Picking up the Pieces after TBI

A Guide for Family Members

By Angelle M. Sander, Ph.D.

The entire family is affected when a spouse, parent, child, sibling or grandparent has a traumatic brain injury. This guide answers the questions commonly asked by families immediately after the injury and with the passage of time.

  • What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?
  • What Problems May Your Loved One Have After TBI and What Can You Do To Help?
  • How Long Will These Problems Last?
  • How Does Brain Injury Affect Family Members?
  • Ways to Reduce Stress • Will My Family Ever Get Back to Normal?
  • Where Can You Turn for Help?

Emotional trauma is the inevitable partner to the ph ysical trauma of a brain injury. Just as each brain injury is different, so is each family. However, researchers have learned that there are common questions, worries, and fears shared by many families. Yet, too often, families feel alone and isolated as they struggle to find information, locate others with similar experiences, and find someone to listen. As survivors of brain injuries and their families struggle to rebuild their lives, the needs for information and support become even more important.

Picking up the Pieces after TBITBI Picking up Pieces helps families do just that by explaining the consequences and effects of traumatic brain injury is clear language and examples that families will be able to readily understand. It not only explains the physical, cognitive (thinking), behavioral and emotional changes that can occur after a traumatic brain injury, it provides families with suggestions and strategies on “what to do”.

The authors recognize that the survivor is not the only person who needs care. The stress on caregivers can be enormous as families adjust their roles and responsibilities at home. There is a special chapter for families on reducing stress, improving problem solving skills, and overcoming negative thinking.

This practical approach to family education is evident throughout the manual. Whether you are a family in the early days of brain injury treatment or whether months or years have passed, this manual has information that will help you understand the complexity and challenges of living with brain injury.


The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR) and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas are nationally recognized leaders in scientific research on traumatic brain injury. By including individuals with TBI and family members or friends in all aspects of their research, training, and education, they recognize that their voices are important and their views provide critical insights into the meaning of survival. The publications produced by TIRR and Baylor College of Medicine provide information for families, paraprofessionals, healthcare professionals, and peers about the effects of traumatic brain injury and the process of rebuilding lives after brain injury.

Lash and Associates is distributing these publications via free downloadable PDF files. Users may print and download publications and are encouraged to inform others of this resource by referring them to http://www.lapublishing.com/blog/2009/family-guide-tbi-recovery/

Please be sure to cite the title and author for each publication whenever using this material on websites, newsletters or handouts in order to acknowledge the authors and their work. This request also applies to any partial use of material.

This work was funded by Grants #133A980058-01 (TBI Model Systems Collaborative Projects, Angelle M. Sander, Ph.D., Principal Investigator), H133470015 (TBI Model Systems, Walter M. High, Ph.D., Principal Investigator), and H133B990014 (Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Interventions for TBI, Walter M. High, Ph.D., Principal Investigator) from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, U.S. Department of Education. Lash and Associates Publishing/Training, Inc. assists in the dissemination of this information by providing a PDF file for printing and distribution at no cost.


Picking up the Pieces after TBI: A Guide for Family Members
By Angelle M. Sander, Ph.D.

3 responses to “Picking up the Pieces after TBI”

  1. Had Walmer says:

    Gold Mind Meditation Project
    (Transformation: Benefits for fellow head-injury survivors)

    Head-injury is an invisible disability, not easily seen from the outside
    like a wheelchair or crutches. It’s a complex injury to a complex organ, known profoundly from inside. Each survivor experiences a different array of symptoms. Gold Mind Meditation Project empowers you to transform your relationship with this condition to actually thrive through learning the power of mindfulness.

    I speak from personal experience. Returning to college years ago, I was involved in a serious car accident. Jaws-of-Life were required to free me from the vehicle, I got a skull fracture and was in a coma for seven days. My brain swelled in my skull and when I came to I had amnesia, diplopia (double-vision), and severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). In an instant I was not who I used to be.

    Since that time I’ve lived with the challenges of TBI. I struggled to complete my university degree and to get on with my new life – ‘Me 2.0’. I graduated from the university and then within a few years experienced frustrating failure in the loss of several jobs due to cognitive deficits. Often my perceptions were cloudy – I was very unaware of what I could do or be. My friend who is an Occupational Therapist pointed out that this problem was the direct result of my TBI, what that is, and that I can have some say in my own rehabilitation.

    TBI has often been misdiagnosed and thus poorly treated. In expensive and top-of-the-line rehabilitation programs I was taught to learn the ‘cognitive-deficits’ and ‘compensatory coping-strategies’ for of the brain injury. These strategies are well-intended rehab but fell short of knowing and actually addressing my best possible well-being with the totality of this ‘Me 2.0’.
    I had to learn inner transformation for myself. In my own explorations I have learned to sift gold (possibilities) from the gravel of my life experiences in order to find meaning, value and purpose for myself. Meditation is the key.

    I’ve learned mindfulness meditation practice called Insight Meditation. Regular meditation practice helps me be concentrated and focused, capable of sustained attention to chosen activities. With mindfulness practice we take a stand for our inner wellness, at peace beyond the damages of our trauma and change. This is a path of being at peace with and authentic in your life, now. You will be ready to pick up the whatever is next in your life. You can get back benefits in proportion to the time that you put into practice of mindfulness meditation and being more at peace relate to others more effectively, lovingly.

    Mindfulness practice can lead to brain healing (‘neuroplasticity’- the brain can heal itself). I am now choosing to live my life intentionally and more skillfully – making peace with this malady and finding the healing I need in the present moment. You can do this too. Here is the start of a new path for you! Being calm and clear. With Focused thinking, activating your mind’s inherent strengths. Loving the life you live.  Really!
    I lead a training of five sessions for you to learn flourishing mindfulness and continue at your own pace with suggested local resources groups.
    Had C. Walmer hwalmer@gmail.com

  2. Thank you so much for bringing this to our minds eye. This is a great article piece with a lot of information, great content!

  3. Lorin Boger says:

    Hi, I just wanted to say how excited I was to find this link. I will be reading alot I can see. My daughter was involved in an automobile accident a year ago at the age of 18. She was an honor student and doing great getting ready to go to nursing school. Since the accident she has been so moody, manic…and has short term memory loss along with developing seizures. It is very frustrating, and so far the only Dr. who seems to take us seriously is her behavioral therapist. It is a bit of a relief to feel not so alone. Thanks for your information and any help you provide!

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