Experiencing a TBI results in sudden changes in one’s personality, cognitive abilities, and physical skills. The unpredictability of fatigue is a game-changer. There may also be additional losses in employment, relationships, and lifestyle. These are not mild changes. These changes, although unseen, are devastating to everyone involved. Feelings of isolation seeps in as no one understands. I mean, why should they? You look normal and they expect you to be fine.
COVID-19 has resulted in sudden changes also. We have lost many of our freedoms. We have been asked to stay home. Many have lost employment. The way we connect with people has changed drastically through social distancing guidelines, and we are all being asked to adapt to technology to meet our needs of connection.
Both of these life experiences result in adjusting to a “new normal.” This adjustment requires grieving, but this type of grieving is different from the grief we experience when someone dies. This grief is referred to as “ambiguous loss.” This term was coined by Pauline Boss, PhD. This is different from the grief we feel when someone dies. This type of grief occurs when a person is physically present, but psychologically and emotionally changed or absent.
When someone has a TBI they look the same, and they are not the same. Their personality and ways they think are different. With COVID-19 our world is still out there, looks the same, but how we are able to be in it is different. Both of these situations are filled with uncertainty, unpredictability, and loss.
There are many skills to help us navigate both of these experiences. Developing the ability to hold two things simultaneously is the key. Holding what we have lost and what is. It may feel counterintuitive but being able to grieve allows us to move forward.
6 tips for coping with ambiguous loss:
- Recognize that your feelings of anxiety and ambivalence are normal
- Name your feelings of loss such as anger, fear, sadness. This will help create meaning to what you are experiencing.
- Grieve what you have lost and focus on what you have
- Don’t blame yourself for what is happening
- Find a therapist or support group
- Re-imagine new hope for the future
You do not need to go through this alone. With support, you can find meaning in what has happened and reshape your life. I know this to be true, because I have helped thousands of individuals and couples navigate through ambiguous loss.
Supporting you through this,