Coping with Survival after Brain Injury

Coping with Survival after Brain Injury

John W. Richards, M.S.W., MBA

Surviving a traumatic brain injury doesn’t mean that life returns to “normal” for everyone. Many aspects of life can change for the survivor. Put simply, YOU aren’t the same. A survivor gives tips and information for adjustment, acceptance and recovery.

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Survivors have choices for building a new life after brain injury. This tip card compares negative and positive approaches to coping, recovery, and adjustment of persons with brain injury. It contrasts the value of focusing on the past and what has been lost to focusing on the present and what can be done. It is the beginning of a search for a “New Normal” after brain injury.

The information and tips on reactions, emotions, abilities and attitudes are useful for brain injury support groups as well as individuals. This tip card is a useful tool for discussions with family members, counselors, and peers.

Pages 8
Year 2007


John W. Richards, M.S.W., MBA

Mr. Richards, of Deerfield, NH, knows brain injury from both sides as a professional and with personal experience. He was recently named Brain Injury Community Services Coordinator for Crotched Mountain Foundation. In his new role, he will research, develop and coordinate community-based brain injury services off the rehabilitation center's campus.

Throughout his twenty-five year career as a clinical social worker and psychotherapist, Mr. Richards has served a number of organizations throughout New England including the Center for Life Management in Salem, NH; Lakeview Community Services in Effingham Falls, NH; and Atlantic Behavioral Medicine in Dover, NH; Mentor Clinical Care, Inc. in Boston; and the Family Continuity Program in Plymouth, MA.

Prior to his injury, he was with Residential Resources, Inc in Keene, NH as president, vice-president of operations, director of marketing and development, and director of special projects.

John Richards is well known in the brain injury community as former president of the Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire and as a previous board member of the Brain Injury Association of America.


Your New  Normal

So What Can You Do?

Option #1 – Negative

Option # 2 – Positive

Recovery is a Long Road

Finding Your New Normal




Sample excerpt. Preview only – please do not copy.

Your New Normal

This tip card helps you think about your choices for building a new life after your brain injury.

Some of your losses may be difficult, but you are still alive. You still have dignity and value as a human being. Yes, each day may be (and probably is) a challenge, but you can create a new life that has happiness and meaning.

You, or someone close to you, has had a brain injury or you probably wouldn't be reading this. Very likely, you aren't too happy about how and why this happened, or why it had to happen to you or your loved one. Despite the 5.3 million people in the United States who live with a brain injury, most people have never heard of it until it affects them or hits close to home.

Brain injury has an odd way of attacking your self esteem and self confidence. Maybe you used to consider yourself brilliant, attractive, handsome, beautiful and just wonderful. Brain injury has a way of landing right on your self confidence center. Your worth as a person - both before and after your brain injury - is about more than how well you can do this or that. Don't think of yourself as less of a person since your brain injury because of all the things you can’t do. Look at the love and warmth that you can share. Others may value you for the contents of your soul.

So What Can You Do?

You have a basic choice to make. You had a brain injury. Maybe you had a choice in how that happened; most likely you didn't. Maybe you did something you now wish you hadn't done and could take back - but you can't. That is terrible, to say the least.

Maybe some oddball thing like an unknown medical condition just snuck up on you one day and you went from being able-bodied to disabled with no warning. Or some terrible event that you had no control over just happened....

Whatever the cause of your brain injury, you now have a choice about how to live your life now that you have survived. You have two basic choices to make. Think about which describes you.

Choosing option 1 or 2 is about choosing an approach to your life. Yes, something really awful happened to you. Nobody is arguing that point. Where you go from here is the difference between focusing on the past and what has been lost and focusing on the present and what can be done.

Ask yourself which of the following approaches describes you. Be honest and consider these suggestions to help change your approach to life.

Option #1

  • You can moan, groan, complain, be angry, and spend your time asking WHY did this happen to me? You can be angry at whoever and however it happened. Be angry on a daily basis. Drink and do drugs to escape.

Option #2

  • You can acknowledge and accept that it happened. You certainly don’t have to like it or be happy about it, but acknowledge that it happened and move forward. Do the best you can with whatever you can. Work on getting to your “New Normal” which isn't going to be the same as your “Old Normal.”