Holidays Aren’t All Ho! Ho! Ho! after Brain Injury

Posted by Marilyn Lash, M.S.W. on 23rd Dec 2010

Holidays Aren’t All Ho! Ho! Ho! after Brain Injury

by Marilyn Lash

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Holidays aren’t always bright for survivors and families.

Every year as the holidays approach, I find that I have mixed emotions – and am reminded of what a hard time this was for me and my family after my brother was injured. I suspect that this is true for many families who are living with a spouse, parent, child or sibling who has a brain injury. We are expected to be full of joy and excitement but the holidays can also be really stressful for all sorts of reasons. Unless you are living with the reality of brain injury, it can be hard for friends, coworkers, and even relatives to understand how we are feeling.

In my family, the holidays were always difficult for my brother, Richie – and consequently for all of us. He not only had a brain injury, but had become mentally ill as well after he dropped out of college. Because structure and consistency were so important for his daily routine, the holidays threw him all out of kilter. He became more confused, argumentative, depressed and was frankly, pretty tough to live with for a while. It was always a relief when January came and we could all get back to “life as usual” – or whatever was passing for “normal” for us in the world of brain injury.

For my parents, the holidays were especially hard. They would try to keep up a cheerful front for the rest of “us kids” – and later on the grandkids – but their hearts were really aching and we knew it. Their pain was always there no matter how much they tried to cover it up.

As I look back at holidays past, I feel a special sadness. My brother is no longer alive. I remember how hard he struggled to simply make it through the day during this season. But I also am reminded of his courage because he did get up every day and kept trying no matter how hard it was for him. I also appreciate that my parents taught all of us the real meaning of family – that no matter how painful, how sad, how upsetting – we stuck together and were always there for each other. That’s the joy of Christmas.