Who can imagine, when you walk down the aisle with the person you love and you speak the vow to promise to love him or her “for better or worse” that the worse would happen? The “worse” involves being married to a person who completely changes because of a brain injury. How do you do this when your spouse becomes a stranger to you and you to him or her? No one could anticipate this type of strain on your vows ahead of time. But it does happen. Sadly, you know this all too well.
First, I’d like to say how much my heart goes out to you. I pray added strength for you and insight as you learn to navigate this “new normal.”
I know I can say very little to take away your pain and confusion. But I’m hoping, as a ministry, that we can give you insights that can help in some way. To do this, I’d like to share four true stories with you of spouses who are dealing with after effects of a brain injury. They have learned firsthand what it is to start a marriage over after a brain injury. I pray they will inspire you in your marital journey.
Starting Over After a Brain Injury
This first article starts with an accident, and continues into the “what to do next” dilemma. When a brain injury challenges those who survive it, what can be done? Please glean through what Stan Ward has learned and passes onto you to read. Perhaps it will help you in your marital struggles after tragedy has crashed into your life:
• WHAT TO DO WHEN “FOR WORSE: MEANS MENTAL TRAUMA
This next article tells the testimony of Floyd and Diana Green (as written by David Boehi). It involves the traumatic struggles and victories they’ve encountered after a car struck them as they were riding their bicycles together.
Not only was the accident traumatic itself, it changed who Floyd was after he gained consciousness. His wife had to learn who her husband had become, and learn how to love him all over again.
This article is featured on the web site for the terrific ministry of Family Life Today. To read what the Green’s learned through their experiences, please click onto the link provided below:
This next testimony is written by Alix Kates Sulman, gives insight into how to care for a loved one who suffers a traumatic brain injury. As the article says, “An injury irrevocably altered their marriage —but not their love.” This is a very inspirational story. We pray it helps in some way as you read:
“Krickitt Carpenter didn’t remember the horrible car crash that would forever change her life. This included the 18 months of her life before that fateful evening on Thanksgiving in 1993. She also could not remember her husband Kimmer.”
To learn about their journey of love and commitment, in an article written by Bonne Stefen, please read:
I pray that God will minister to your needs and give you strength as you reach for help. May God help you as you figure out how to deal with this “new normal.” I pray for you and for your spouse.
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ —to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11)
Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this article.
If you have additional tips to help others in this area of marriage, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.
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Filed under: Mental and Physical Health
145 responses to “Starting Marriage Over After A Brain Injury”
Ok. I am trying so hard to stand by my husband but his mood swings, name calling, verbal, mental, and physical abuse are getting to be a little overwhelming to me. I am someone who suffers from depression and all the arguments and all the negatively makes me feel really crappy about myself and makes me not wanna be there for my husband and I don’t wanna feel like that. I wanna learn how to handle and cope and understand what to do when he is in a negative mood and when he mistakes everything I say. He really doesn’t understand what he is doing to me. He treats me like just another girl, not like a wife so it’s hard for me to be a loving wife.
I am dealing with the exact same thing from my husband. He used to be my strength, my best friend, my support. Now I feel like he hates me.
I am also dealing with this. What I find so hard is that can it still be abuse when your husband has a brain injury, because if he was well there is no way his behaviour is any kind of acceptable; but he’s not well.
My name is Karen. A full time caregiving wife for over ten years. My husband’s care requires 100% assist. He has had several additional afflictions affecting his already injured brain, thus leaving major deficits for every area. Over the years I have researched articles, books, seminars, support groups, you name it and still haven’t come across certain issues many caregiving wives face.
For instance… I know my husband is not the same person. Serious deficits abound. I know he doesn’t understand, can’t remember, can’t focus. His vision is extremely limited. He can stand and walk with full assist and a walker but has no balance. Thus he can fall way too easily and handling him requires all my strength and balance but to use a wheelchair would only cause setbacks so I muscle and frustrate through the walking (only in house).
I live with his limitations every day. I know my husband and his new normal; but my problem, which I haven’t yet come across this in all these years of seeking is this… why do I get so upset and frustrated to the point of anger when he can’t do as I ask or need him to. Why do I let the anger spill out to the point I might grab his arm hard, then he does the same to me out of his frustrations.
This ‘getting mad’ behavior has developed thru my handling him and his brain injury inability frustrations that I read to learn, to gain forgiveness for the injury that completely changed our lives; him and me and to keep from resentment as result to the loss of my life as it was too.
I realize this is why I can get angry and work thru what I have come to accept and cannot change. I know this and it ticks me off that I don’t get a handle on my own angered emotions. I am a women of faith and know Jesus helps me yet I still struggle with this sin.
Does anyone have advice from something that worked for them? I know my husband can’t help how he is yet I seem to forget that and I don’t understand why. I am open to all ideas the Lord may place upon you readers to share with me. I need help and I know the Lord and know He did not have me find this blog for no reason, especially when I’ve been seeking brain injury knowledge over 10 years and still to this day, haven’t received answers to my why’s?
Thank you for this wonderful website and powerful personal stories shared by you readers. May you know the Lord Jesus personally and may he pour out wonderful blessings to you and your brain injured loved one. Don’t give up on them, as hard as it is to live this different and difficult life, there is joy to be found in getting to take care of our brain injured loved one. God bless you.
Karen, My heart is so drawn to yours. How I wish I could give you a hug and lighten your load in some way! I’ve been praying for you since I read your comment. I hope with my whole heart that someone (or many someones) will read your comment and will post some things that have helped them deal with situations similar to yours. As you can see from other comments, people are sporadic about leaving comments under this article. They visit and say nothing. And when they do, their stories are real tear jerkers. This is such a tough, tough situation. You marry one person, and then go through a tragedy, and then live with someone entirely different that challenges everything within you. But what do you do? Abandon them in their time of greatest need? This is a horrible matter to struggle with because there are no easy “solutions.”
Karen, I have not lived through what you have with your husband’s brain injury and other health and physical issues. My situation has been different. But there is a small similar thread that runs through our experiences. And for that reason, I feel compelled to share it with you because perhaps the Lord will use it in some way to speak to you. My husband Steve is a Type 1 Diabetic. He’s also what they term as a brittle diabetic. That means that he can go into insulin reactions very quickly–much quicker than most people. They can also be very deep reactions–very severe. He has had diabetes for most of our married life (47 of almost 49 years). This has tried our marriage to the edge at times.
When Steve goes into one of this deep reactions, he usually doesn’t recognize me. He becomes a very different person. He is capable of doing things that he NEVER would do otherwise. Sometimes it’s like he is a raving drunk, and sometimes it’s like he is a falling down drunk that is incoherent. Often times he doesn’t recognize me or anyone around him and you never know how he will react when you approach him. And approach him I must… because I have to get some type of quick sugar into him or he will pass out and could even go into a diabetic coma. His doctor has told me he could even die as a result.
That’s why he told me not to ever sleep apart from Steve because he could slip into one of those comas and not wake up. But if I’m with him I recognize certain movements that nudge me to wake him up, and give him sugar. All of those are frightening, time-sensitive times. We’ve been through a lot of them (although not recently because he has a glucose monitor hooked up to him and as long as he pays attention to the signals he can take care of the reactions himself before they get severe).
I tell you all of this for a reason. It’s because I have had to really have some hard, hard talks with myself. God has had some pretty hard ones with me too. There are quite a few times over the years that I have been so angry about this. I never would have married a diabetic if I would have known ahead of time. One of my best friends had a dad who was a diabetic. I watched what it did to him and the family up until he died from it. I swore I’d never date a diabetic because I didn’t want to have the type of life my friend’s family had. But Steve wasn’t a diabetic before we married; it came upon him suddenly shortly afterward. They think it came as the result of a virus. So I had no choice here.
But I’ve come to realize that Steve doesn’t have a choice either. He didn’t sign up for the diabetic club. He HAS to live with it. And God has let me know that I need to be his partner in helping him with this. (We’ve prayed for healing continually, but God has His own reasons why He isn’t healing Steve. But we keep asking.) However, I made a vow, and God expects me to live up to my promise. And honestly, I couldn’t live any other way now. This is our life together. I’m fortunate though… most of the time Steve does great! He’s a loving, wonderful husband. He just has a terrible disease.
Even so, I know what you’re saying about “getting mad” when you go through certain things with your husband. Years ago, when Steve was going through one reaction after another (the doctors didn’t know why), I grew VERY impatient with them, and with him. Deep down I knew it wasn’t his fault, but I still was angry when his reactions took him to a place where he didn’t understand me; he would weave around, slur words, yell at me, “who are you; why are you doing this?” … he’d sometimes even run from me when I was trying to give him juice… etc. I could go on and on. I’m ashamed to say that I got to the place that when he would have a reaction, I started acting out my anger. I would say terrible things to him and treat him as if he was an imbecile. I wanted out of there. I didn’t want to be put in that place anymore. I wanted a “normal” life with the man I had married–not a falling down, dementia patient. I’m very ashamed of my thoughts and reactions as I think back on this.
One night, after a horrible incident out in public, where I was trying to get him back to the hotel we were staying in, and he was running from me, yelling, and such… I broke down. I finally was able to get juice into him, and get him back to the hotel. I was calm on the outside, but not on the inside. I learned that this was the only way to successfully do this. And besides… I had quite the audience around me as he was running through downtown Nashville. I got him to sit with his juice and told him to stay there. By that time he was back to himself, and he knew something bad had happened. (Most often with the deep reactions he wouldn’t remember what happened, which only made it worse. He felt bad, and I felt very alone in all of it.) I then went into the bathroom, drew up a bubble bath, and sat there crying, and whimpering out to the Lord. I didn’t want Steve to hear me, but I sure did want God to hear me. The water got very cold as I cried and cried and cried. I told God that I was done. I didn’t want to do this anymore and I didn’t think it was fair that He put me in this place. I said many other things… Thank God He understood.
I could go on and on to tell you more… but it came down to this: God let me know that I made a vow. He expected me to keep it. If I left Steve… what did I think would become of him? God expected me to be his colleague in living with Steve, loving him as God does, and that God would give me the strength to do what needed to be done. This is a grow up time. God gives all of His children grow up times (they just look different). Some are long; some are short; some are not too difficult; others are horribly taxing. But God will walk through them with us, strengthening us as we lean upon Him. Sometimes we don’t feel His presence, but I’ve learned that He is there, none the less.
And as for my bitter anger, and acting it out sometimes, God let me know that this was NOT acceptable. I could be angry, but I could not act it out in ways that hurt Steve, or others or nursed bitterness. God will give us the grace to do what we need to as we continually ask Him in each situation. He let me know that acting angry towards Steve when he wasn’t at fault was a horrible character flaw in me that I needed to work on, and eliminate. I knew this was a crossroad for me. Even if no one else but God and me know of my thoughts and actions–that’s enough. I need to view Steve as God’s son. How are we to treat God’s son? Well, we know deep inside. God expected me to treat Steve with dignity and respect–the dignity and respect I would give Jesus. If I think I’m better than Steve while he’s in a reaction, I’m absolutely wrong.
From that moment on… and the journey continues where God keeps confirming this to me… I treat Steve with the respect I would give him if Jesus was standing right next to him (because He is). I keep thinking, “What would God have me do here?” I keep envisioning that I am doing this “as unto the Lord.” After all, Jesus said, “When you do this for the least of these, you do it for me.” And that’s what I keep putting into my mind. And it helps. I’m no saint; I’m a sinner saved and ministered to by grace. And I thank God for His mercy in putting up with my “talks” to Him and the need for attitude adjustments.
Karen, I could go on and on. I want to help you so bad because I know that in those times when our anger over the whole situation is pushed to the edge, you can feel very alone. I cry with you over that. But I know Jesus does too. You aren’t alone, even when you feel like it. Talk to the Lord some more about all of this. Get into His Word (whenever you can) and pray out the cryings of your heart. The book of Psalms is especially good for that. Read, and pray what comes to your heart. God can take it. But as you do, listen for His words to you. He can be tough on us at times as a just judge. At other times He is a very gentle shepherd. But all in all, it’s what we need at the time.
I pray the Lord comforts your heart. I pray He helps you work through your questions, even when He can’t give you answers on this side of Heaven. I pray He gives you strength, and helps you to reign in on your impulses to act out your anger. I pray God makes you aware of His love for you and your husband. And I pray He leads you in the way ever lasting. … And I hope that others will comment to your posting–giving you insight into things that have helped them. Above all, I pray the Lord helps you, guides you, comforts you, speaks to you, and works in and through you in this situation. I also pray God infuses hope into your heart that you will eventually experience better days –ones that will bring a smile to your heart. “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.” (Colossians 1:11)
I’m on the opposite side. I had the stroke and this morning he said he’s starting to resent me and that broke my heart. I know taking care of someone 24/7 is like having a newborn baby the house. The other day he looked up and said I just didn’t see my life like this. Well, neither did I. I know he needs a break so I need to find care for me that we can afford. I’m lost here.
Oh Kim, I wish I could express my heart to you. I feel so deeply moved by the difficulty of what you are going through. I pray God speaks within your husband’s heart to give him an extra amount of compassion for you. You never chose to have a stroke. You never would have. And you don’t want to burden him any more than you want to be on this side of the situation. This is difficult for both of you and everyone involved.
We never think as we are saying our vows to support each other, “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health” that we will be put in the worse of those types of situations someday. It’s what we do in those types of situations that tests our character to the max. Kim, I’m so sad for you that you have suffered and are suffering like this. I can only imagine how difficult this is. I know in my heart, and Steve has assured me so often, that he would never put me in these difficult places. I have to tell you that this does help me in many ways. It would be all the more difficult if I thought that he was okay with it, or that he took my care for granted.
Unfortunately, some “victims” cannot convey their sorrow to their spouses. They no longer have the mental acuity to understand how difficult it is for the care taking spouse. Thankfully (for many reasons) you are able to see a bigger picture here. That doesn’t make it easier on you. You have your own battles. And they are big ones. But you can also see that your husband has his. I encourage you to continually let your husband know that you do not want to burden him, just as he would never want to burden you if your situations were reversed. Do what you can do to be as independent as you can, but also be realistic. You can only do so much with all that happened to you. Finding extra help, can be a good thing–as much as your finances can afford. And then put forth the effort to love on your husband and assure him of your appreciation as much as you can. This can help a lot.
Kim, again, I’m so sorry that this happened to you. My heart and my prayers are with you. May God minister to you in every way you need it as you lean all the more into Him! God bless!
Dear Cindy, Thank you for the wonderful words so deeply expressed thru your own experience loving and caring for your husband Steve. As soon as I saw you were replying to my shared stressful hurt and anger and I saw your name, I thought, Lord, how fitting you’d send me a response from someone with the name Wright. My maiden name. Haha. I said to the Lord, this is a detailed response that I know you’ll have something for me and I thank you Jesus, for Cindy and what she has to share from her heart.
Then I began reading. Simply put, Cindy your transparency in what you experience and shared deeply has truly blessed my heart. You gave me wonderful words of wisdom, obviously from the Holy Spirit and I am grateful. Because of how you shared with me your situation and frustrations, I personally can identify with, I hope to go into this blog and try printing this out so I can keep it on me and re-read your wonderful words, letting them sink in as the word of our Lord changes my angered ugly self.
I love my husband. I get to be his loving, caregiving wife. The days are long. This life is hard but I wouldn’t want the alternatives. The Lords grace is upon us all and I am blessed by keeping my eyes on Jesus as I do my best to remember what you suggested. You are right. God is here and will help me thru. I just need to help myself by avoiding these moments of ‘getting mad’ and showing it. This too shall pass.
Thank you for your prayers and kind words and living wisdom words. You are loved and prayed for as well. God bless you.
Hi Karen, Like you, I am a 24/7 caregiver and a RN. The only difference here is that my Tom can walk and is physically abusive to me. I have had 2 ribs broken ribs, stitches to my forehead, black eyes, and plenty of other trauma. I can’t believe it has been 12 years already of this abuse. Friends and relatives visited for the first couple of months, but are now nonexistent!
He does not take personal care of himself, and usually fights to take a shower. I have a 37 year old unmarried son that is usually never home, but tries to help when he feels like it or can arrange it. It’s hard to set a date and time, as he is a Firefighter and has other jobs also. From the beginning, he never would put his father anywhere but home, and I agreed thinking it wouldn’t be this bad. So here I am living a lonely difficult life.
Dear Karen, please don’t feel guilty about anything, as you are entitled to vent all you want. I am living with a man who doesn’t know I am his wife, and he, my husband. He is SO different that I feel nothing for this person, but tears every night for the Tom I lost 12 years ago, and still missing. I also can’t stand the fact that this person is sleeping in my bed, and won’t go in another bed. I feel like a stranger is in my bed. I am so angry that I can’t have my husband back, and this is my life.
I tried to speak to my son, but he keeps telling me others have it worse than me. I’m sure they do, but I know I’m at MY limit. I accept all of this, and I don’t get help, because I’m worried that he might hurt someone. There is so much more, but I have touched on only some.
My husband had a stroke at 47. He is 53 now. We had 3 boys ages 10 and 12 at the time. It affected him mentally and emotionally and then he got depressed. He has been a lot better these past two years. He just is different in so many ways. He’s hypersensitive, defensive, and not affectionate. It’s difficult to have an intimate connection with him. It’s a huge loss. The worst part is he looks totally normal and I can’t bring up his injury (because he can’t bare it) so we can work on things together. So I silently suffer. He’s a good provider and a great father but I can see how 80% of marriages with brain injuries end up in divorce.
So sorry Susan that you find yourself in this place. I can’t even imagine how difficult this must be to marry one person and then because of a stroke, be married to another person. My heart cries for you. I’m glad for your sake that he at least is a good provider and a great father.
I pray you find healthy outlets to talk through your frustrations. I hope you are drawing in closer to the Lord to give you wisdom, strength, and the help you need (including emotional support and fulfillments) so you are better able to cope. You obviously need all the help you can get. It’s got to be such a horrible struggle between what you should do and what you most want to do. I remember hearing one spouse wife state that just because her husband is “challenged” because of his illness (for you it would be a stroke), it doesn’t mean that he should just be thrown away or thrown aside. She asked herself if she would want to be tossed off to the side if she was in her husband’s place. She also asked herself what she believed God would have her do. After a lot of prayer she decided to stay–despite the daily challenges. God has since shown her to build a life with “new normals” that help her to better live as she believes she should. That was no doubt a very, very difficult thing to do. And I’m sure it’s a daily challenge.
I can’t tell you what to do. No human being can. I pray the Lord gives you insights into how to cope as best you can without focusing on all the “if only’s” and the “how I wish” thoughts that can haunt you. It would also be a temptation to look (from the outside) at the lives of other married couples and long for something much different. That could only torture you more if you allow yourself to focus on those thoughts. I pray the Lord ministers to your heart and your situation. You have been a brave person to keep hanging in there with your husband through these years. Many others would have given up. But I commend you for trying to do the best you can with all of the challenges you face every day.
I pray for you. “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ —to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11) “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ to whom be the glory for ever and ever.” (Hebrews 13:20-21) I don’t pray this lightly, or flippantly, but deeply, and with compassion and hope that in your everyday life you will find little smiles here and there that will help to lighten your load. May the Lord minister within you and within your life!
My husband used to be my best friend. Now I feel like he hates me. Where he used to be so loving towards me, he now is so mean. I feel like I’m in a sinking ship.
Around 20 years ago I was diagnosed with frontal lobe damage. It was a couple years after a sever motorcycle accident. Over the last 20 years I was given several different medications and they all had effects I didn’t like. Consequently I stopped taking them.
Here I am 20 years later 59 years old and my wife has moved out after 35 plus years together. I have dedicated my life to my family raising 3 children with my wife whom I love more than I can explain. But yet I’ve the last 5 years I’ve become aggressive and verbally abusive. Two weeks ago during an argument I grabbed her by the arm. We both froze in surprise and she left. I’m beside myself with guilt and remorse as she tells me everything I’ve been doing. It’s really hard for me to believe. I don’t remember doing or saying a lot of it.
I’m absolutely sickened by my actions. And losing my beautiful wife after 35 years almost seems like a bad dream. But it’s happening. Today she reminded me about my brain injury. So for the first time I’m reading about it. It really sucks because I have a lot of the symptoms. I don’t really know why I’m writing this or what I expect to get out of it. I love my beautiful wife but I’m probably going to lose her, all because I loved riding dirt bikes. I’m not sure I can function without my wife. We had true love. I can’t believe it!
Hello my name is Julie, and I love Jesus Christ very much. I had a bad TBI last year, and when they were doing the testing they also discovered I had a brain aneurysm, which I had surgery for and got it clipped. But my husband let me lay in bed for 6 days before I went to the doctor after my accident.
I feel like I can’t trust him at all now and I really don’t even want to be around him. I feel like I’ve always taken care of myself, even when I was in bed for 6 days. I finally asked my husband to take me to the doctor. And I was immediately admitted to ICU. When I was laying in bed with the worst pain I’ve ever had in my life, except for childbirth I made myself drink water. He was getting some good fishing in!!! And now I don’t trust him and I don’t know what to do about our marriage. It seems like he only cares about himself. And this is our 25th year of marriage. Thank you for letting me post.