Holidays Aren’t All Ho! Ho! Ho! after Brain Injury

Brain Injury Blog

Holidays Aren’t All Ho! Ho! Ho! after Brain Injury

by Marilyn Lash

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Holidays aren’t always bright for survivors and families.

Every year as the holidays approach, I find that I have mixed emotions – and am reminded of what a hard time this was for me and my family after my brother was injured.  I suspect that this is true for many families who are living with a spouse, parent, child or sibling who has a brain injury.  We are expected to be full of joy and excitement but the holidays can also be really stressful for all sorts of reasons.  Unless you are living with the reality of brain injury, it can be hard for friends, coworkers, and even relatives to understand how we are feeling.

In my family, the holidays were always difficult for my brother, Richie – and consequently for all of us.  He not only had a brain injury, but had become mentally ill as well after he dropped out of college.  Because structure and consistency were so important for his daily routine, the holidays threw him all out of kilter.  He became more confused, argumentative, depressed and was frankly, pretty tough to live with for a while.  It was always a relief when January came and we could all get back to “life as usual” – or whatever was passing for “normal” for us in the world of brain injury.

For my parents, the holidays were especially hard.  They would try to keep up a cheerful front for the rest of “us kids” – and later on the grandkids – but their hearts were really aching and we knew it.  Their pain was always there no matter how much they tried to cover it up.

As I look back at holidays past, I feel a special sadness.  My brother is no longer alive.  I remember how hard he struggled to simply make it through the day during this season.  But I also am reminded of his courage because he did get up every day and kept trying no matter how hard it was for him.  I also appreciate that my parents taught all of us the real meaning of family – that no matter how painful, how sad, how upsetting – we stuck together and were always there for each other.  That’s the joy of Christmas.

2 responses to “Holidays Aren’t All Ho! Ho! Ho! after Brain Injury”

  1. Geo Gosling says:

    I suffered a TBI in 1995 when I was 25 years old (I’ll save you the math – I am 40 now), and I find that from Thanksgiving until after Easter, I am much…less happy than the rest of the year. I don’t know if I am clinically “depressed” or not but I am certainly in a bit of a sour mood. I think it is because I am around my immediate family, other relatives, and friends whose lives continue to “move on”; i.e, they get married, have kids, get job promotions, new (and better) jobs, get new cars, etc. Whereas I do not. I am doing the same blankity blank blank stuff I was doing eight, nine, ten, eleven years ago.

    My regular “routines” are interfered with. I don’t like that. Since I suffered my TBI, I need to have routines, which, by the way, is the exact opposite of how I was prior to suffering a TBI.

    The holiday’s also entail being at large family gatherings. I have a hell of a time enjoying those because 1) My speech was affected by my TBI and I have a hard time talking understandably and I don’t have much to talk about since I don’t have a job, wife, kids, etc. All the topics of conversation at the family gatherings. All I have is a cat that pees on the carpet. 2) I get depressed because I remember the holiday’s before I suffered a TBI and how much I enjoyed them. 3)Events, such as Christmas dinner, just wear me out and when I get tired I am…shall we say…less pleasant to be around. I don’t look forward to the holiday’s at all. I look forward to them being over (and baseball season).

  2. Marilyn, thank you for this special look at holiday.
    Holiday blues for people with Brain Injury and their families, like yours, can be difficult.

    Now that my husband is having his 4th Christmas with this brain injury, it has taken such a toll on all of us. Our’s sadness is the fact that we cannot travel far, money for chronic care is astronomical, and my grandchildren are growing up without me. I have never been there for Christmas Eve and it is heartbreaking. My children are accepting, but I know it hurts them as well.

    My husband continues to have health problems, but a positive spirit and joy of waking each morning with a smile. In our life, holiday or not, each day is a gift. There is no way Bill should be here alive and so we enjoy the fact that he is and remind ourselves daily. Happy Holidays to all of you. Ginger

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