Helping Sons and Daughters: When a parent has a brain injury

Helping Sons and Daughters: When a parent has a brain injury

Marilyn Lash, M.S.W. and Janelle Breese Biagioni

Children often feel lost and abandoned while family members spend long days and nights at the hospital. A parent’s absence from home changes the child’s world. This tip card helps family members recognize the needs and emotions of children when a parent has a brain injury. It gives tips on how to communicate with children of all ages and what to expect when mom or dad comes home.

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Full Description

Tips help families and professionals understand the grieving process, emotions and reactions of children when a parent has a traumatic brain injury.  Discusses how understanding and reactions differ by child's age from preschoolers to adult sons and daughters.

Gives suggestions for helping children cope with absences due to hospital care and rehabilitation treatment.  Has tips for helping children prepare for and adjust to parent’s return home.

Pages 8
Year 2005


Janelle Breese Biagioni

An author, international speaker and long-standing advocate for families and survivors of brain injury, Janelle Breese Biagioni knows first hand the stress and challenges of trying to be a parent to two children while simultaneously being a wife and primary caregiver to a husband with significant cognitive, behavioral and emotional challenges following a traumatic brain injury. Her personal experience led her to earn a Certificate in Death and Grief Studies at the Center for Loss and Life Transition in conjunction with Colorado State University. She speaks and writes frequently on bereavement and coping strategies for families affected by catastrophic injury with workshops and presentations on grief and loss at conferences and on television and radio.

Marilyn Lash, M.S.W.

She is a Founding Partner and President at Lash and Associates Publishing/Training, Inc. in Wake Forest, NC. Author of many publications on the psychosocial impact of brain injury, her writing and training emphasize coping strategies for families and practical interventions by professionals and educators in hospitals, rehabilitation, schools and community programs. Ms. Lash is on various national task forces on brain injury and editorial boards of rehabilitation journals. She is the Past Chair of the Brain Injury Association of North Carolina and current Chair of the North Carolina Statewide Advisory Council on Traumatic Brain Injury.


This tip card helps family members and professionals…
  • understand the grieving process
  • help sons and daughters cope
  • prepare for visits in the hospital
  • adjust to changes at home
Life Changes Forever
New Responsibilities
Importance of Communication
Age Matters
Helping the Younger Child
Helping the Youth or Adolescent
Helping the Young Adult

Hospital and Rehabilitation
  • Tips for families on helping children visit
  • Tips for families on helping children cope
  • Tips for health care professionals at the hospital
Back Home and in the Community
  • Tips for families when the parent comes home
  • Tips for families on talking with friends and peers
  • Tips for professionals on getting help for families
Helping the Child at School
  • Tips for school staff


Sample excerpt. Preview only – please do not copy.

Life Changes Forever

Sons and daughters often say that, “No one else understood” what it was like after their parent’s brain injury. They describe long days and nights of uncertainty, loneliness, and fear that a parent might die. With the joy and relief of a parent’s survival comes uncertainty about the future.

A child needs to grieve the loss of the known or idealized parent. Grief is not dependent on our ability to understand, but rather on our ability to feel. If a child has the capacity to love, the child has the capacity to mourn. Grief is a process – not an event. There is no time limit and no particular reactions or behaviors. Grieving will vary for each child and it can take many forms.

A brain injury can affect an individual’s personality. The parent is still there but is different. The special parent/child relationship has been lost. The family as it was has also been lost. This can be a death like experience for the child and family. The feelings of loss can be profound.

New Responsibilities

The crisis of brain injury forces many sons and daughters to grow up quickly – sometimes before they are ready. Some feel left out and forgotten at home; some feel overloaded with new responsibilities.

Changes for sons and daughters are…

  • helping with physical care
  • giving emotional support
  • supervising for safety
  • helping with communication
  • managing new behaviors
  • supplementing income
  • doing things that a parent used to do

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