As children, in our teenage years, many of us keep journals. We document our feelings and our thoughts. Diaries can serve as a reflection of the era in which we lived, a testament to the fact that we were alive, and we were here.
Journals As a Means of Shaping Personality
In our formative years, when most of us take up journals, it can be an exercise in developing what will become our adult personalities. As teenagers, we experience the world differently. Taking the time to write down one’s thoughts, during these years where our perspectives and views are being shaped, can help put the world into perspective.
How Journals Can Help in Life After Injury
Beginning life after injury is, in many ways, a lot like going through this process of self-discovery. Even if the injured is an adult, adapting to their new reality — the “new normal” — can feel a lot like being back at square one. You will have to relearn the limits of your body and mind, discover ways to cope, and sort out your emotions.
Writing down your thoughts on life after injury can have many advantages.
- It can help progress seem more concrete. You might not realize how slowly, for example, your vocabulary and eloquence are improving. But any step forward, however small, is still a step. And being able to look back at writings from months ago can help you see your improvement more clearly.
- Documenting what works, and what doesn’t. If you and your family are trying new ways to do things, such as chores, writing down your thoughts on how you’re adjusting can help you pinpoint what works for you and your loved ones.
- An outlet for feelings. Victims of injuries may experience new, strong emotions as they try to cope and adjust. So can their families — it can sometimes be frustrating to adjust to a “new normal”. Having a safe place, such as a journal, to air these frustrations can help keep peace. It can also be helpful to look back at these feelings, and analyze what you can do as a family to minimize negative emotions and stay positive.
Giving The Injured a Voice
Journals can be a great way for the injured and their families to feel like they have a “voice” — that they don’t have to bottle up their thoughts and emotions. It can be part of the healing process, helping everyone involved get a better insight on how the tragic event has affected them.
Writing, whether on a notebook or on an online blog, can be an emotional and practical aid, and help those who are living life after injury adjust.
A severe injury — one that leaves the victim changed forever — does not only affect those who were involved in the accident. Life after injury is not just about the victims, but also about their families, and their journey in adjusting to their new reality.
One very common reaction to seeing a family go through such a turbulent time might be, “They need their space, some time to clear their minds and sort things out. I should step back.” You stop calling. You stop asking them to hang out. You stop going over to their place, arms filled with sodas and snacks, to spend a Friday night watching movies like you used to.
But, sometimes, the best way to help a family deal with life after injury is to not drop these behaviors, and stick around. Tragedy is where the art of being a supportive friend, and just being there, truly shines.
In an NY Times column titled The Art of Presence, David Brooks recounts how Catherine Woodiwiss dealt with the traumatic events that befell her family — and how the handful of friends that reached out and stuck around made all the difference.
“Trauma is a disfiguring, lonely time even when surrounded in love; to suffer through trauma alone is unbearable,” she wrote.
So what are some ways in which we can “be there” for someone going through a tragedy?
Understand that there is no “getting over it”. Traumatic events can be life-changing. After such an experience, life is redefined. You find a “new normal”. There is no true way to fully get over it, just adjusting to a new reality.
Do not compare stories. Everyone’s story is different, and everyone’s grief deserves it’s own attention. Take it for what it is. Be a listening ear, and a shoulder to cry on if needed. Comparisons are not necessary — you do not need to “prove” that you have suffered as much in order to understand what the victim is going through.
Do not underestimate the power of non-verbal gestures. Picking up a few groceries that you know your friend needs, or helping them tidy up, can speak louder than any consoling words.
Most importantly, what we need to understand is that, sometimes, all a victim of tragedy wants is just companionship. A friend showing up with snacks and a DVD, to give them a little respite in the grieving process — a little glimpse into what they once knew as normalcy. A friend who is just there.
The Nature Of Head Injury is an article published in Traumatic Brain Injury and Vocational Rehabilitation, where Thomas Kay, Ph.D. and Muriel Lezak, Ph.D, attempt to debunk the most common myths surrounding brain injury.
One of the myths that the article debunks is that victims of brain injury need traditional psychotherapy — which is focused on getting the patient to “open up”, and providing a safe place where feelings, fears, and worries can be explored. But, Kay and Lezak warn, this can actually be detrimental for those with brain injury.
Such a process is guaranteed to lead to further disorganization and confusion in a person whose major problem is structuring and organizing the thinking processes, while trying to keep surges of emotion from washing everything away entirely.
Yes, it is true that victims and their families alike can benefit from professional counsel. The issue is, however, that therapy needs to be tailored to the needs to the injured — the focus needs to be not on “talking things out”, but on helping the victim achieve a sense of structure and security.
When individual “therapy” is a successful adjunct to a rehabilitation program, it is a structuring, supportive, problem-solving approach.
While some brain injury victims could still be suffering from lingering psychological conditions — that were present previous to the accident — the truth is that, most brain injury victims suffer from a sense of disorganization, and would benefit more from therapy that is geared towards helping them recover the sense of structure and control that they might feel they have lost.