Grief and Bereavement Treatments
The 7 steps for helping mourn the loss of self are impacted by developmental factors as well as other variables, including the circumstances of the death and the preexisting personality of the brain-injured person. For example, the younger the brain-injured person is, the lesser the experience of loss of self and intensity of grieving.
Because a brain injury is usually sudden and unexpected, the first task is to recognize the reality of the loss, as well as identify and express feelings, which is likely to be difficult due to the lack of awareness, and the sudden trauma, shock and denial.
Also, how the brain injury has affected the financial security of the family is still another important factor. If the brain-injured person was the primary source of income to the family, the effect compounds the person’s loss of self.
This loss of income often produces emotional pressures because of financial stress. The family may have to relocate or move in with relatives; this was the situation of the 24-year-old man who fell off the roof.
He had to move back with his family and now depends on them for survival. This was also seen in another situation where a 36-year-old man fell on his child’s toy. In his fall he sustained a mild brain injury which caused him to have uncontrollable fits of rage. The consequence of his injury was the loss of his job, as well as the loss of his marriage and family. He no longer was able to work and had to move in with his family of origin. His despair was enormous. His loss of self was immense. Yet, no one recognized the grief. The doctors gave him medication for the rage and the family had no idea how to help him cope.
All of these problems and concerns may leave the griever preoccupied and unable to focus on their inner feelings. This should not be mistaken for resistance or avoiding grief.
As mentioned earlier, often Psychotherapy can compound the issue when the therapist is unaware of the stages of grieving and is only trying to deal with management or behavioral changes. Many times the very people who say they want to help us are the ones who prevent a brain-injured person from grieving, because of their lack of awareness or knowledge about grieving. Everyone involved with the brain-injured person should acknowledge the painful mixture of feelings that constitutes grief.
Until now, there was no acknowledgment that the brain-injured person was grieving the loss of self. This is reinforced because of the denial from doctors, family and friends, that the person they have known and loved no longer is the same. Many times the bereaved brain-injured person gets the unmistakable message that they should hide their true feelings lest they be too upsetting for others.
The griever may need to hear directly from the doctor, family or friends that they are ready to listen to their real feelings, so that healthy grieving can take place. Similar to grieving a spouse, it does not mean forgetting them, but realizing they can never be with you again in flesh and blood. So too, grieving your prior self, does not mean forgetting or denying who you once were, but realizing that person no longer exists.
By listening, caring and being there for the bereaved brain-injured person, you are nurturing the spirit and the new sense of self. By listening, caring and being there for yourself in your own bereavement, you will discover a new sense of self, while nurturing your spirit that is truly you.
“May your spirit remain strong and through your grief may you come to honor and love your new self.” -Dr. Diane®.