In honor of March being Brain Injury Awareness Month, I wanted to share a few excerpts from a letter I had written 18 months after my husband’s TBI. At the time, I felt moved to write a letter to the pre-accident person I married. Whether you’re in the TBI club as a survivor, caretaker, family or friend, there will always be a ‘before’ and ‘after’. My motivation is not to exploit, but to offer help and hope. This is a deeply personal letter and I’ve omitted the most private aspects, but my hope is that every ‘club member’ can allow themselves the space to grieve what once was, in order to make room to be fully content in the present.
“I felt compelled to write a letter to the husband I married. You see, I never formally told you good bye and for that I’m truly sorry. Maybe I figured that you would someday return and our reunion would be as sweet as ever. But, as I’m sure you’ve realized as well, I’m doubtful that day will come so I think I need to put that dream at rest.
It’s been one and half years since you left. I don’t want to seem ungrateful in the least. In fact, I revel in the mundane of tasks because that means that my life, our life, for now, is ‘normal’. I’m not in a constant state of helplessness, agony, and fear. I am happy doing the wash for two again, I’m pleased when you come home from a long day, and I enjoy curling up to watch television or to chat with you.
However, I find myself sometimes longing for the way our life used to be. I feel like I never had a real care in the world prior to your accident, although maybe I did. I knew how my life was going to turn out (or at least I thought I did) and I felt secure. I was quick to laugh, make jokes, chat with anyone and be the yin to your yang. I couldn’t imagine being any happier. I had a baby, a husband who shared a deeply mutual love, and my family was in good health.
I relished hearing you talk to people about important (or seemingly important) matters. I enjoyed listening to how the words rolled off your tongue. I loved hearing your deeply personal questions and thoughtful answers. I enjoyed your hearty laugh, quick remarks and stoic nature. Your light radiated for all to see and since I was the closest, I had the most light.
In some ways, I feel as though the scales have tipped. You are no longer invincible. I never had to worry about your safety, your remarks with people or your future. Now, I find myself in a state of as perpetual anxiety and perhaps that’s why I feel as though I’m short with Caroline, with myself, with you. I am several shades darker than I used to be and although I’m not nearly isolated as I once was, maybe this darkness will linger a bit longer than I expected. This experience has changed me from the inside out.
I need to pray that God gives me guidance, patience and wisdom. I pray that God gives my heart the lightness that it once held. For my sake, for my husband’s sake and for my daughter’s sake. She didn’t ask for any of it and she doesn’t deserve to have a mother who’s worried all the time about something she has no control over. She deserves me in my entirety. I have to find the strength to try and get through a process to find the happiness once held in my old heart. That’s the promise I hope to make good on.”
My husband is in a much better place than when I wrote this letter and while I’m grateful he's back to his pre-accident self, I never want to take for granted the time, effort, tears and love have lead us to this point. I am thankful for the support of family, friends and neighbors who selflessly helped us get back on our feet. Most importantly, God has answered every one of our prayers in His own unique way. We have been filled with His grace on this epic journey called life.
If you’re able, take a moment this month to reach out to a TBI survivor, volunteer or spend a day at Craig Hospital (or your local rehabilitation hospital). Bring awareness to those around you by always wearing a helmet, being a defensive driver and taking appropriate risks on and off the field. Lastly, if you are a caregiver, please consider taking a free weekly meditation class at Namaste in Evergreen. Being surrounded by a supportive community is perhaps the best awareness of all.