Words That Make a Difference

Words That Make a Difference

I’m a memoir reader and thrive on personal stories that showcase the human capacity for love, growth, and resilience. There’s no better place to find these stories than in the TBI community. TBI survivors and their caregivers are challenged at every level, and yet most people face these challenges with determination, grace, and fortitude.

Not everyone can evolve through the experience of a severe injury and the drastic life changes that accompany a TBI in a way that he or she defines success, but many do. Today I wondered why. Why do some people keep striving while others give up and stop trying?

While wondering this, I kept remembering back to my own husband’s experience. After his injury, many friends offered help, but after a year, when Hugh’s injuries were not so visible, help fell away. Hugh had always been athletic, and that was on his side, but as I thought more about this, I realized that it was more than his athletic tenacity that kept him going. He remembered words—words that meant a great deal to him, spoken by people who meant a great deal to him.

Hugh’s daughters, Mary, and Anna, told him every day how much they loved him, and so did I. Love is the ultimate motivator, and constant reminders help after TBI, when a person feels needy, changed, and sometimes unworthy of love because he is no longer the same.

On one visit to our home, Hugh’s close friend Kevin told him, “You can do anything you put your mind to. You’re the most stubborn guy I know.” Hugh embodied these words, and when he felt like giving up on something, he remembered what Kevin told him and tried again.

A beloved occupational therapist once told Hugh to “Suck it up,” a phrase often used in bike racing. These words really spurred Hugh on. Caution: not everyone will respond to this phrase the way my husband did!

Hugh’s father told him, “You have so much to live for. You’re the smartest man I have ever known.” Determined to regain his ability to think clearly, Hugh took classes he wasn’t sure he could pass. His father’s words gave him the confidence to try, and we’re sure these rigorous classes helped him rewire his brain.

And then there were the words Hugh said to himself when he made up his mind to push his mind and body as hard as he could to reach his highest potential: If it’s to be, it’s up to me. He repeated these words every day.

Sometimes, words are all we have to offer when we can’t make problems go away—when we can’t fix what’s wrong. When heard at the right time, from the heart, mere words can change the way we see our possibilities and ourselves. And even if nothing changes, reaffirming words make us feel better, and that’s worth something.

Please share the words that make a difference to you below in the comment section, and thanks in advance for sharing!

Comments (14)

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However important words are, they must be and are judged. They are judged by just the words we use and HOW we use them. It is by action. The act behind or act not met that is scrutinized. I have a silent injury. My injury affects my life in every mental capacity. I have one very slight physical manifestation. My right side is very slightly weaker than the left. A spatial awareness deficit of roughly 15% makes me 'clumsy'. I loose balance and my knee may lock or buckle. I fall and bump into things i spill constantly. My biggest problem that arises from my injury is Social!!!! Society gas rules by which we must abide to fit in. These rules are governed by our actions. The rules are based on principles of action and these principal requirements are a function of our executive functioning. Problems with memory, the inability to be contextually aware of my surroundings. My difficulties with time and inability to sequence and actions have grave impairments. Then the everloving confabulations. These are the crem de la crem. They make us liars. Confabulation is a clinical term and gives is the grace to understand that we cant 'help it'. But recalling a memory that is a mixture of memories not related are to any normal person story telling or exaggerating or simply appear to be lies. Being respectful of others is the basic social guide. But if i cant remember an experience i shared that makes me insensitive perhaps. Dont mess with peoples time. Heck i cant get anywhere on time anymore no matter how many calendars or alarms i set i forget they went off and what they're for. Missing appointments. Misunderstanding social context of a conversation. I was having impressions of my teeth done and when the dentist said impression i thought first off about first impressions then impersonations. All the while impressions of my teeth were being taken. Thank goodness my mouth was full of goo. Why cant my mouth be full of goo everytime i take things out of context. Well it is full of goo because I start talking about a subject completely un related. It sounds funny but over time these little things. Have made life a living hell. I have become socially isolated. People think its drugs or that im just. Ot wanting to move past the injury when that is all in want to do. People dont understand me. Or they misunderstand me and the little things make or break a person. Like words. Little words. To little thoughts to little actions over and over define character. Our character is how society judges us by and by what value it places on a person. A silent injury is undaunting. When someone has a physical manifestation of a brain injyry then society 'forgives'. Because that person is a victim. Silent head injuries make for bad people. Unwanted character. That makes unwanted people a person like me. This is why i gave up ir give up at times. Sometimes i fight like there is no tomorrow. But hope gives way when there seems to be next to nothing that I do right. As an RN of 28 years my clinical practice was in neurological and psychological nursing. And now with a significant injury i cant get the word out because im not sociably a person with character worthy of believing. So the things in research and study mow are my reason to live. Fighting my way to find a way to get people to listen to me. Hey nurses and doctors!!!!! There us NO SUCH THING as a person who had a 100% recovery from a head injury. The brain was damaged and like all organ systems there is residual impairment. Its a silent injury that is a 100% recovery. Also this is the most important thing in this message. Head injuries have a latent morbidity and mortality rate that is unconscionably high and it manifests in suicide. The social isolation myself and others feel becomes overwhelming and people have too much pain in rejection that they end their own lives. This begins to happen about two years past injury. By two years peoples little blunders have shown their once impecable character before the injury not after the injury they change.... Of course we do WE ARE FOREVER HEAD INJURED. stop discharging and start post injury monitoring for social disconnection. Save lives. Start realizing silent injuries are elidemic and change in the was neurological trauma is manages has to be redefined and treatment protocols for social health need be identified and managed. We need a new area of clinical practice and its social practice. Social impairments kill. They institutionalize in either psychiatric hospitals or prisons. Look at the statistics of inmates that gave suffered moderate to severe head injuries. The numbers soar. In some studies 80% of prison populations have suffered an ABI So words. Yet what are those little words and why do people all of a sudden give up? I hope uninjured can try to grasp this concept. I wonder if anyone that can do anything about this will. I have identified it but i am head injured. Even though people say i have made 100% recovery. I am no longer considered a reliable sour e of information. Yes i have woken up in hell. So its hard to constantly fight in hell. But survivors survive. Thank you. Sue.

I was in a passenger in a hit-and-run motorcycle accident.  I was sent airborne and hit the highway at about 80 mph.  Multiple skull fractures, broken back 3x, 11 broken ribs, etc. 

I was in coma for 4 days, intensive care for 6 weeks, step-down icu for 3 weeks, med-surg for 3 weeks,  and inpatient rehab for 12 weeks.  The only time I remember is rehab.  I have no conscious memory of the accident.

Words.  My father was a prisoner of war in world war 2 in japan for 4 years.  He was med-evac'd from Korea from both Inchon and Cho-San.  He was med-evac'd from Viet Nam 3x and spend 13 months in Balboa Naval Hospital for an unknown jungle fungus and lost the lung entirely when the Navy couldn't cure the fungus. I never heard him complain once for all those injuries.  He had 11 purple hearts, 2 silver stars, and 2 bronze stars.  Not one complaint. 

He made the best of all those situations.   He even laughed at times and he did every single hard PT the Navy prescribed him.  I saw him cry once when he had to lift his arm over his head for the lung removal PT.  Only time I ever saw that.

I listened to his encouraging words.  Heard  his laughter and jokes.  And thought to myself these words:  If my dad could do four years of prison of war camp, I can do this PT.  My PT is a piece of cake compared to that.  And it was.

I still have some balance issues.  But that is a piece of cake compared to the four years he spend in Hokkaido in Northern Japan.

Words are the single most powerful motivators in recovery.

Thank you for you words of life worth the living and remembering. ..I so needed to read these words of encouragement regarding Hugh. Thank you...kim


You've hit on something with this blog. Words create and also deflate. Careful, careful, careful, but that seems to be the last thing to focus on after being a receptor of a TBI. But, healing is conveyed through feeling. Feeling creates words... remember, words create one's inner an outer reality. I never really thought about it until TBI. It was pointed out to me early on. So crucial to observe the observation of word usage. It be so!!! You have hit on my central thesis....we are God...use your ability to communicate with inner self as a tool in the recovery from TBI. My earlier writing material  was all based from the foundation I've just described. It be so, it be so, it be so...travel as one, for the concept is foreign to outside world. Keep it to yourself. Flow and know we/you are one an one equaling two and two is two. You are never alone, inside realize the solace, the solace of the solace of the soul. Understand...??? AC

I personally can't write an extensive Email at this moment but let me be the first to say, if I haven't given up after being in a coma for three months.  I'm 30 years post my injury happened in 1985.  I was 17 yrs old.  I was a Volleyball player with College in my future to begin on a Sports Scholarship that fell through...  I lost more than I can type tonight but your will to live has to come from within.  Pls don't say any words you might regret.  You might change your mind once you know that there IS help in Jesus Christ. 


Words are very powerful, equally powerful for good/bad. Internalizing begins with words and pictures. Forms, which we reduce into words to spur us on. I happened to come upon two words in my labored travels after injury that absolutely opened the universe up for me. Scattered a lot of the confusion that embodies sustaining a TBI. "JUST RIGHT" As I mentioned earlier, words can be good or bad. After acquiring a TBI, bad/negative word seem to float inward at a torrential rate. Every decision seems to be  monumental, weighing pro/con of each. Wildly skewed is this practice but one you have to go through for all TBI sustainers. Giving less tenacity to the negative energy that is flowing through the body/mind at that time is the power of affirmations. Whatever is chosen, you declare it to be "just right' or "just the way it was suppose to be." Guilt is taken out of the equation... a clear mind is a healthy mind and such is needed at time of inflection of a TBI.

Two most powerful, healing, words are  "just right!!!" Simple, simple, simple, a way to extract the negative power from making deep inroads into the wonderful, true, self, that is a the core of everyone of us. A TBI reduces one to a child. Humility is a great teacher. "Just Right" allows one to see the sunshine of the future as long as we keep focused on the journey ahead. Arthur Cortis

Rosemary!  thank you for another inspirational blog. 

Words do make a difference--both for good ---and unfortunately negatively.  We have to have a very good filter on what we say.  Fatigue, frustration, fear can escape in negative responses or long sighs of exasperation.  These can unintentionally, cause long-time difficulties, lowered self-esteem etc. for the person they were directed at.  Sensitive children can carry verbal negativity with them throughout life affecting their opinion of themselves and their ultimate successes in their lives.  Brain injured people can, in my observations, do the same.


Thank you for this helpful & inspiring thought, "If it's to be, it's up to me." I'm very appreciative. God Bless !!💓

I can relate to this on so many levels! I am blessed to be surrounded by an encouraging husband,kids, friends, and boss as I recover from my TBI. "No pain no gain"😉👍

The Two Words that kept me going after brain surgery, during recovery from brain surgery and still today are the words THANK YOU. Every time that I heard these Two Words directed at me, my Self Esteem grew Stronger, right alongside my willingness to Help Others as I had been helped myself by so many. It gave me inspiration as I felt that I was still of use to all of those that I myself could help.

Excellent article Rosemary, words can certainly make a difference in anyone's life. In 1992, I sustained my TBI from an automobile accident and the comforting words and support from my family have helped me. I have written my experience in my memoir called Putting the Puzzle Together on Amazon that I have just published. I am still learning and growing - words do make people feel better and they make a positive difference.  With my Best and Warmest regards, Ferdinand Ortiz Jr. (fortitoiny@gmail.com)

'Accept the changes.' made me resist and battle those changes more each time this was said.

Negativity is not an option, you can't get anywhere if you choose it. Be positive and be brave. Why waste a second chance doing it the same way.

I am so nervous about telling my brother things like "come on if you want to walk without that walker this is what you've got to do." Mostly because he has snapped at me previously and cursed at me. His motivation is pretty low and sometimes he asks me "why don't people want to be around me?" Which isn't true.. such a delicate balance this TBI life.