Adjustment and Acceptance after Brain Injury – Really? By Marilyn Lash

Adjustment and acceptance are words easily spoken

But what do adjustment and acceptance really mean? How does a person and family really adjust to living with a brain injury? How do they accept how the person who has been injured has changed? How do they adjust their lives? Too frequently, adjustment and acceptance are discussed as though they are the final destinations for recovery after brain injury. How many of you who have survived a brain injury have been told, “You just have to adjust and go on with your life.” Or “Stop fighting it and accept the fact that you are different now.” 

Comments about these mythical places called “adjustment” and “acceptance” are not limited to the person who has been injured. Families who are caregivers may also have heard well intended comments such as, “You just have to accept the fact that he/she is different now.” Or “It’s an adjustment and you must change your expectations.”

Really??? How many of the folks who make these comments have walked in your shoes as a survivor, caregiver or family member?

The myth of before and after

Did you really have the perfect house...perfect life before your injury?

Did you really have the perfect house…perfect life before your injury?

It’s too easy to characterize life as before and after the brain injury, yet those are the words that are so often used to describe the impact of TBI.

I doubt that life before the injury was perfect – how many of us really lived in a world of perfect order and relationships as symbolized in the perfect house? 

Did TBI wreck your house... or your life?

Did TBI wreck your house… or your life?

Yet life after brain injury need not be the total disarray and wreck of this house either.

Thinking in such absolute terms of “before” and “after” the injury only feeds this myth that “after” means adjustment and acceptance are natural orderly steps for survivors and families. If only it were that simple!

Hello Goodbye Hello

Janelle Breese Biagioni has walked this path and has an alternative view. She frames adjustment and acceptance not as a destination but as a process for survivors and families with three stages.

Say Hello…

This means reflect on the life you had before the injury, whether you are a survivor or family member. What was important to you in that life? What did you value? What brought meaning to your life? As you think back, reflect on your relationships, your interests, your work, your friendships, your hobbies….the list goes on.

Say Goodbye…

This is the hard part. It means letting go of parts of your previous life that no 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 go.

Say hello…

Only once you say hello and goodbye to your past can you now say hello to the person you’ve become. This is the beginning of who you are now and how your life now is.

No magic wizard to fix your life

No magic path to adjustment or acceptance.

No magic path to adjustment or acceptance.

Just as Dorothy learned when she searched for the wizard in the land of OZ, there is no clinician or doctor with magic powers who can transport any of us back to the life we had or into the life we wish for. Instead, adjustment and acceptance are facing the daily challenge of living with a brain injury and being a caregiver. It can be a long and grueling journey.

But along with the pain and sorrow as you grieve our losses also come the possibility and opportunity for hope and redefining the meaning and purpose in your life.

Do not give up HOPE.

Do not give up HOPE.

As Marshele Carter, founder of Hope on the Home Front says, HOPE means Hang On, Pain Ends.

You will not only survive, but you can thrive.

4 responses to “Adjustment and Acceptance after Brain Injury – Really? By Marilyn Lash”

  1. And neither does your life after brain injury!

  2. Savannah says:

    It does not look like the same house!?!

  3. The invisibility of a brain injury is what so often makes it hard for others to recognize the changes, particularly in relationships such as yours where you met him after his injury. You might encourage him to talk about how he feels he has changed since his injury to have a better understanding of how this has affected his life.

  4. Sara says:

    This page that I just read needs to be read over and over again. The other day I mistakenly said “oh you’re normal now so why do they take you to brain injury groups?”. Wow! I got the shock of of all shocks. My partner stood up to me and told me that “he is not the man that he once was”. It did take me by surprise like lightning and thunder. It was brought up again today. I thought he’d forgotten about that night. I tried to talk about it today and I apologized. He didn’t want to talk. But my point is he isn’t the same person that he once was. I only think he is normal because I met him and started a relationship 4 years after his accident. So while he walks and talks like me there is that ABI that lingers and I so wish I could remember that it’s there more times than not.

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