Relationships after TBI and how to improve them! by William C. Jarvis, Ed.D.

A new life after brain injury

Relationships matter

Relationships matter

Adjusting to your new life and interacting with people is a common problem following a brain injury. There are reasons why relationships after TBI are so difficult. The first obvious outcome always results in the Survivor not being the same after the injury. Friends and family expect the same person in personality, temperament, and general reaction to events of everyday living.

Everyone has everyday problems to deal with – whether injured or not. Examples include daily shopping, a cold, house problems, car repairs, general personal illness, cleaning the house, and general personal interactions; etc. They are compounded by other difficulties for the Survivor like motor movement, communication, extreme fatigue, and other daily specific symptoms unrelated to normal living. The injured person is different in thinking abilities and physical abilities. The Survivor therefore lacks the same coping skills in life as before he/she was injured.

Normal is deceiving

People forget the Survivor is disabled because he/she may appear so normal. This is often the case. That is why the injury is often called invisible. Of course many times walking or hand/arm ability is evident, but there may not be clear evidence of cognitive clarity. Also, there may be definite psychological compromises to acceptable personal interactions that are not evident until a response from the Survivor.

People don’t really understand these problems because they haven’t experienced it!  A Survivor may appear to be handling life well, but people do not see the extraordinary effort it takes to make it look that way. A Survivor may be performing routine requirements of life; however, the many daily routine tasks are more challenging than anyone can imagine.

Focus on improvement not failure

Finally, because interaction is more difficult, people interact with a Survivor less and this separation makes continued relationships strained. All this gives a justification to the

Togetherness is possible

Togetherness is possible

difficulties of relationships after TBI. There is a strategy for improvement in this challenge. Like many strategies, it is not perfect, but offers promise and hope for the Survivor.

The best approach to this common challenge is so obvious it is often overlooked and thought not relevant. No matter how difficult, never give up and always move forward.  Engage with life more than people at first; then, slowly include more people into your activities and interactions as you heal. Realize that relationships can be extremely challenging and discouraging. Keep working at them as you learn to cope with your own limitations.

Always have a plan for improving. Think about each bad encounter and how you could have made it better. Without a plan and desire to improve, you will remain the same no matter where you are in your recovery. Realize that recovery is a process and will take many failures. Learn from the things that go wrong and always do better the next interaction you have. Write down your successes and the dates.  A person will find successes become more frequent when concentrated on as a daily goal. Never give up!

7 responses to “Relationships after TBI and how to improve them! by William C. Jarvis, Ed.D.”

  1. […] longer exist. You may be leaving behind concrete things like a job, college or travel. It may be relationships that have changed. It may be activities and interests that you let […]

  2. Mary Ann Lathus says:

    Thank you for reminding me that we aren’t alone. One year post stroke for my husband at age 41 has us feeling like we could really use guidance in the form of groups or counseling. Thanks again

  3. Cathy says:

    Thank you so much for your words. The blurb under “normal is deceiving” is and has been my most difficult issue. I had a massive stroke at age 50. I received T-pa and experienced a miraculous recovery on the outside. This resulted in everyone, including my neurologist and self assuming I was healed. I jumped back into life ASAP. No one mentioned the possibility of residual cognitive damage. I couldn’t understand why everything was so difficult. Counting money, telling time, reading, speaking, everything left me exhausted. It has taken me 11 years to feel close to myself again.

  4. Cali Minich says:

    Bil,l you are making a big difference in all of our lives. Thank you!

  5. Cali Minich says:

    Thank you Bill for clarifying many of our questions. Communication has always been my problem. My accident occurred 38 years ago. At that time people said I looked like a million bucks compared to my car which was totaled. Little did they know the real injury was inside my head. My TBI snowballed my communication problem. But I never gave up believing that I had something special to say. If I do nothing else, I take satisfaction in the realization that every loving act changes the world for the better. One small gesture can make someone else’s day beautiful For no reason at all, do a kind thing for someone.

  6. Hi I have a brain injury due to a brain hemorhage and find it very difficult coping with the trauma of the effects of my brain injury.My family has no understanding of my trauma.My life has changed big time.

  7. I have a Tbi and I just read this piece and think it’s very good thanks

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