Quick Facts

  • Grief is a natural response to any type of loss and is often experienced following a brain injury
  • The grieving process is unique to each individual and it can be sad, scary, lonely, frustrating and confusing for the whole family
  • Feelings of grief and loss may be strong, overwhelming, and confusing
  • Feelings are often unpredictable and can change quickly

What does it
look like?

  • Frequent referral to the person they were before / the life they lived before the injury
  • Ignoring the skills and abilities that remain
  • A drastic change in personality
  • Denial, anger, and sadness at the losses which have occurred
  • Crying spells, low energy, and restlessness
  • Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
  • Easily upset when unable to complete tasks as they once did before
  • Not enjoying things like before
  • Isolation, withdrawal
  • Over-eating and under-eating
  • Unpredictable reactions (i.e. can be angry outbursts) that may occur at home, the workplace, and community
  • Poor outlook on life and questioning the quality of their current life
  • There are many losses that may be experienced following brain injury, these may include the following:
    • Abilities – physical, cognitive, emotional and social
    • Lifestyle
    • Roles and relationships
    • Self-image and sense of who they are
    • Hopes and plans for the future

Possible Causes and Complications

Possible complications:

  • The person can become discouraged as they do not understand what their abilities and challenges will be long-term
  • Frustration, grief, and feelings of loss are not synced with their caregiver and can create conflict
  • Cognitive challenges (e.g. memory problems, concrete thinking) can make the emotional adjustment to loss and change longer
  • May become depressed, isolate oneself and have feelings of hopelessness

What can we do?

  • Educate yourself about the grieving process and know that the individual may not follow predictable or set stages of mourning such as:
    • Denial
    • Anger
    • Bargaining
    • Depression
    • Acceptance and hope
  • Provide time, support, and motivation as the individual navigates through changing emotions
  • Acknowledge the loss without dwelling on it (e.g., “it must be very difficult not being able to dance like you used to.”)
  • Avoid trivializing the loss (e.g., “if you think you have it bad, I knew someone who—“)
  • Avoid reasoning away the loss (e.g., “you may not be able to play hockey, but at least you can walk.”)
  • Promote an awareness of the individuals successes and strengths
  • Frequently use encouragement and positive reinforcements
  • Assess and monitor activities that can trigger feelings of grief and loss
  • Select activities to increase the likelihood of a positive experience
  • Seek counselling and support within your community for your loved one and yourself

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to replace advice from a medical doctor. Consult a health care provider regarding specific medical concerns or treatment.