If you know someone with a brain injury–or any other debilitating condition– this is a must-read.
Ruth Curran, brain injury survivor, author of Being Brain Healthy: What my brain injury taught me and how it can change your life, and co-author of An Insider’s Guide to the Injured Brain: A workbook for survivors and those who support them, and brain coach, just had a birthday. Yes, random.
But today, she shares her thoughts on two forms of hidden grief — loss of self and loss of someone you love when incidents fundamentally change how survivors act and interact with the world – and where grief and healing intersect and intertwine.
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Survivors and those who support them live at the intersection of grief and healing.
That is a tough statement to unpack, process, and digest but let’s try.
Grief seems very straightforward. It is a natural and expected part of the life cycle and a process that we all go through after a loss.
Healing also seems straightforward. It is a natural and expected part of the life cycle and a process that we all go through as part of recovery from a blow to physical, emotional, or spiritual status.
The side effects of a brain injury – the changes in thinking, processing, and understanding the world – can create a loss of self. That loss of self is reflected both internally and externally. A loss of self can throw not just the survivor but also everyone they touch, off balance.
Grief is the avenue to heal that loss.
Think about this for just a minute: Grief feels selfish and unacceptable when the survivor actually survives. That is especially difficult for support (family, friends, co-workers) who simply want the survivor to be and act as they did before the incident that changed everything. The “How dare I feel a loss? They are still here and I should be grateful” thoughts are so troubling that they get buried and may never be acknowledged.
That grief, that loss, that emptiness deserves recognition and healing.
The path to grieving that loss is challenging and we need tools to help us navigate those feelings and bring some clarity. In An Insider’s Guide to the Injured Brain: A workbook for survivors and those who support them, my co-author Mary Lanzavecchia and I laid out some of those tools and provided some insights into the process. I love every single exercise and process we presented. I know from personal experience that they work.
When I saw Carol’s affirmation cards and journalling exercises for facilitating healing and the grief process, it simply felt like the perfect complement to our approach. We talk about the power of affirmations and journaling. We talk about how it is invaluable to feel like you are actively pursuing healing.
I got out my Grief Affirmation deck to see how this would work and I randomly pulled five cards. Here is what I got:
I am patient with myself.
I live in the wholeness of every moment of every day.
I feel my grief but I do not let it consume me. My life goes on.
I surround myself with loving and supportive people.
Only good awaits me, and I look to the future with joy.
Wow…. How perfect. Every single one was a valuable message and tool that both survivors and support could use to navigate the loss of who that person was.
Every single message reinforced the validity of the feeling, the goodness in the moment, and the hope in the future.
In An Insider’s Guide to the Injured Brain, we found that stories, shared by survivors and those who support them, may give insight, but work provides hope.
The after effects of brain-changing incidents are broad reaching and when unaddressed can take their toll on relationships. The exercises in An Insider’s Guide to the Injured Brain and the work that you will do with the Affirmation Cards and Journals from A Healing Spirit are not just healing for survivors, they are also incredibly lifechanging for support. The combination of the book and products from A Healing Spirit opens a dialogue and an avenue for all to become partners—active participants—in the healing and grieving process.
I truly believe that the combination of Mary’s and my book, and Carol’s cards/journals can set you on a path to well-grounded and well-rounded understanding and healing.
And therein lies hope.
I thank Ruth for the connection she made between brain injury and grief. I think it holds true for many other serious injuries and diseases, as well.
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