Grief After Spinal Cord Injury

Grief After Spinal Cord Injury

This one is gonna make some of y’all uncomfortable. We’re gonna talk grief.

Grieving with a spinal cord injury is complex. Grieving at all is indescribable.  How do you explain such a heavy emotion? Many of us experience grief and we don’t know how to quite describe it, or how we’ll quite get through it.

"It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.” A quote by Rose Kennedy, and one I think describes grief pretty well.

Grief is one of those emotions that once you feel it, you tend to keep feeling it. It hits you all at once or in tiny moments or while you’re doing some mundane task. And it doesn’t get easier, you just learn to live with it because what else can you do? 

At first I didn’t know what to call what I was feeling. How does one even explain grieving with a spinal cord injury? How could I explain feeling like I lost a huge part of me? How could I explain that it felt like a part of me died? How do you explain grieving someone who is still alive? How do you explain grieving yourself and your old life?

I think grief is one of the hardest parts for me when it comes to living with a SCI because I can’t escape remembering me and how much easier my life was and also, there’s constant moments where I remember all I lost because of my injury.

I was 24 when I became disabled. I lived quite a bit of my life as an able bodied human and I remember it pretty well. Then I broke my spine at the C4 vertebrae and lost function from my neck down.

It’s hard remembering who I used to be and how my body used to function and knowing that I’ll never get her completely back. I find myself thinking about what able-bodied me would be doing right now and how different my life would be. Yeah, I’m the same but things are also vastly different.

I’m reminded of these differences often too. Every time I need assistance to shower, use the bathroom, pick something up, or just open something, I feel grief. When I wake up and realize I can’t just get up on my own, I feel grief. When my wheelchair malfunctions, I feel grief. When  I can’t go to a space because it isn’t accessible, I feel grief. When I’m no longer included because of my disability, I feel grief. Every time I’m reminded of what I lost, I feel grief, and those moments happen often.

The grief really hurt at first. I cried a lot when I first got injured and realized my new reality. It’s getting easier as the years go by, but it’s still there. I may not cry as often, but I’m still grieving.

It’s gotten easier because I’m accepting it more as time passes. I’m getting out of my able bodied mindset and switching my affirmations to be more inclusive. But that doesn’t mean that I no longer have grieving moments. I think I’ll always have those moments. Unless there comes a day where I forget my able-bodied life, I think there will be moments throughout my day to day, every day that I grieve.

And that’s ok.

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