Marriage and Traumatic Brain Injury: A couples’ journey


Bill and Ginger GaitorPosted by Ginger Bristow Gaitor

December 2, 2010 

My husband Bill has a traumatic brain injury, associated with medication adverse reaction in combination with major depressive disorder.

Since January of 2006, after he entered the hospital, and was deemed lucky to be alive 5 different ways, I have been by his side.  That is almost five years.  Hospitalizations and crises concern our friends and people we know. But they look at this in small doses: three days here, four weeks there, etc.

Husband and wife caregiver and survivors are rare, but becoming more common daily. And with the aging population of baby boomers, Medicare and Medicaid funding problems, society is in for a big surprise.

As a wife caregiver, 24/7, I can tell you that this is a huge commitment, not to be made lightly.

My counselor is working with me to look at the losses both my husband and I have been through. She uses the grief method of Elisabeth Kubler Ross, whose ideas on grief in dying and loss are well accepted these days.

I should say my counselor would like to have me focus on these stages and this process but I am very resistant. I will be honest here.

I would look at this if I had a problem, none exist!  (Stage 1: Denial)

Besides, what business is it of hers anyway, and it really frustrates me! (Stage 2: Anger)

I’ve already made a deal with God if He will just let Bill get well, we’ll be fine! (Stage 3: Bargaining)

Big sigh and swallow. (Stage 4: Depression and sadness, both of which are repressed constantly)

Who knows where all this is going, anyway! (Stage 5: Acceptance. This does not seem to be too much involved in the picture just now.)

I would like to go through each of these stages with you as a blogger, and share my feelings, and hope to come through it as both a better caregiver and wife. And to offer each of you some insight into what I am doing right, and where I am going wrong.

To tell you the truth…that’s twice so far in this short article, I am scared to death. What if I am not up for the task of caring for a man with a severe brain injury? For you to understand I will have to fill you in on his losses before I give you mine.

Please join me next time, as I do just that. Ginger

7 responses to “Marriage and Traumatic Brain Injury: A couples’ journey”

  1. Ginger says:

    To Dawn: I am so sorry to hear about your injury. I hope it will help. It is not very easy to accept many of the feelings involved in grief, and it sounds like you and your husband are managing them together. Hats off to you. Let me know if the next segment is helpful for you.

  2. Ginger says:

    I am so sorry to hear about your injury. I hope it will help. It is not very easy to accept many of the feelings involved in grief, and it sounds like you and your husband are managing them together. Hats off to you. Let me know if the next segment is helpful for you.

  3. michele says:

    What a wonderfully introspective post; it inspired me to look for other articles on this topic. One article notes: “The combination of advances in medical diagnosis and treatment, along with an expected wave of millions of baby boomers entering old age, means that there will also be millions of Americans who will find themselves playing the role of caregiver” – exactly the reality expressed here. I look forward to reading more about a role that we all, in one way or another, will play.

  4. Pete says:

    Ginger, Bill is so very lucky to have you. Unfortunately, the caregiver also becomes a victim of the spouse’s TBI, also, in almost all cases. The grief that you feel is the grief that anyone would feel after loosing a loved one. The stages are almost identical. It is imoportant that you keep up with the counseling, and try to find time to do things like this where you can share with other people going through the same things as you.

  5. Janice says:

    As I’ve been reading Ginger’s blogs for a while now, I am finding out just how strong my friend of many years really is. Even though I am not caring for a brain injured person, I have learned much about how to put life challenges, which we all have in varying degrees, in perspective.

  6. Pamala says:

    I think this is a vital issue and you are presenting it so well. It is concise, strong and honest! I look forward to more insights and information from you.

    As you said, many of us have experienced this or will in the coming days. We need all the help we can get.

    Thanks for sharing your important story. Please know many are with you!

  7. Dawn says:

    God bless you. I am a survivor. My symptoms hid behind our ignorance until after my marriage. A back injury sped up and brought to light the true toll the head injury had taken on my mind and body for the last 2 decades. My poor husband had no clue what he was in for. Had I known, I would not have married the poor guy. He went from a loosy-goosy lifelong bachelor to a man who wakes up and goes to bed worrying about me and trying to figure out how to make my life better. I think all of this is harder on the caregiver. We have to deal with this, you are doing it out of love, choice, and sometimes obligation. Those of us with spouses caring for us are the lucky ones, we just have to deal with the guilt of dragging down your quality of life. Nothing you say or do can make is not feel that way. I cannot wait to follow your blog. Thank you for it – it will help!

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