Five Reasons I Love My Husband BECAUSE of His TBI

Five reasons I love my husband Because of his TBI

I see a lot of articles on the Internet and in magazines about the pain of losing one’s identity after a TBI, and how caregivers suffer ambiguous loss when a loved one is radically changed after a brain injury, but seldom do we focus on the positives that might have sprung from the aftermath of a traumatic injury.

My husband Hugh was critically injured when a car struck him on his bicycle. That accident and injury occurred nearly thirteen years ago now. I thought I would fall through the floor when doctors first told us it could take three to five years to come to a place of peace after TBI. That sounded like a lifetime, and now it feels like a lifetime ago that I cried over those words.

Time and perspective work wonders. So here goes. Five reasons I love my husband because of his TBI are:

  1. He survived a horrific accident and a severe traumatic brain injury and fought hard to come back to his family even when he felt like giving up.  He pushed on when therapies were tough, when he felt miserable, and when he felt like he was failing.

  2. He has new priorities. Hugh’s outlook on life includes new priorities and he keeps me focused on what matters in life. Before his accident, he was more concerned with upward mobility and succeeding in business. Now his priorities consist of quality family time, finding work that matters to us, and taking care of our health with exercise and lots of beach time!

  3. Hugh is more compassionate than he used to be, possibly due to his injury, but also because he now knows what it feels like to face pain, loss, and disability. He helped me take care of my parents when they both fell ill and passed away, and he’s worked hard to take good care of his aging parents. (His father recently passed away.) His quiet, gentle nature is a balm to many.

  4. Hugh is an attentive father. He counsels our daughters on everything from fitness to money management and spends quality time alone with them (mostly surfing in the ocean). I am often overwhelmed with gratitude that he lived to see them graduate high school and college, and has watched them grow into beautiful, competent women.

  5. He allowed me to use his personal story to help others, even when I worried that it may compromise his work life. Hugh insisted on sharing his experience for the benefit of families going through what we went through, even the intimate, embarrassing details. It’s always been his intention that our story spread information, hope, and healing to those who need it most. He’s attended brain injury conferences with me and has met privately with other survivors who needed help returning to work, or help coping with specific problems that were similar to his. His generosity makes me love him more each day.

There’s no good news about going through trauma. It’s messy. It’s hard. It’s brutal — for caregivers and survivors. But for those who keep seeking answers, for those who keep striving for their personal best, and who keep that flame of hope inside, life has a good chance of turning around one day and leading you to positive changes you never saw coming.

Comments (29)

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I think it is important for everyone to remember she is not saying that there aren't challenges and it isn't hard. She is simply saying there are some good things if you choose to look for them. Some days there will be many more struggles than hopeful moments, but you need to look for the hopeful ones and focus on (cling to!) them. This is what gets you through.

I am a caregiver to my husband since 1997 over 17 years.  His accident included massive damage to left frontal lobe and significant damage to right frontal lobe.  Since 2008 he has been suffering from epilepsy and in 2014 was diagnosed as bipolar as a consequence of the accident.  He is having 2-3 small seizures a day and every night partial complex seizures that we cannot seem to get under control.  he has become a stranger that is bad tempered angry and sometimes very scary to be near.  Although in the early ears I was able to have a loving relationship with him and was very proud  of how he behaved but  life has deteriorated since then.  He has very concrete stuck thinking and is unable to have a reasonable logically conversation.  WI have sought lots of help and have lots of support but ultimately at the age of 61 years I am looking at the rest of my life and thinking do I want this any more and the answer is no.  I keep praying for some kind of miracle for him to have a massive personality change and return to the man I know is there but it just does not happen.  Good luck to other wives caring for  men with a Acquired Brain Injury it is a tough thankless journey.

Thank you for sharing. I am a survivor of a severe TBI eight years ago and I can honestly say I have fully recovered. I am different, but better than I was, think. More compassionate, like your husband, different priorities as well, am now a new mom to a beautiful baby boy and raising him with my husband... After my TBI and 7+ years long recovery, I got certified as a personal trainer and shifted my career goals from being a journalist to helping people achieve whole health. It took a long long time to heal but I got there. Much of it was really hard and I've never cried so much in my life or struggled with words and language and comprehension and processing speed... But it did heal. Thank you for sharing this. Victims of TBI need to hear more positive stuff, at least I sure did. And for caregivers who are struggling... When I was in the hospital, we were told that often male victims will fight. It's just how TBI affects them. But there is a lot than can be done to help with cognitive therapy. Definitely seek out a good neuropsychologist. And two years, 3 years, even 5 years leaves a lot of healing left to do. Hang in there. It gets better. And probably the best thing I did to help my recovery was YOGA. All caps for a reason. It was incredible. My blog is if anyone needs a little inspiration. xoxo

I love my son. 5 years past TBI initial injury and he is happier more content more forgiving and understanding of others. Wow! loved him before but he doubted self, had depression etc... no longer. I almost feel guilty at being happy about this. I know he is not the same there are somethings I truly miss, but we csannot dwell on that but the good. No matter what we stood with him and I see how all the effort everyone has put into his rehabilitation paid off, and his effort is the biggest reason.

Hi, Im a tbi survivor, 7 yrs ago I had emergency surgery! I had a brain bleed and swelling, frontal lobe, from a fall! I'm so happy I found this blog... from what I've read thus far I'm just thrown back by people's comments! It's almost like I wrote what I'm reading. So many similarities to my own struggles! It's so hard to express myself but what I'm about to say is such a double edge sword! ! I look act and sound completely normal to people, and with my hair long None can tell I'm disabled unless I tell them than I always hear the same thing " YOU LOOK FINE TO ME" oh if I could only slap people for being stupid!!! Anyway I would love to stay involved in these blogs please keep me posted with any info or discussions that can give me the tools I need for living with tbi. Thank you very much for any help!

Thank you for sharing the positives that can come from tragic events like TBI.

Hi Rosemary,

Thank you for your article. We are 2 years post and from what I've read, my journey may be very similar to yours. I am blessed that my husband is gentler, kinder and more open post TBI. He has not mastered the father thing yet but I see he is trying so hard and I'm sure with time, he will get it there. The kids and I were present when he had his fall so we all suffer from severe PTSD and other issues as well as the ongoing adjustment to his behavioral changes. He just experienced his first seizure in December so we are now learning to live with a seizure disorder as well. The road has been long, lonely with lots of twists and turns and I find some days I'm overcome with anger and resentment. Ambiguous loss is not fair. However, reading your article gives me hope and reaffirms what I know deep down inside. We can do this, we will make it, I will love him as much, if not more, than I did before his accident. I can be happy with him by my side in the retirement years and we will find a new norm again, with time. Thank you for sharing your story. 

I am glad that your outcome is of a more positive nature.  However, I can duplicate the comments of 12/16/14 at 3:04 AM.  The women in my TBI caregivers group would most likely also confer.  It is not a matter of adjustment or intelligence.  My husband and I have three Ivy degrees between us and were in high profile careers.  This has been a living nightmare the past eight years. Lest not forget the inclusion of exhaustion and isolation, in addition to the loss of friends and family, because it is not only a physical but non-comprehensible behavioral change for all involved.  Caregivers are also the victims of continuous judgment by friends, (and yes, strangers) and medical personnel. We do our very best.  The best of luck in your life and those of others suffering on both sides.

@Jan 11, 2015

First, thank you for reading my book. I'm sorry to read that it scared you more. I wrote the book as truthfully as possible, sharing my own experience and true thoughts, and realize how you might feel. Being a TBI caregiver is extremely difficult and life-changing, but many people overcome incredible obstacles. It takes a very long time for the brain to heal, and this long process can be especially hard on caregivers and families. It sounds like your husband has some serious challenges and you will find a lot of great resources and stories of courage on this site. Please have hope. There is always hope, but know that it takes time and ongoing rehabilitation. It was two years before Hugh and I rebuilt another life and that is considered a short time after a severe brain injury. Every brain injury is different because each individual is different. Also, you mentioned that you are doing this alone--please reach out for help, from a social worker,( LCSW) or neuropsychologist. I wish you the best of luck, health and progress in the days and weeks ahead. Rosemary

I have just finished reading your book. I was dissapointed as it didnt offer the hope I had anticipated. It actually scared me more. My husbands journey only began 14 weeks ago. As I read your book I constantly compared our situations and kept saying that her husbands injury must not be as severe as mine because my husband is still no where ready to be released to home. He is combative and displays physical and verbal aggression that is often scary and dangerous. However, I did find comfort in knowing I am not alone even though I feel so alone most of the time. I havent been able to talk about how this truely makes me feel because, like you, I stay busy and not have time to feel. But I saw my own feelings laid out before me on pages of your book. Everything you felt I am feeling now. I do work full time, have part time job, and go to school part time and he had no insurance. I have survived the last 14 weeks with no counseling or medication. I am just "doing".

Such a wonderful piece. We ALL know that it’s not an easy road. In fact, I’ve never met anyone who has said that any part of this is a cakewalk. I don’t this this piece attempts to gloss over any of the hardships we all deal with. Rather I see it as a snapshot of some of the good that has come from what others may deem tragedy. Every TBI is unique, every journey different. My wife Sarah and I share so much in common with you both. To hear your life-perspectives at 13 years out continues to offer us hope. Thank you for the biggest reminder of all: I SURVIVED. My compassion for those who share my fate is a hundred-fold what it would have been without my own TBI.  We are grateful that you live a life of transparency so that others can learn from your own deeply moving experience.  ~David A. Grant

You are a blessing and an angel sent into my life for all the right reasons.  Thank you for all you share from your experiences and knowledge. 

Hi, GG, Thanks for your comment. I believe there are some survey instruments used by neuropsychologists to evaluate needs. Dr. Kreutzer (you can read about him on BrainLine) uses these in his Therapeutic Couples Intervention and in the Brain Injury Family Intervention. You may want to contact the VCU TBI Model System of Care to ask about these and see if they are similar to what you are proposing. Best of luck with your book. The more information out in the public, the better.

I would not be who I am today if I had not had my brain injury.... and most of the time I like me! I hear you and your husband say that it has been hard some days... I agree. I have to remember sometimes that it is much better than the alternative...not having survived. Thank you for the reminder!

As a husband with TBI and previously an educator, I'm always delighted to read about how a TBI affects the other side of the dinner table. I'm in the process of writing my own book about my TBI and wondering how else I can help others cope. Is there a "needs assessment" instrument ( like a survey) that can be given to patients and their sig. other who have been injured? By having patients/sig. other take such a survey, this would be a way to give therapists and others to structure the therapeutic intervention. GG

[re: Dec. 16, 2014 3:04am post]

Thank you for the below comment, and you have my sincere apologies if this post made you feel like you are not patient enough or made you feel guilty or worse off in any way. This is never my intention.

You are right about this: my husband had personality changes that were hard to get used to, but they were not abusive changes, and that has made our journey easier. Yet his accident in 2002 (thirteen years ago) was extremely traumatic, his coma, his physical and cognitive impairments were all severe, and like you, I suffered ambiguous loss. I also had PTSD and came down with shingles. Many of these challenges are discussed in my other posts on BrainLine. With regard to the frustration you talk about : "the routine so necessary to my husband's well being chafes at me" this, we are kindred spirits. This is the whole point of my memoir, the daily wearing down of the caregiver and how difficult it is to stay sane. I was in such a serious state of constant stress that I fell apart after two years of strain and worry and exhaustion. I do understand that we are incredibly fortunate that Hugh is doing so well, but no one completely "recovers" from TBI. There are always issues -- he has a seizure disorder. I had hoped to make that point at the end of my post when saying "There’s no good news about going through trauma. It’s messy. It’s hard. It’s brutal — for caregivers and survivors . "

Thank you for writing and speaking out on this important point. I wish you many more good days than bad in 2015, and never meant to cause you any more pain.

Sincerely, Rosemary

Hope, determination, courage, strength and love is what we hold onto each and everyday. Xx

I couldn't agree more! I'm 10 years out & relate on all these levels! Thanks for sharing! Merry Christmas! :)

Thank you very much for putting into words our fondest hopes and dreams for my son and for all of us who love him. It has been almost 7 weeks since his accident, and he has already made it abundantly clear that he intends to fight his way back to his wife and babies. Stories like yours inspire us; thank you again.

I think it's great that you were fortunate enough to have positive outcomes, I really do. And I admire your optimism and obvious strength. And I understand what you were admirably attempting to achieve by writing it. But I have to be honest and say I resent this article a little, too. Looking for positive outcomes isn't always posssible after a TBI, and portraying dealing with the aftermath of a TBI in a marriage as just a matter of caregiver attitude adjustment is, to me, a bit irresponsible. Your husband may be more compassionate, but mine (and many others with frontal lobe injuries) has lost his ability to empathize, leading to often cruelly cold responses to situations that call for care. He's still affectionate and even loving, but not as great when it comes to emotional suport. Your husband may have been able to focus on "work that matters to us", but mine took years just to get out of denial and enter a vocational rehabilitation. He did, and is now a successful geologist, but please know your husband isn't the norm. Not even close. And people need to know that. We're still, five years later, crawling out of the finanicial morass of "the Accident." TBI often leads to mood swings and decreased (or inappropriately increased) sex drive. Men who never raised their voices suddenly yell or bang their fists on the table at the slightest provocation. These are not the kind of changes in a marriage you can just gloss over and focus on something positive instead. It's hard enough to navigate the treacherous tunnels of learning to love someone who is both the man you fell in love with and not. Not to mention the long-term or permanent physical disability that more often than not accompanies TBI. (In my husband's case, he lost enough vision that he won't ever drive again.) Are there moments of triumph and laughter and renewed joy and yes, for the very, very fortunate like you and I falling even more deeply in love with our husbands? Yes. But there are more moments when I berate myself for not being patient enough, or feel guilty because the routine so necessary to my husband's well being chafes at me. I'm a complex communicator and often feel fruatrated and bereft when my accidental interruptions derail entire conversations or I have to pre-plan options just to know his preferences. At my lowest moments, I feel like even though I love him, I'm just not patient enough or "right" for him. But we keep going. As you and your husbsnd clearly have as well. But reading an article like this isn't helpful. I feel guilty and frustrated and lonely enough without having to wonder if I'm just being negative. Maybe an alternative headline would seem less smug to thise kf who are still in love with our husbands buy still struggling, too.

That was lovely. Your words are an inspiration. 

Thank you for your inputs. I read so many scary negative things and given my wife is only 4 months into her TBI journey, it eases my brain and heart to see this. Also hearing he was hit by a car on his bike rings a bell as my wife was hit crossing a street when she was struck by a car. So much pain, so much anger, so much love for my wife and her strength through this!

I have a TBI that has changed my life considerable. I read your blog all the time and it's helpful. I thank both you and your husband for sharing your story. Happy holidays.

Thank you for this fresh perspective. My husband sufferers a severe TBI 2.5 months ago. We are in the throes of recovery with daily ups and downs. To find the good in this helps us cope and look forward to better days. 

my husband suffered his accident 9 yrs ago..he is in a wheelchair and his cognitive level is of a child..he has short term memory loss. he is also a combat vet from viet nam..we have been married going on 40 yrs next october..he is far and away my hero..he tries and sometimes is very coignizant of what going on..other days he is not..i miss my husband so terribly..the lonliness is something i hold onto every also his caregiver..i miss having our talks..we have two adult sons one lives states away, so he doesnt deal with it tooo much, our youngest is a u.s marine vet iraq and afghanistan..both husband and son have ptsd..and yeah, i have it as well..i have "chronic sorrow"..and there isnt anyone i can talk to ..its marvelous that you have the support..there are thousands of us..who dont..i  can only wish you happiness, it seems you have it..many blessings

You are gifted it sharing and being honest and real. It is inspiring to those of us sharing this TBI journey. There is lots of good, bad and ugly but also hope and love! Thank you

Thank you for your positive perspective. My son's TBI, was the result of a plane crash just about 2 years ago, in which my brother died. We of course struggle, but the beauty of my son's survival is THAT it changed him and all of us. We choose, (in our best moments) to see God's hand in refining our son's path. He is a survivor, and the maturity, empathy, and eternal perspective he (and our family) gained are priceless.

Beautifly written

Thank you for sharing this perspective. I totally agree that there can be so many positives from an experience like a loved one surviving a TBI. My son is a survivor, and he believes he's a better version of himself. And he is grateful for the opportunity to become a different kind of man then perhaps what would have become from the path he led before.