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Grief caused by brain injury

Grief caused by brain injury
Many experience grief, not because of the death of a loved one, but because of profound changes that occur due to a loved one having a brain injury. This can result from a vehicular, motorcycle, or four-wheeler accident, high fever, poison, drug overdose, allergic reaction to medication, heart attack, stroke, aneurysm, a fall, accident, blow to the head, encephalitis, meningitis, a violent attack by a perpetrator, domestic violence, gunshot to the head or sports-related injuries.
Brain injuries bring change. After a person suffers a brain injury, they are often different, and this calls for major adjustments on the part of loved ones. One wife said, “The man I took home from the hospital was a stranger. He was not my husband.” Another wife said, “After his stroke, I lost my husband. I now have a companion whom I take care of.” There is often no recollection of things the person previously appreciated such as their favorite food, which means that favorite things spouses shared together can no longer be shared. There is often a role-reversal where the wife becomes the principal breadwinner. Brain injuries often result in attitudinal changes, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and arrested development wherein the person reverts to childhood. Parents of a child who made good grades before a brain injury now watch that same child struggling with limited cognitive powers.
Reactions to grief created by a brain injury include: denial and refusal to accept the severity of the problem, guilt because one can no longer feel the same way about the injured person, anger because they are now responsible for the person, and anger toward those who caused the injury. Spouses need to be assured that they are not bad people because they can no longer relate to the injured spouse as they once did.
Statistics indicate that there is a high rate of divorce following a spouse’s brain injury. Men are more likely to be injured than women. Vehicular accidents account for over 50 percent of brain injuries. Years ago the majority of brain injuries occurred to those who were 15 to 20 years of age; however, in recent years, those who are 60 and older are more prone to have brain injuries. This change in statistics may be the result of better reporting or the older group may be engaging in more dangerous activities.
Brain injury is often referred to as the “silent disability” because there may be no scar or outward sign of disability.
Brain Injury Support Groups meet each month in Jackson and Adamsville. Readers may get more information by contacting Laura Mills (1-888-425-6930).
Don Harold Lawrence is coordinator of SUNRISE, which is sponsored by Shackelford Corporation. He may be contacted by mail at 145 Abernathy Drive, Adamsville, TN 38310-3001 or by telephone or fax at (731) 632-4483. His Web address is
Published in The Messenger on 10.04.07

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