the needle and feels the fabric before her, she connects with her family, with her faith and ultimately to the world around her.
The Connection of Our Spiritual Threads and Heritage to Our Health

Health is so much more than our hands, our eyes or our runny noses. Our overall health includes physical, mental and social pieces, bound together by a spiritual thread. That spiritual thread is where we find meaning in our lives. That spiritual thread may be gardening, our faiths, quilting at the knee of a grandmother, or other heartfelt and long lived experiences. That spiritual thread helps us to understand and cope with disease, loss and the unknown.     

Despite the importance of this thread, we often neglect it and we certainly forget to discuss it when we visit the doctor. We think he or she would have no interest – that they would dismiss this thread as unimportant. But, the physician, nurse, or another clinician needs to know what that thread meant to you – that it connected you to the outside world – that it is what gets you out of bed in the morning – why you came to the clinic today instead of yesterday. These are pieces to your quilt that your health care providers should, and many would care about, but sometimes may not think to ask you about. Some, of course, do. 

So, how do you introduce this topic during your next visit? You need to think about the quilt that your provider is assembling when he or she is trying to understand your health 

What Parts of Your Spiritual Thread Should You Share?

There are many tools out there for health providers and chaplains to use when conducting a “spiritual history” of a patient. Thinking about that ahead of time may help you to decide what parts of your spiritual thread you choose to share. Some basic issues might include the following: 

  • What things do you believe, or do, that give your life meaning and purpose?
  • Does your spirituality influence your understanding of your illness?
  • How does your spiritual thread affect your opinions or beliefs about your treatment?
  • How would you like your provider to consider, and sometimes discuss your beliefs?

These are just some of the things that you may want to share with your health provider.  In order for providers to give the highest quality and most appropriate care, they must have the complete picture of their patient’s health… including the spiritual thread that ties it all together.

By Darci L. Graves, MA, MA, MPP

Health Power Note
This article is the first in a series of articles by Darci Graves, a Health Power Editor on Spirituality, Culture and Health, as well as Aging.