EMOTIONAL ISSUES FOR FAMILY MEMBERS
“Families also need to grieve the loss of loved ones as they used to be.”
T.M., Brain-injury Survivor
Living with the Patient’s New Identity
The person a family once knew no longer exists. She is still living, but perhaps in a slightly altered body and with a different identity. In addition to the range of emotions the family will experience, there may also be a sense of loss. The family may feel grief and may even want to mourn their loss. It may be therapeutic for the family to acknowledge this loss together (with or without the patient, depending upon the patient), to grieve, and even to hold some sort of ceremony. A ceremony may be extreme for some, but by allowing yourselves to feel this loss, you will be able to move on and appreciate the new person in your family.
Once the loss has been dealt with, families can now turn their energy toward accepting their new family member. Many of us would prefer to deny that things are different, but we cannot make any progress if we don’t face reality. Get to know the new person in your lives—her likes and dislikes, habits, limitations, abilities, behaviors, and other qualities that make her unique. Learn to accept and appreciate this new person. Realize that this is who he or she is now, and that it may take time to get used to the new identity. You may even like the new identity better than the old one!