Waves of Grief

Waves of Grief

Grief is never the friend that you want to invite to sit on your porch, take a long walk with, or talk to endlessly about your hopes and dreams, but for many, grief is a daily palpable feeling. One we need not be ashamed or afraid of.

I cannot remember the first time I recognized grief for what it was following our son’s traumatic brain injury, but it has come to feel like a familiar acquaintance.

Grief comes in waves we are both prepared and unprepared to experience. It is sometimes subtle and can be hidden under the surface, and other times the power it brings is too strong, refusing to be ignored. Grief is part of the human existence. How we process grief is up to us and will play a part in determining our own path of healing.

I am not a qualified grief expert, but I have certainly encountered it enough.  At times I have handled grief with certain grace and other times I have been swept away by its current. These are some coping strategies that have helped me get through to the other side of my own grief. (That being said, I know that grief returns. I am not sure it ever has a clear-cut ending.)

Acknowledge Your Pain

I receive a lot of messages from people thanking me for sharing my perspective about my son’s injury. Within many of those communications, there is a common thread.  “I don’t talk about my sadness anymore because I feel people have grown tired of hearing it.” Or, “This thing that we deal with is difficult for others to understand, so I’ve stopped sharing.”

Grief is painful enough. Feeling muzzled about the emotions associated with grief can be harmful.

Find a safe friend, therapist or family member and share your sorrow. Speaking the painful thoughts aloud may make you feel as if you are quite literally putting your heart through a meat grinder, but there is wisdom in knowing that sometimes we have to allow things to be dismantled in order for them to be put back together.

Ponder Sweet Memories

Flooding of grief often comes in the form of memories, and these memories can surface at any time or place. For me, it comes while sitting on the dock in Virginia where we spent summer vacations, at the baseball field in our hometown, or watching a special occasion like a prom unfold. While those memories are cherished, they are also painful. They hurt because I remember what was. I remember the person that I shared them with, and the dreams I held within those moments for my son. Those memories make my heart ache. It is the clear line of the before and after.  

I have discovered that sharing fond memories with my family or friends, promotes laughter and sweet reminiscing. I have noticed that admitting in advance that recalling the past might be challenging can help. And I have learned that I appreciate sharing fond memories of life before brain injury. Life was simpler then, and reminiscing lifts some of the heaviness of now.

Put Pen to Paper

I know it can seem impossible at times to express our emotions. How can you truly speak the depths of sorrow, anger, and sadness you feel? Maybe you can’t. At times, I can’t either.

When I can’t speak of my sadness, and yet it is filling every portal of my brain, I write. I write a letter to myself, just as I would a friend. I write a letter to the “old” Taylor, telling him what happened. Or I sit down and make a list of every single emotion I am feeling, and I own it for what it is.

Sadness. Emptiness. Guilt. Anger. Frustration. Depression. Heaviness. Loss. Endless loss.

I put pen to paper, and I admit that these horrible things are there. I don’t form a friendship with grief, but I recognize its presence. Pretending it doesn’t exist does not make it disappear.

If writing isn’t your style, find what works. Paint a grief picture. Listen to some music for fifteen minutes that will release any bottled up tears, and let them flow. Exercise, scream, shout, grieve.

Finding healthy coping skills gives control to emotions that often feel uncontrollable.

Come Out of the Cave

Our lives are made up of choices that we make in given circumstances. I dislike someone telling me how to feel or respond. There are times when I want to scream, “This hurts, let me let it hurt. Let me sit here for a bit and feel every single ache of it!” And I do. I let myself feel it. But I have to come out of the cave, too.

Our youngest son, Tanner, wrote a beautiful song honoring the first weeks of his brother’s brain injury. The song is titled, “Clarity.” The lyrics say, “Don’t sit in your mind too long with everyone around you.” And then goes on to say, “You can choose to see the light in it, or you can choose to see the darkness in it.” Such truth is packed into those words.

Staying in the cave of grief, you will be kept from the light. There are practical ways to get out, and they will help you.

Go for a walk and notice the beauty around you. Each day, acknowledge three things that make you feel grateful. Just three. Gratitude can help shift your mind to another place. Play dance tunes and dance all around the room. Plant a flower. Plant a seed of hope.

Combat the harsh feelings of grieving, with the beauty of living. Make room for the sad moments in your life, but also the truly lovely ones. They can and do co-exist.

Grief has the ability to swallow you whole, and like a riptide, take you to a place that is too far out from shore. Should you feel that pull, remember to remain calm and use the strategies you possess to find your way out.

Posted on BrainLine September 11, 2017


We are 1 year and 2 weeks out from our son's TBI. It has been a long year, and while this new year is not as traumatic and intense as the first year, there are challenges.

Thank you for sharing your coping methods with us. I will utilize some of your tips when I am feeling down. Your article was touching and well written. Thank you again.

In reply to the comment by Elizabeth: We are 1 year and 2 weeks out from my son's severe TBI. He also has had seizures and it is hard to deal with. We are working our way through different anti seizures meds, hoping to find one that works for him. It does affect his personality a bit, the one med that didn't affect his personality as much, did not work for the seizures :(. So glad to have a site to share our experiences with others who have or are going through the same thing. Take Care.

Thank you for giving out copping Methods, I really needed that today My son had a traumatic brain injury a year and 4 months ago but 2 weeks ago he started having seizures and it feels like we are at the beginning again. We were in the middle of getting use to the new normal but we never expected this and it has affected him not in a good way, the medicine is so strong that he seems lost at time, it has robbed him of his personality im having a hard time letting go of what he use to be

I understand. I know these can be infuriating words to hear, unless they are backed with the knowledge that the person speaking those words truly does understand.

My son had a car accident Aug. 1st, multiple traumas too, including TBI. I live 5 states away. I received a call at 2am from the officer on scene, quit my job, grabbed a flight at 8am and have not left his side. We are walking side by side through his journey of 'New Normal' with no insurance, a temporary residence and all the prayers I can utter. Websites like this help - I'm searching resources and calling numbers in an endless fog of what to do next. Truly fantastic medical professionals, a sackful of miracles, compassion, and love have brought us this far. Only his strength and will to take another step forward fuels my will to push on. It is a special place a loved one looks from as a child of any age suffers inside this injury. We can only be ever close by to say "it's Mama, I'm here, I got you. All of you, no matter what." So,yes,"I understand." ...still holding, still praying, still loving with all I have... blessings to you and yours. Sincerely.

going o kcn walks really helps me....so do my fur babies...damn-the residence inn charges a hundred bucks/night for pets...wtf?

We're 19 months out from my son's TBI. Thanks for sharing.

I found this tonight on FB while wondering how I will ever work through my grief. My daughter was a month shy of her 21st birthday last August when she was in an accident that resulted in a severe TBI. I have read through all of our posts and see so many similarities. I need you to know it gives me hope in a week that hasn't brought a lot for me.
I too can barely tolerate holidays and cry if the sun shines too brightly. The guilt and sadness of what's been robbed is almost too much. Guilt being that it should be her enjoying the sun and driving to Target to shop, not me.
Anyway, I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to write such heartfelt and TRUE posts. Wishing you and your family all the best.

Thank you for your well-stated article! I am a TBI victim (4 years). Grieving is a huge part of what I deal with, for what once was, but can never be again.

I do ongoing work with my counselor - one thing she might add to your thoughts is self-compassion. Be gentle with yourself for how you feel - these feelings of grief are a real part of life and it is ok to feel that way.

My connection with nature is hugely helpful for me, as well as physical exercise. So I often link the two together - a bike ride, a walk outdoors, a ski through the beauty of new fallen snow. This helps shift my emotions to another place.

My son is 4 years out and it still paralyzes me when I see a medical helicopter!

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