The Healing Process: Helping Families of Children with TBI

[Amy Mansue] For families with a child with a traumatic brain injury it is really important to set your expectations accordingly. That child that you had before the injury is not going to be the same child. It just will not be the same. It doesn't mean it's bad—it just means that it's different. And it's really important to embrace those differences, and one of the moms once told me that she actually had to grieve the loss of her son who lived in order to love the child that she has now because the comparative between the two was so hard that she couldn't ever get over it. And she actually went through a process of mourning that we led her through while we were caring for her son. That allowed her to fully embrace the child that remained, and it was really a—it was amazing to watch her go through that to understand in some way it really was that sense of terrible loss and then be able to say, "There's such joy in what I have." And—again—it goes back to that example of— you know—your prayer was answered; your child lived. So now let's figure out the steps to create the fullest life possible for you and your family and the child that you now have. And I think that what I would say is that taking care of yourself as well as your child is a really important part of this component. Not minimizing the injury in reference to how you relate to it, but you should feel what you feel—you know—the frustration, the shame—all of that, and get some help. Don't try and be that strong, silent "I can do this all on my own." It doesn't work that way; you're not going to support your child unless you're really as healthy as you can be both physically and mentally and really trying to find ways—families who suffer silently often manifest themselves in divorce and other things that happen because you just haven't found the tools to deal with the loss that you've had. And so I would really, really urge you to make sure that you're investing the same amount of time and energy in yourself as caregivers that you are to your child in reference to the healing process. In the long run it will make a difference—a huge difference.

"One mother I worked with needed to fully grieve the son she lost but who did not die in order to embrace the child who remained," says Hospital Executive Amy Mansue.

See more video clips with Amy B. Mansue.

Amy Mansue

Amy Mansue is president and chief executive officer of Children's Specialized Hospital. She provides leadership to an extremely skilled team of clinicians and therapists providing specialized care for children.

Posted on BrainLine August 8, 2013.

Produced by Sharon Ladin, Justin Rhodes, and Erica Queen, BrainLine.