Perhaps the most emotionally difficult parts of the brain injury recovery process stem from the losses of and changes to life roles due to the injury. For instance, a man who is used to being the breadwinner may now be in need of financial assistance. Not only is this a financial change, but it involves a fundamental change in how this man interacts with his world. He went from financially helping others to needing to ask for such help. In many cases, role changes can be experienced as an attack upon the very identity of the individual involved. A brain injury survivor may have had a role as a Boy Scout Troop Leader for twenty years, but after the brain injury can no longer participate in Boy Scout activities. After twenty years, this activity may have provided much of the foundation upon which the survivor considered his identity to rest. Not only is he involved in Boy Scouts, he “is” a Scout. For some brain injury survivors, it may feel like a piece of themselves died when a role important to them was necessarily lost. Some roles that often change or may even be lost due to a brain injury are:
5. Man or Woman of the House/Authority of the Home
7. Driver of Vehicle
8. Organizational Leader
Since our roles are part of what defines our identity, the loss or changing of roles can be quite traumatic. Here are a few methods that can help a survivor who has experienced these losses or changes.
1. Identify roles in which the survivor still has sufficient ability to engage. For example, a survivor may not be able to continue his work as an electrician but his children still need his love, support and advice in his role as their father.
2. If a role has changed, identify the parts of the role in which the survivor can still become involved. For instance, a survivor may not be able to balance her checkbook or pay bills but she can still sign her own checks once some else has filled them out.
3. Help find new roles for the survivor that can take the place of roles that have been lost. One example involves a survivor no longer able to continue at his job as a high school football coach. Since he reads well and likes children though, he may enjoy volunteering to read books to children at the local library. Volunteering is a great way to engage in new roles after an injury. Similarly, a survivor may not be able to return to his or her former employment but may still be able to begin new employment. For instance, a survivor who is unable to work as a truck driver due to loss of use of his or her legs may be able to work at a desk job such as a bank teller. Joining organization, clubs or taking a class are other great ways to identify new roles.
By identifying roles in which survivors can engage, the emotional trauma of those roles that are lost can be notably reduced or sometimes even eliminated.
Learn about brain injury treatment services at the Transitional Learning Center: tlcrehab.org