At the end of my last post The Invisible Truth https://compassionate-voice.ca/2021/08/07/the-invisible-truth/, I alluded to the freedom that comes from calling things what they are. Acknowledgement of the truth brings freedom. Freedom from thoughts that deny how your experience has changed you and how this constant metamorphosis is your new reality, ever fluid and unpredictable. A brain injury doesn’t just physically change someone. It changes who they are. The self they knew, and the self others knew, is now on a new trajectory, a new plane of existence. It is not black and white like the end of life. But it is the end of a life nonetheless.
With this context, it can become easier to manage because treating it like grief and bereavement is something the world is familiar with. So for a moment, I invite you to step into the persona of someone who is grieving. If you are reading this as a support to a brain injured family, try looking at them as a family who is grieving. What do grieving people need? They need acknowledgement of the loss and all the difficulties it brings which in their case is especially challenging because the person who we are grieving is still physically present in our lives. It often confuses people and leaves them unable to act.
For close to ten years, I’ve been carrying the burden of trying to be the normal family people saw from the outside, and allowing people to treat us that way. I don’t know what snapped in me, but my voice has gotten louder in proclaiming our “un normalness”. If they listen and acknowledge our truth, they are a safe person for us, someone we can count on to have our backs. If they try to give us advice without understanding our situation or offer mere platitudes, they earn their place on the sidelines of our lives.
The freedom that awaits on the other side of acknowledgement is profoundly life changing. The lovely little new book titled Opening to Grief: Finding Your Way From Loss to Peace gives us this option:
“Until you stop running, begin to name or acknowledge, and lean into all you’ve been through, and build a friendly relationship with grief, you’ll almost certainly continue to suffer. Alan Wolfelt, author, educator, and grief counsellor puts it this way”…the pain that surrounds the closed heart of grief is the pain of living against yourself, the pain of denying how the loss changes you, the pain of feeling alone and isolated–unable to be openly mourn, unable to live and be loved by those around you” ( p. 26)
With you in grief and in peace,