Here's What I've Learned by Accident ... How About You?

Here’s What I’ve Learned by Accident … How About You?

Several people have asked me about the title of my book, Learning by Accident. “What exactly have you learned?” they ask. There’s no short answer, really, since I’m still processing many valuable lessons even now, eleven years out. Below is my feeble attempt to answer this question as best I can at this point in time. I invite other caregivers to contribute to the comment section of this post to tell me what you have learned along the way. I’m sure there will be many common threads as well as others that are unique to each of us.

What I’ve learned so far:

I can endure

Many people like to use the word “brave” or “strong” for caregivers, but I don’t think those words apply to me. What I did learn was that I could endure. I could wake up each day and put one foot in front of the other because I had to believe that better days were ahead.

I get what I give

I have learned that if I help others, they usually help me in return. When I love others sincerely, they often love me in return, and if I offer my trust, respect, encouragement, or hope, I receive them back (most of the time). I find great beauty and justice in this cycle of giving and receiving.

How to silence my inner critic and neurotic self

I’ve learned that I hold the power to quiet my own mind, but it takes practice. Redirecting or reframing my inner voice is worth practicing since I have a very loud brain!

To notice fear and step around it

I’ve learned that in almost every case, fear is more incapacitating than any injury or illness because it paralyzes me and keeps me from immersing myself in life as it unfolds moment to moment. I’ve come to see paralyzing fear as a form of slow death.

That anger is toxic

Anger is not worth the pain it causes me, and it usually does nothing to change a situation. Knowing this helps me to diffuse it.

Not to judge others

I’ve learned not to judge others harshly but to stop and wonder what makes people act the way they do. This way of thinking increases my compassion.


I’ve learned that practicing mindfulness works wonders when I feel myself jumping in too many directions at once.

Time and connections matter most

I’ve learned to value moments over things and connections over possessions, and to love others completely, even when I know I may lose them, because love makes my life infinitely richer.

Nothing is written in stone

I’ve learned that life is constantly changing and to quote my own book: “Life has no finish line. In fact, the racecourse can detour dramatically at any moment, so we better not become too attached to the familiar footpath.”

What have you learned from your caregiving experience?

Comments (10)

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I've learned to appreciate the little things, like a smile, a twinkle in the eye, and simple gratitude. They and others make my journey as a caregiver easier...
Love your comments on what 'you' have learned. In a caregivers role you learn as much, if not more, than the one you are caring for.
Have realistic expectations, that way when things go even better you truly feel fantastic!

I have a saying "I am hopeful, I just don't get my hopes up." This keeps me positive but staying real.

Creativity and flexibility are key to finding solutions for success. Make room for dignity...the injured deserves respect and honor.
My name is Shelley Walling and I am now 43 years old -44 in 5 days- My wife has been my caregiver since February 2001 when my shunt from Hydrocephalus from birth when the connector in my neck disintegrated at the age of 31, I am so lucky to have a caregiver as caring and giving as she has been, It took us 12 years to figure out what helps with the bipolar and schizophrenia from the brain injury from the surgeries. God has been so good to us for all she has done and the patience it takes to deal with someone that doesn't always get what is going on. Patience is necessary and a little grace for those of us with Brain Injury.
Hello Rosemary, You have answered that question beautifully and I think all caregivers can relate to your words. In the past 18 months of caring for my husband after a TBI one of the many things I have learned is that life can change in the blink of an eye. We should not worry about the things we cannot change and try our best to be patience with our loved ones as caregivers. Treat others as we would want to be treated. Thank you for all of your kind words you are always an inspiration .
Great comments. Shelley Walling, thanks for writing. Your expression of gratitude is inspirational! And yes, I love the comment about dignity and respect for the injured person, always so important. Realistic expectations are great, but as a Pisces, (the DREAMER) I am not often realistic. I admire those who are. Many thanks for all of your thoughts. Rosemary
Your comments are all wonderful and totally felt...we adopted our daughter, who had a TBI, as an infant. I learned life is always changing and never the same. It is full of amazing people and some real jerks. Our loved ones are inspirational in the work that they have had to do to heal and continue to heal. The skills brought out in me were hidden and not known they were there. The lessons in all of this are truly for the caregiver ... Blessings!
Hail to the Caregiver!, recognizing that Intellect does not die within the victim of TBI...It just takes more time for the effort, whatever it may be, to seed itself and blossom for your pleasure. I thank my husband for that patience and humility every day.