TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Archive for the ‘Past Blasts’ Category

Past Blast . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Guest Blogger: Stages of Forgiveness – Melissa Cronin

“Guest Blogger: Stages of Forgiveness ”

by Melissa Cronin

(originally published January 14, 2015)

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Girl Blogger cartoon_picture_of_girl_writing

 

More than eleven years ago, eighty-six-year-old George Russell Weller confused the gas pedal for the brake and sped through the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market. He struck seventy-three pedestrians. Ten people died.

I sustained life-threatening injuries, including a ruptured spleen and multiple fractures. Due to the nature of my traumatic brain injury, it wouldn’t be until three years after the accident when a neuropsychiatrist diagnosed me with a TBI.

During the early days and weeks of my recovery, weighed down by pain and the unthinkable – that others died while I survived – my brain lacked space for anything heady like the notion of forgiveness. Years later, when I possessed enough emotional fortitude to unearth the new articles I had collected about the accident, I decided I needed to find a way to forgive Russell Weller. I’ve been told that forgiveness is overrated, that you don’t have to forgive to heal. While that might very well be true, my want to forgive others for any wrong committed is part of my constitution. So I had to at least make an attempt to forgive Russell Weller. Otherwise, I’d be infected with a case of chronic bitterness and cynicism and worried I’d be contagious. Who wants to hang out with someone with a transmittable illness she has the capacity to heal?

To forgive, one must first assign blame. But, as in Russell Weller’s case, if there is no act of intentional harm, where do you place blame and, therefore, how do you forgive? To add an additional elusive layer, how do you forgive someone you’ve never met? Is it even possible to forgive someone you don’t know? I reached out to Russell Weller’s family years after the accident, but they refused my request to visit him. In 2010 he died.

The following year, I enrolled in an MFA program. During my third semester, still befuddled as to how to forgive Russell Weller, I wrote my critical thesis on the topic: The Face of Forgiveness. I examined how a particular writer, who had sustained life-threatening injuries after a car struck him, navigated the indeterminate nature of forgiveness on the page. Because each circumstance varies, forgiveness cannot be defined in absolute terms. *Since forgiveness is a process, I arrived at the conclusion that it can be charted in stages:

1) Understanding of the accident/incident

2) Transference of anger and other emotions

3) Self-pity

4) Awareness of others’ suffering

5) Avoidance

6) Surrender

Melissa Cronin leaves

These stages don’t necessarily occur sequentially. Like Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ stages of grief – denial/isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance – the stages of forgiveness may overlap, or one may become stuck in a particular stage. For me, I became stuck in one or two and skipped another one or two altogether. It’s also worth noting that the stages of forgiveness may not occur in a defined timeframe.

Stage 1: Understanding of the accident/incident

I dedicated months to reading news articles and investigative reports, parsing out the details of the accident: What Russell Weller was doing in the moments before he sped through the market, his medical history, his driving history, what bystanders witnessed at the scene of the crash. Somehow, I believed by reading those articles I would get to know Russell Weller and, therefore, be able to forgive him, or not. But written words weren’t enough – they seemed static on the page. Even though some articles included his apology – “I’m deeply sorry for any pain that everyone went through” – I could not hear his voice, hear his remorse, anger, or fear. And with all the contradicting statements about Russell Weller’s character and what people saw or didn’t see, I only became more confused. I felt like a pendulum – swaying dizzily between sadness and anger.

Stage 2: Transference of anger

As I read articles about the role the local entities had to play in running the market, any anger I harbored for Russell Weller quickly transferred to city officials who were responsible for ensuring the safety of pedestrians. I wondered why they didn’t have sturdy barriers in place, rather than wooden sawhorses. But, similar to my confusion regarding how to feel about Russell Weller, my feelings and emotions swayed – from judgment to understanding, from contempt to submission.

Stages 3 and 5: Self-pity and Avoidance

I did not become victim to self-pity – perhaps the perpetual warring dialogue in my head thrust self-pity aside. For the same reason, I skipped avoidance.

Stage 4: Awareness of others’ suffering

As I continued my dogged search to find meaning within the chaos, I could not help but be lured into an awareness of others’ suffering.  I imagined the physical and emotional pain the other injured pedestrians endured and the rage and anguish that tore into the families of the deceased. I viewed Russell Weller as injured, too – emotionally, mentally, psychically. I imagined Russell Weller’s grief: plagued by nightmares, isolated behind drawn window shades, sallow from regret.

The judge who presided over Russell Weller’s trial said he “lacked remorse” Because he didn’t cry? Why is it that we have a tendency to forgive others only if they exhibit unequivocal remorse: falling to their knees, drooping, sobbing? But a display, or physical showing, of remorse is not necessarily what matters to those harmed. Of course, a sincere apology does not negate the harm done, but sincerely spoken words of remorse are what matter. The quality of the voice matters: is it harsh, tense, creaky?

Melissa Cronin desert

In 2011, I finally obtained and viewed a copy of the videotape of Russell Weller speaking with police officers soon after the accident. I slid the video into the CD player, inched close to the television screen, so close I felt as if he and I were together in the same room. Though he did not cry, his full-toned voice quivered as he said, “I’m in trouble with my heart and soul.” His voice then quieted to a whisper, as if he were in church mourning over the dead: “God almighty, those poor, poor people.”

That’s when I forgave Russell Weller. That’s when I surrendered – to Russell Weller’s remorse.

*Stages of forgiveness conceived by Melissa Cronin

 

To learn more about Melissa, please visit her website/blog at Melissa Cronin.

Thank you, Melissa Cronin.

Disclaimer:
Any views and opinions of the Guest Blogger are purely her own.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of Melissa Cronin)

 

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Past Blast . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Gabby Giffords & Mark Kelly: TED Interview

“Gabby Giffords & Mark Kelly: TED Interview”

(originally published April 28, 2014)

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Gabby & Mark TED Intreview Apri 2014

 

 

When TED interviewer, Pat Richards, asked former Arizona Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords (who is recovering from a Traumatic Brain Injury caused by a gunshot wound to her head), if she wanted the “old” Gabby Giffords back or whether she was embracing the “new” version of herself, Gabby emphatically said, “The New One! … Better! Stronger! Tougher!”

Listen to the interview – “Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly: Be passionate. Be courageous. Be your best.”

Gabby and Mark are working for a safer world. See Americans for Responsible Solutions.

(Photo compliments of TED.)

(Disclaimer: The views expressed are not necessarily mine.)

 

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Past Blast . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Brain Injury Resources . . . . . . . . The Crash Reel – Kevin Pearce

Brain Injury Resources………The Crash Reel – Kevin Pearce

(originally published March 30, 2014)

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The Crash Reel” is a gripping 4+ star movie about Kevin Pearce, a champion snowboarder who was expected to win a gold medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Kevin Pearce - after TBI

Then his dream was interrupted by a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI.)

There is amazing footage of Kevin before and after his crash.  The incredible love and concern of his family is readily apparent.  Kevin’s dream is different now, and he has found a useful and fulfilling life.

The movie/documentary will give you an inside look at one young man’s battle with TBI. I highly recommend the movie.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

As I say after each post:

Feel free to leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.

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Past Blast . . . . . . . . . . . . . Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . Lauren

SPEAK OUT! – Lauren

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

(originally published April 13, 2014)

 

Lauren - about 4 days post TBI surgery

1. What is your name? (last name optional)

Lauren

2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email address? (optional)

Belfast, Northern Ireland

3. When did you have your TBI? At what age?

September 2012. I was 35

4. How did your TBI occur?

Playing roller derby

5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?

It was very sudden, I felt something wasn’t right in my head, then my vision went and I collapsed.

6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have? (e.g., surgery, tracheotomy, G-peg)

Ambulance to Accident and Emergency.
A CT scan, then a craniotomy

7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?

4 days. It was medically induced because I kept wanting to wake up!

8. Did you do rehab? What kind of rehab (i.e., In-patient and/or Out-patient; Occupational, Physical, Speech, and/or Other)? How long were you in rehab?

No rehab to speak of, Out-patient appointments with Neuro every few months. I’m now discharged.

9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your TBI? (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)

Initially I had palsy of the left eye. Most of my problems have been psychological. I also had fatigue for a long time. (It’s still here but not as strong.)

10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?

How do you put this into words? My life has changed in many ways, I was very independent. Now I rely on my partner a lot, mainly due to anxiety and depression.

There are things that are better – the ability to let small things slide is easy. I have an appreciation of life. I know what I DONT want anymore. My BS detector is much improved.

The bad – feeling scared for no reason. Crying a lot

11. What do you miss the most from your pre-TBI life?

My independence

12. What do you enjoy most in your post-TBI life?

The slower pace; the ability to filter stressful people

13. What do you like least about your TBI?

Anxiety anxiety anxiety

14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?

Time, patience, writing, lots of reading and meeting other survivors

15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

It has made us a lot closer. It’s not an easy ride. It can get rough, but we’ve learnt to communicate in a much more meaningful and honest way.

16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?

Yes, I’ve become more isolated. My social circle reduced a lot post-injury. That hurt at first, but I’ve accepted it now. More contact with others would be nice though.

17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

My partner, he’s great. He’s put up with so much. I have an idea of what he’s been through, but I’ll never truly understand how it feels. It is difficult and tiring.

18. What are your future plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing 10 years from now?

I hope to study again. I want to complete a Psychology or counselling course so I can help others. I want to be out in the world again, and most of all I hope to have my joy back.

19. What advice would you offer to other TBI survivors?

It’s hard but it will pass
What you feel is normal
Be kind to yourself, and you will also need plenty of patience!

20. Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

Good luck to all TBI/ABI survivors. Remember you are never alone.

Lauren celebrating her birthday about 16 months post-TBI

 

Thank you, Lauren, for taking part in this interview. I hope that your experience will offer some hope, comfort, and inspiration to my readers.

 

If you would like to be a part of this project, please go to TBI Survivor Interview Questionnaire for a copy of the questions and the release form.

(Photos compliments of Lauren.)

 

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

As I say after each post: Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Commentanim0014-1_e0-1 below this post.

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