If you or your spouse have sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI), life as you know it is guaranteed to change in a very vast range of ways. Not only do victims of TBI experience losses in both their cognitive and physical abilities, but their personality and behavior can become unrecognizable to even themselves.
These injuries often leave people suffering from prolonged bouts of depression, even as they deal with tremendous social anxiety, financial uncertainty, and grief. For spouses of those living with TBI, efforts to remain supportive and loving companions can be thwarted by unmanageable stress, caregiver burnout, guilt, and fatigue.
Fortunately, by establishing a strategic plan to protect and heal your relationship, you can preserve your marriage despite the many challenges that TBI throws your way.
Take Steps to Alleviate Financial Stress Right Away
The biggest source of stress after TBI is always finance-related. Traumatic brain injuries often lead to unemployment, even as they result in excessively high medical and personal care bills. Get in touch with a lawyer right away to learn more about your legal options, and to find out if you’re entitled to compensation.
If uninjured spouses can avoid having to bear the entire weight of earning income and bill payments, they’re less likely to become resentful. More importantly, they’ll have more time and energy to devote to their partners. Absent financial support and other forms of outside help, the stress of TBI is usually too much for couples to handle on their own.
Consider Your Options in Therapy and Caregiver Support
TBI sufferers can often maintain more of their dignity and autonomy when personal needs are being met by outside professionals. Spouses of those living with TBI are also less likely to experience caregiver burnout when some of the necessary care is outsourced.
Start shopping your options for home care companies to arrive at a feasible, manageable level of service for supplementing the tasks that can be comfortably handled by family members.
Making sure that TBI victims have access to a broad range of options in physical and behavioral therapy can be helpful as well. It can take time for people to learn how to deal with the anxiety and depression that commonly accompanies these injuries. The best options in therapy foster a more positive outlook even as they teach TBI victims new and innovative ways of getting things done.
Although your partner may not be able to do everything he or she used to, it might be possible to leverage alternative strategies to attain a higher level of independence. Techniques like these can be both confidence-building and incredibly helpful for spouses who are currently picking up the slack.
Both Parties Should Join Support Groups
One of the most challenging aspects of dealing with TBI as a couple is a fact that although both partners are under stress, their experiences are uniquely different. Those with TBI can deal with the fear of becoming burdensome to their spouses and children, and uninjured spouses often deal with the fear of losing themselves.
After all, it can be hard to pay attention to your own career, needs, and outside relationships when most of your time and attention is devoted to either caring for your spouse or resolving money troubles. Support groups for people living with TBI and their spouses can:
- Give each party a place to talk about their unique experiences
- Offer new approaches to dealing with and living with TBI
- Expose couples to ideas and strategies from those with more experience
Support groups provide a sense of camaraderie that TBI victims and their spouses need. These groups meet in-person or online to share their advice and personal stories. They are great places for learning more about the legal process that follows TBI. They are also safe spaces for venting emotionally.
In support groups, people discover that they are not alone and that their worries, stress, and struggles are not unique. Support groups often work together to solve problems, and many of these communities wind up fostering lifelong friendships.
Both TBI victims and their uninjured spouses have a right to grieve. People often feel guilty for grieving what they’ve lost given that they’re always expected to remain optimistic. Grieving can feel like a place of failure if you’re stuck in the mindset that successfully dealing with TBI means always being upbeat.
It’s perfectly okay to feel overwhelmed and saddened by the losses that have been incurred. If you don’t make room to acknowledge these losses and to express your sadness, you may never move past them.
The only time that grieving becomes unhealthy is when people are unable to move beyond it and start building their lives anew. Grieving as a couple gives you both permission to honor and acknowledge your sorrow. You and your partner can also work with a marriage or grief counselor to discover healthy coping strategies for both accepting losses and putting it behind you.
Living with TBI is always easiest with the help of a supportive spouse. If couples are not proactive in protecting and preserving their relationships, their unions can buckle under the near-constant stress of TBI. With the tips above, you and your partner can begin moving beyond your losses, redefining your lives, and enjoying your time together in new and interesting ways.