To Root and To Rise: Accepting Brain Injury

To Root and To Rise: Accepting Brain Injury

Carole J. Starr, MS

Accepting a changed new life is one of the greatest challenges brain injury survivors face. It’s also one of the most important. Coming to terms with brain injury can mean the difference between a mournful life spent looking backward and a meaningful life spent moving forward.

In this book, long-term brain injury survivor Carole Starr mines her own acceptance journey for nuggets of wisdom to help others. Each chapter contains numerous strategies survivors can use.

This book is more than the story of one survivor accepting brain injury. It’s also a workbook that readers can use to apply the strategies to their own brain injury journeys. The opportunity to think, write and talk about one’s own experience makes this book a powerful resource.

You can watch Carole's keynote speech about resilience (Oct., 2017) at the Vermont Brain Injury Conference! Here's the link:to the video.

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Full Description

When your life has been uprooted by brain injury and you don’t recognize the person in the mirror anymore, acceptance of the new you can seem like an impossible task. This book offers hope for those struggling with an unexpected, unwelcome new life. Accepting brain injury may not be easy, but it is possible. As an author, long-term brain injury survivor Carole Starr accompanies readers on their journey, offering gentle encouragement, hard-won wisdom and numerous strategies that survivors, caregivers and professionals can use. To Root & To Rise is a book you’ll want to refer to again and again.

Many brain injury survivors struggle with reading and Carole is no exception. To help survivors succeed reading this book, Carole made most of the chapters short. She divided the longer chapters into sections, so they can be processed one small chunk at a time. A larger font size improves readability and there are spaces between each paragraph, to reduce the overwhelmed feeling that can come from looking at too much text.

To Root & To Rise is more than a book; it’s also a workbook. The questions in each chapter allow readers to take Carole’s strategies and apply them to their own experience. These questions can be answered on ones’ one, with family members, with rehabilitation professionals, or with a brain injury support group. This format makes To Root & To Rise a powerful resource, not only for survivors, but also for caregivers and professionals.

ISBN# 978-0-9986521-0-8
Pages 226
Year 2017


Carole J. Starr, MS

In June of 1999, Carole Starr was 32 years old, and living a busy life in her home state of Maine. She was building a career as an educator and spent much of her free time playing the violin in a community orchestra and singing soprano in a chorale. She loved to travel and enjoyed spending time with her family and friends.

That life ended in July of 1999, when Carole sustained a brain injury in a car accident. She had to give up her teaching career and her classical music hobby. Carole grieved the loss of her old life and her sense of self. It took her many years to accept her brain injury and the new person she became. She’s reinvented herself by focusing on what she can do, one small step at a time.

Carole now delivers inspiring keynote speeches at brain injury conferences. She’s also the founder and facilitator of Brain Injury Voices, an award-winning survivor education, advocacy and peer mentoring volunteer group in Maine. She wrote To Root & To Rise: Accepting Brain Injury to share her hard-won wisdom about coming to terms with and eventually embracing an unexpected new life. Through these activities, Carole has found a new way to be a teacher. She’s passionate about helping other survivors and making a difference in the brain injury community. She is happy again, even while living with a disability.


To Root & To Rise: Accepting Brain Injury



Chapter 1 Defining Acceptance

Chapter 2 The First Year: If I Knew Then What I Know Now

Chapter 3 Word by Word: The Journey toward Acceptance

Chapter 4 Facing Forward: Overcoming Denial

Chapter 5 Beyond Denial: Lost in the Middle

Chapter 6 Resolutions for Brain Injury Survivors

Chapter 7 Word Power: Change your Words, Change your Brain

Chapter 8 Crafting a New Life

Chapter 9 The Brain Injury Portfolio: Documenting Progress, Pride & Purpose

Chapter 10 Transforming Grief: Coping with Brain Injury Anniversary Day

Chapter 11 Oh, The Things People Say

Chapter 12 In a Different Light: The Power of Humor

Chapter 13 A Glimmer of Good: Finding Silver Linings

Chapter 14 Choosing Gratitude

Chapter 15 If At First You Don’t Succeed, Letting Go May Be What You Need


Appendix—List of Workbook Topics





Excerpt from To Root and To Rise - Accepting Brain Injury by Carole J. Starr

Defining Acceptance

Acceptance is an abstract concept that’s hard to define. What does accepting brain injury really mean? What does acceptance look like? How do you know when you’ve accepted your injury?

Acceptance is a term that gets thrown at brain injury survivors a lot. Perhaps you’ve heard statements like ‘You have to accept what’s happened to you’ or ‘It’s time to accept your brain injury and move on’. Statements like that make it sound so easy. We all know it’s incredibly difficult. The first step in moving toward acceptance is being clear about what it is. Let’s start by defining it.

Acceptance is acknowledging the reality of a situation. It’s about recognizing the difference between what can be changed and what can’t. It’s being able to say—without any internal resistance— ‘It is what it is’.

There are many misconceptions about acceptance. When I first heard the word acceptance, here’s what I thought about it:

  • Acceptance means I have to give up on healing my brain.
  • Acceptance means that where I am now is where I will always be.
  • Acceptance means being resigned to the fact that brain injury has ruined my life forever.
  • Acceptance means that I have to like having a brain injury and to welcome the symptoms into my life.

It turns out that my ideas about acceptance were wrong. Here’s what I’ve learned about brain injury acceptance:

  • Acceptance isn’t a one-time event. It happens in many small pieces over time.
  • Acceptance isn’t agreeing with or liking what’s happened to me. I can wish my brain injury never happened while still accepting the symptoms and their impact on me.
  • Acceptance isn’t giving up on making progress. It’s letting go of trying to get back to the old me. It’s about becoming the new me.
  • Acceptance isn’t the end of my brain injury symptoms, but it is the end of suffering emotionally when they affect my life.
  • Acceptance is knowing that brain injury has changed me forever. I will deal with brain injury symptoms for the rest of my life.
  • Acceptance is acknowledging my limitations—what I can and can’t do—and working with them instead of fighting against them.
  • Acceptance is recognizing when I need help and listening to advice from the people who know me best.
  • Acceptance is letting go of what I can’t control and focusing my energy on what I can control.
  • Acceptance is being ok with where I am right now, even as I strive for more.
  • Acceptance is focusing on what I can do.
  • Acceptance is recognizing that even though my life is different than I thought it would be, it’s not ruined. Life with a brain injury can still be good.
  • Acceptance is a courageous choice I make for myself.

  • My favorite definition of acceptance comes from one of its synonyms: the word acquiescence. It’s derived from the Latin word that means ‘to take rest in’. We’ve reached acceptance when we’ve found our own place of peace, even as the storms of brain injury swirl all around us.

    Defining acceptance is the beginning of the journey. Now that you know where we’re going, it’s time to focus on moving in that direction. The rest of this book is focused on strategies that can lead toward accepting brain injury.

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