After almost six years living with a brain injury from a massive stroke, I’m kind of what you might call a pro. And after all the writing and research I’ve done for the past five years, you’d think I’d have a pretty good handle on what brain injury is all about.
You might think I’ve heard it all by now.
But I only just got wind of another aspect of traumatic brain injuries for many survivors: grief.
It seems a lot of brain injury survivors experience grief to some extent or other. It was probably news to me because, of all the things I’ve gone through the last few years, the kind of grief that can come with a brain injury was never one of them.
Grief over loss of abilities and grief over the loss of their former lives and who they were before drives a lot of brain injury survivor grief.
I can’t relate to that kind of grief, not because I’m insensitive or don’t care, but because I never had to come to grips with that kind of grief. That grief was never an issue for me—I view that stroke and resulting brain injury as a kind of rebirth. Goodbye to the old me and hello to the new me I’m now free to become.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t carry grief about other things. My grief is caused by factors outside myself and for realities I can’t change no matter how much I want to and no matter how much I might try.
Grief counselors recommend writing a journal to help manage grief. I don’t keep a journal or personal diary, so I’ll do it here, in my little corner of the internet.
I grieve for the unnecessary loss of lives by so many good and decent people who have died in the pandemic, and for no good reason. I know quite a few people who have survived the virus, but their lives will be affected by the aftereffects of Covid-19, likely for the rest of their lives. I can’t be happy about that. But I am happy that so far no one I know personally has had their life cut short by a horrific and agonizing disease.
I do also feel grief over the people all over the world who have experienced traumatic brain injuries, people who have lost their lives to strokes and heart attacks, and those who have lost friends and family to the devastation and loss of life and/or identity those conditions cause. I have nothing but compassion for them. I have gotten over any guilt I once felt for surviving when they didn’t, but I do wish they could all have been as lucky as I’ve been, able to weather the storm and go on living their lives as I have. And it shouldn’t be necessary for me to know somebody to feel sadness and loss.
The only consolation I feel to any degree is that since I survived, I can draw on my experience to reach out to others and help them make it through what I know from experience is a dark and lonely time and place.
I think the major part of my grief comes from the passing of those who were in my life and are no longer here. Gary, Bill, Martha, Randy, two brothers, and a nephew are just a few of the more recent ones. Their lives were extinguished too soon and that fuels my grieving. As much as I would love to bring them back, I will never be able to.
I have sadness that I didn’t know that the last time I spoke to them it would be for the last time. Was there something more I could have said or done?
Their presence in my life helped me become who and what I am by them being who and what they were. They helped make the world a better place in the relatively short time they were here and the only way I know to keep their memory alive is to share the light they brought to my life with others who haven’t been as lucky as I have been.
I grieve that as much as I have recovered, I can’t recover those people who are gone forever.
Why is there grief in the world? No one knows. There is nowhere to go to learn the why or the proper way to grieve, or for how long. I will grieve for as long as I feel the grief, and I will grieve in my own way.
Is there really such a thing as closure, in the sense of letting go of grief and the pain that goes with it, and moving on with life? I don’t know. I will likely keep feeling the sadness and grief, probably for the rest of my life, especially since people will continue passing on from my life and the lives of others. I keep waiting for closure but it never seems to come.
I just don’t know whether I’ll ever be able to completely put grief behind me. If I did know how, I would certainly have done it a long time ago.
It’s been said that time heals all wounds. I hope so because sometimes the wounds of the passing of other people seem like they will be with me forever.
I just wish time could heal all the people who have left and those they left behind.
|Isaac Peterson grew up on an Air Force base near Cheyenne, Wyoming. After graduating from the University of Wyoming, he embarked on a career as an award-winning investigative journalist and as a semi-professional musician in the Twin Cities, the place he called home on and off for 35 years. He doesn’t mind it at all if someone offers to pick up his restaurant tab and, also, welcomes reader comments. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more articles by Isaac here; https://www.brainenergysupportteam.org/archives/tag/isaac-peterson|