Post written by Barbara J. Webster, BIA-MA Support Group Leader Liason.
Winter can be a tough season for anyone but it can be especially distressing for a brain injury survivor. On top of struggling with the typical “winter blues,” brain injury survivors are struggling with a fundamental life crisis: who am I and what is my value if I can’t do what I used to do, if my friends aren’t my friends anymore and I’m a problem for my family?
Something you may not realize is that there is commonly a grieving process associated with healing from a brain injury. You have lost much of your “sense of self.” You don’t know how much you will get back and you may not know for a long time. There are often secondary losses as well – jobs, income, homes, friends, even family. These changes and losses all have a profound effect on a survivor, as well as their family and friends.
In order to heal and be able to move forward, it is essential to acknowledge the losses and allow yourself to mourn. The common stages associated with the grieving process are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, but know that processing grief is not a straightforward path. Typically, one moves back and forth in the different stages. Know that is “normal.” Support groups can be helpful, getting in touch with your spiritual guides can help and professional help is often necessary.
Keep in mind that your family members and friends may be grieving too. They have lost the person you used to be and the role you used to play in their lives. They don’t know how much of your former self will return, either.
Strategies that can be helpful:
- Keep a Grateful Journal, writing down three things every day that were successful, an improvement or made you smile.
- Arrange regular get-togethers with friends, even if just to chat on the phone or meet for a cup of tea.
- Spend some time on a hobby.
- Practice random acts of kindness.
- Get some physical exercise, every day.
- Get outdoors, soak up some sunshine and vitamin D.
- Sign up for a class, anything that interests you.
- Think about what is most important to you and how you can bring more of it into your life.
- Keep your perspective, refer to your calendar and journals to look back and note improvements. Celebrate what you can do now that you couldn’t do six months or a year ago.
Remember that you are still the same unique and valuable person inside, with the same loves that you had before your injury. No one and no injury can take that away from you.
Depression, like winter, is usually temporary, but if it isn’t and you are losing hope, please seek professional help. For more information about brain injury or to find support and resources, go to www.biama.org.