Crafting a New Life: Make Something. Create Meaning out of Suffering

Carole Starr, To Root & To Rise: Accepting Brain Injury
cover of To Root and To Rise showing tree and roots in autumn colors

In this 9-part series author Carole Starr shares guiding steps she used to help her accept her “new normal” after her brain injury. Excerpted from her book, To Root & To Rise: Accepting Brain Injury.

When your life has been shattered by brain injury and the door to your old life has not just closed, but slammed shut, how do you find a new door of happiness and acceptance? Where do you look? How do you begin? Below is a list of actions that gradually helped me in my journey from banging against the closed door of my old life to walking through the open door of my new life. I hope they can help you, too. 

Make Something: Create Meaning out of Suffering

None of us asked for a brain injury. None of us chose the physical, mental and emotional devastation that it causes. None of us wanted to have our lives uprooted. So many choices are taken from us with brain injury. However, one thing we can choose is to turn all that suffering into something meaningful. As the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said, ‘To live is to suffer; to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering’.

My journey forward began when I listened to the little voice inside me that whispered ‘make something’. I didn’t recognize it then, but the words ‘make something’ are about so much more than just doing something with my hands. They also refer to ‘making something’ out of tragedy, to turning suffering into something meaningful. There are many ways to make meaning out of adversity. I've listed a few things below for you.

It’s about whatever brings a sense of purpose into your life. When you can make meaning out of all you’ve been through, the door to your new life is flung wide open.


Making it Your Own

What activity could you try to make meaning out of adversity?

  • Spend time with family and friends
  • Volunteer
  • Nurture creativity through art, crafts, music or writing
  • Help someone
  • Care for an animal
  • Tend a garden
  • Devote time to a spiritual practice
  • Other

What meaning have you found in your brain injury?


To hear Carole talk about these steps, you can watch this short video clip.


< Previous article in the series: Take Risks


Next article in the series: Progress >


Posted on BrainLine September 11, 2019.

To Root & To Rise is available as a printe-book, and audiobook. Please visit Carole Starr’s website for more information.

Carole Starr is a 20-year brain injury survivor, national keynote speaker, author of To Root & To Rise:  Accepting Brain Injury, and the founder/facilitator of Brain Injury Voices, an award-winning survivor volunteer group in Maine.